I joined the library a few weeks ago. It is only a small library, but something I didn’t expect was that there would be so few books I had heard of in there. I know they have to keep up with the latest releases (something I don’t do very well) but I do expect the most popular older books to still be available. One of the reasons I haven’t got on very well with my reading list, is that most of them are proving quite hard to get hold of – even though they were voted in the top 100 favourite books (2003).
I did something a bit different a couple of weeks ago. As I had come away with no Tolkien, Pratchett, Follett, Steinbeck or Tolstoy I decided to try a different approach. I grabbed the first few books at the start of the ‘A’ shelf. None of them were on my list. I hadn’t even heard of any of them. Still, how do you know you’re not missing a gem by only aiming for books you already know about?
Refusal by Soazig Aaron. I have been a keen reader of WW2 fiction since I spent the summer holidays before 7th form reading The Winds of War and War and Remembrance (both by Herman Wouk). Refusal is sad and interesting and well researched but left me not really caring. One issue is that the most important moment in the book has to be explained in a footnote. I’m sure there’s a way the significant information could have been woven into the narrative.
Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela. I enjoyed this one. I do like books which take me to other places, and leave me wanting to see them for real. I rushed straight to the internet to look up holidays in Sudan.
Eight White Nights by Andre Aciman. Oh my goodness. It took me eight days to read it. I would get halfway down a page and realise I hadn’t taken any of it in, and have to go back to the start. I wanted to give the ‘hero’ a shake and tell him to just … just … do anything rather than let his inner monologue continue to spill over the page.
The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd. This story was fascinating, and it is great to read a story which gives a window on history – the three main characters being based on real people. My complaint is that the language seemed stilted. It was as though Ackroyd tried to make his characters sound old fashioned, and has ended up going back too far. Read Austen, and you are not struck with a change in language. Dickens characters come alive. Writing done before, or at a similar time to when the book is based, is a lot more modern sounding that The Lambs of London.
The Stepmother by Carrie Adams. I quite enjoyed this. A story of relationships in a broken family, well observed and well written.
Wives v Girlfriends by Katie Agnew. This is not my typical reading material. It is ‘An exciting tale … sex, scandal and debauchery.’ – HEAT. This was the book that kept me turning the pages. This was the book with characters that jump out. Chick lit, perhaps, but a great read.
Next up is In The Kitchen by Monica Ali. I’m only a few pages in, so I don’t know how this one will turn out. After that I’m reading The Pickwick Papers. Yes, I found some Dickens!