In the High Peaks

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Still Reading Like Mad--Best Audio Listens So Far

 Several of my most engrossing reads of the year have been on audio. The penulitmate was probably Belonging by Nancy Thayer, which was a re-issue of one of her early novels published in the 1990s, set on Nantucket Island and in New York City. This novel was so good, so dynamic, so charged with meaning and psychological depth that I found it hard to believe that Nancy Thayer was the author. Let me explain: Her more recent novels are fun reads, but are nowhere near as accomplished as the emotional depth and sheer panache of Belonging.  

The two novels of Elin Hilderbrand's that I've listened to this year have both captivated me, though I will say that Silver Girl, which I finished on Saturday, is still resonating and has left me disturbed and perplexed. All the loose ends were not tidily wrapped up. Not at all, not for a single one of the characters. I'm not at all angry about this, but I'm coming to see it as a way for the characters to live on in my imagination, forcing me to conjure all sorts of future scenarios for each person. How skillfully rendered this ending was, in that respect!

Just yesterday late afternoon I started listening to The Shell Seekers by the late Rosamunde Pilcher and this will be a very long audio project because it's at least 500 pages, if not more. So far I'm trying to warm up to Penelope's daughters--love these flawed, uncertain, searching characters! I've been waiting to read this one for so many years, it seems. I've read Winter Solstice twice, and I'll read it many more times, but that's it.

Yes, all of these novels are meanly characterized as "women's fiction," a label that even in publishing, despite the fact that they rake in as much money as those on the "male" bestseller list, is definitely intended to demean the genre. But frankly, and I think I can declare this as a reader of so-called "classic literature," that the writing is no less skilled than that of any other genre, I am totally assured of that.  If one knows anything at all about literature, it's clear that each of these novels is the product of a skilled artisan, that is for sure.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Opening Up

 Yesterday the day was so deeply dark, and so rainy, that we decided to escape to a restaurant an hour away for a late lunch. I made sure I tired Sandy out beforehand, walking her up and down and all over so that she would bear being crated for about three and a half hours. Yes, Sandy is one of those dogs who is extremely anxious if she is not crated. She's as calm as can be in her crate when we're gone. We return home to a sleepy dog. And so food and loads of exercise for her, and off and away Ken and I went!

It was a late lunch, when few people in the very large restaurant were present. Our dining experience was stellar. The food was excellent--we each had a glass of wine and talked books a lot, our plans for the coming months, and politics a little. Just enjoying each other's company. What bliss, really.

I am becoming such a fan of Ann Cleeves. Years and years ago I read Raven Black, her first crime/mystery novel, and although I liked it, it was very, very dark, and when several other readers I know told me the next volume was even more grim, I moved on and did not continue with that series. Then, just last fall, I read her latest in another series of her books, the Vera Stanhope series, and was entranced. I love the way Ann Cleeves sets up scenes--so sharply, so clearly, and so distinctly that they become unforgettable so that they endure as I read on. This aspect reminds me of the scenes in the early novels of Elizabeth George (Lord Lynley novels).   Now I am reading a brand new series that Anne Cleeves has recently published in 2020. The first novel is The Long Call and it features Matthew Venn, a detective working in North Devon in England. Dear Reader, I started it at 6:30 am this morning and have read nearly 100 pages. SO GOOD. At least it hits all of my criteria for what a great crime novel should be, to my taste, that is.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

 It has been so very, very long since my last post. I discovered or, rather, found myself with nothing to say about any book or any author or anything for the past few months. I have missed you all!

Ken and I are both finally fully vaccinated now. Our last dose was March 29th, and our fully immunized date was Monday, April 12th. We have both been out doing things we have not been able to, but it's a funny thing--after 14 months of being sequestered, it's been tricky getting back into the swing of the "outer world." Based on my experience on Tuesday, it may be a while before I feel comfortable going to all sorts of places! I'm amazed by that fact. How crazy, really.

BOOKS!!  Well, now that we have more freedom, I don't know how I'll be able to stop reading throughout the entire afternoon. I've become so accustomed to reading for hours that I don't see how I can stop. So for now I won't. I was so excited when Crandall Library opened totally, for 50 patrons at a time, all floors! I was so overwhelmed, so joyously happy, that I cried. I picked up my 5 holds, and found 5 more books easily, and then I had to leave. Stimulus-overload!

It's been a wonderful reading year so far. I had a slow start right after the New Year, but then me and books took off! 

A few highlights:  My most memorable book of this past year was Belonging by Nancy Thayer. I listened to the audiobook, which was a re-issue of a novel she published in the 1990s. It was absolutely unforgettable, searing, yet redemptive. Five stars.  Thayer's current novels are not as well-crafted, or as splendid. I like reading them, but this one from her earlier oeuvre was a tour de force. Set on Nantucket Island and New York City. I lived and breathed it, and I was so totally one with the experiences of the two women protagonists in this novel. I will never, ever forget it. Be prepared! It's a roller-coaster, but so worth the experience. 

I also loved the acclaimed English novelist Margaret Drabble's The Radiant Way, which is actually the first book in what turned out to be a trilogy, although not planned by Drabble at the time of the first publication. It is set in the early 1980s in England, in what came to be known as the Thatcher era. I do so love Dame Margaret Drabble's novels. And I'll look forward to reading the next installment. I own the trilogy, but always like to give myself "breathing room" between books in a series.

I so loved returning to Maisie Dobbs with the #6 in the series, Among the Mad. I heartened to this one much more than to #5, and it was a stunner. It's interesting, but no matter how the mystery goes down, or the crimes therein, there is something so comforting in these mysteries. The author is so keenly attuned, so empathetically attuned to what transpires that I feel wrapped in a warm embrace as I'm reading, despite the crimes and terrors within.