As Mustard Seed Shavings takes its annual holiday early it is delighted to offer the following review of its holiday reading:
The scoring system is simply how much I enjoyed each at the time and is not, in any sense, comparing a racy page-turner with a well written and cleverly constructed narrative. I need to start my holidays with light reading so I began with two page turners:
A Snowball in Hell: Christopher Brookmyre (6/10)
A serial killer is at work and it seems to be new celebrities, TV talent show winners, footballers wives and tabloid journalists who are going to be the victims. Very funny, great satire, people die horribly and somehow you hope the killer won't be caught just yet. A romp.
Mystery Man: Bateman (6/10)
Black Books meets Inspector Clouseau. The more you find out about the hero the more flawed he becomes, yet the more you will him to succeed. My first Bateman. Won't be my last. 'Murder. mayhem and damn sexy trousers' says the cover. Quite.
The Abstinence Teacher: Tom Perrotta (7/10)
Ruth is a US high school teacher who is required, due to a change of school management, to teach abstinence in her sex education classes. How does it feel to be a liberal faced with the power of the Christian right? Thought provoking. Good story. Well written.
The Northern Clemency: Philip Hensher (9/10)
Two families meet in Sheffield 1974. The story visits them again in the mid 80s and mid 90s. Wonderful narrative history of two decades, encapsulating the UK's move from manufacturing to service-providing in the context of delightful, and very moving, overlapping stories. Best book I've read for ten years or so. Booker nominated.
The Gum Thief: Douglas Coupland (5/10)
A relationship develops by Post-it Note in a stationery store. One of the main characters is writing a novel and we read many extracts from it. All Coupland's writing is a metaphor for our times. Not my favourite, this.
Who Runs Britain? Robert Peston (7/10)
The wealthy, would be his answer, who have politicians eating out of their hands. Well argued and analysed but slightly unsatisfactory. You would expect a business correspondent to conclude that business ran Britain, but is that the whole story? He writes better than he speaks. Fewer ers to the dozen.
Nothing to be Frightened of: Julian Barnes (7/10)
One of our best contemporary novelists takes a break from fiction to produce an entertaining, and highly thought-provoking, discourse on what it means to live in the shadow of your own death. Opening sentence, 'I don't believe in God, but I miss Him.'
Tomorrow: Graham Swift (6/10)
Paula lies awake in bed contemplating the news she and her husband will be passing on to their sixteen year old twins the next day. As the book progresses you are trying to work out what that news might be. Insightful about parenting and the wisdom of protecting children from the truth.
To Kill a Mocking Bird: Harper Lee (8/10)
Each holiday I try and take something with me that I should have read by now but have never, somehow, got round to. Race and class in the Deep South of the US, 1930s. Brilliant, but oh so sad.
His Illegal Self: Peter Carey (9/10)
A bunch of hippies kidnap a seven year old boy who falls in love with the itchy, bitey, sticky Queensland to which he is taken. He doesn't want to leave. Carey is an Australian working from New York and much of his work explores the relationship between the two continents. I think Carey is the finest living writer of prose we have. His sentences can make me whoop with delight.