I’m going to cheat slightly this month and just do a very quick round-up of what I read in November, mostly because it’s Sunday evening and I still have half the week’s lessons to plan. Ah, the joys of being in gainful employment.
I started off with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000), which has frequently been recommended to me. A gorgeous fusion of comic book style adventure, Jewish mythology and American history, this novel didn’t disappoint. I am now officially a Chabon fan – what should I read next of his?
Down to earth with a bit of a bump, I read Starter for Ten by David Nicholls (2003), as I got it free from someone at the book group I (sporadically) go to. A nostalgic, era-embracing book, I assume this easy-to-read novel would be more fun if I’d actually gone to university in the eighties. I’d put it on a par with One Day – a quick read, but not very memorable.
And now for something completely different; as part of my attempt to broaden my literary horizons, I tackled The (aptly named) Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards SF edited by Kevin J. Anderson (2011). I’m gradually learning that the sin of judging a book by its cover is equalled by that of discounting stories on the basis of their genre. ‘I’m not really into Sci-Fi’ is the line I have always taken, but after reading this collection, that seems a bit like saying ‘I’m not really into clever, well-written stories which challenge preconceptions and paint beautiful word-images’. So that’s me told.
On the other hand, had I realised that The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant (2012) was trashy teen fiction (the title should have given me a clue, but I bought it in a job lot when Amazon was doing its ‘Kindle Marathon’ during the Olympics – it seemed the most Ellie-ish way of getting involved in the whole Team GB furore), I might have spared myself some pretty terrible prose and huge great whopping clichés. That said, as a writer, sometimes reading bad fiction is more helpful than reading great literature.
I read Mittee by Daphne Rooke (1951) for research purposes; having finally got my dissertation back, I am ready to delve back into my historical novel, and this book proved a fantastic way of immersing myself in the world of Southern Africa in the early twentieth century. It isn’t perfect (J.M. Coetzee provides a very informative critique at the back of the Kindle edition I read), but it contains some wonderful descriptions, and it has a cracking plot. I do like a good story.
Speaking of good stories, I finished the month with Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2003), whose ability to produce intricately plotted novels full of impeccable detail always impresses me. I am still struggling with The Little Stranger, but this book restored my faith in Waters’ abilities.
I’m hoping for a few book tokens for Christmas, and if anyone has any suggestions as to which novels I should treat myself to in the New Year, please let me know! Which books have you enjoyed most in 2012?