Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Holiday Reading Recomendations

Here is what I got through on holiday this year. The mark out of ten indicates the enjoyment I got from it at the time and is no reflection on its literary standing:

Lee Child - Personal (5)
About two thirds of the way through this a poolside companion asked if I was disappointed. She said she loved Child but had found this one uninspiring. Strangely, the last third was disappointing. Loose ends were tied up a little too easily and Reacher headed off into the sunset less scathed than usual.

Joel Dicker - The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (8)
Lots of pre-match hype about this one which has been staring from the populist shelves for a few months. Well, believe the hype. A blocked writer heads off to visit his old college professor and in doing so finds a story to write about. Multi-layered and twisty. Loved it. Last 100 pages or so a real lesson in the art of the page turner.

Jim Crace - Being Dead (9)
A couple lie dead on the shore. Crace holds our hand as he tells us, with gentle beauty, who they were and what becomes of their bodies before they are discovered. Forensic, pathological, beautiful. Every sentence a joy.

Robert Harris - An Officer and a Spy (7)
Based on the story of the treachery that was almost buried and the innocent man who nearly took the blame. It is France, the 1890s, and some people think the Republic is more important than the truth. A spy novel set at a time when the speediest communication was the telegram, telephones were rare and people read the newspapers for the news.

John Updike - Rabbit Redux (8)
Updike's four-book Rabbit series is set at the turn of the decade every ten years from 1960. Here, the second volume, we learn of a new America as racism, Moon-landings and sexual liberation act as the cultural baggage.

R.J.Ellory - A Quiet Belief in Angels (8)
It is Georgia 1939. Joseph Vaughan is growing up in a small town where children are being murdered. We focus not on the investigation but on the effect this has on a community, looking for someone to blame; scapegoat if you like. Growing up and escaping from all this Vaughan finds it has its claws deep into him. We know from page one that Vaughan is eventually going to shoot the person he thinks is to blame. But we don't know who he is looking at as he tells his tale.

Nell Freudenberger - The Newlyweds (5)
George, an American man, and Amina, a Bangladeshi woman, meet on the internet through a dating web-site. They meet and settle down in the States but she wants an Islamic wedding on top of their civil ceremony and has set her hopes on getting her parents to join them. First half is set in the U.S. as Amina adapts culturally. Second half is the story of her returning home to arrange her parents' travel. I didn't like the characters. I also felt the story unravelled too slowly and got nowhere. Worthy but dull.

Sweet Tooth - Ian McEwan (8)
In the early 1970s Serena, a promising Cambridge graduate, is recruited by the secret services to run and promote the work of a promising writer, Tom, who might end up being read in communist countries. This is part of 'Operation Sweet Tooth'. But their relationship develops and she is left wondering how long she can keep her real work a secret. As with all McEwan there is a great pace to this narrative and no real clue as to how it will all work out. The ending is clever.

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