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Tag Archives: Wolf Hall

On Being On Holiday (Belatedly)

20121117-224129.jpg I’ve been on holiday. Literally (for a short time over the summer) but also metaphorically (from blogging). I didn’t go away anywhere very exciting, or particularly relaxing (I have children so much of my life is essentially the same with different scenery), but I have given myself a break.

I’m supposed to be blogging every month, reflecting on my reading theme. As you’ll have noticed by now, it’s been a while and I’ve heard a few self-imposed deadlines whizzing past.

Nevermind; back on track for the final few months of 2013. To be honest this ‘holiday’ has been refreshing. I extended June’s Sci-Fi theme into half of July so I could finish The Passage.  I have paused my reading of  The Game of Thrones for so long I think I should now admit to having given up on it, for this year at least (a shame, I know; I may regret the decision). I then challenged myself to take only my Kindle on a short trip to London, intending to read Wolf Hall and that alone (see blog post ‘On Not Packing Books’ in July ). That I managed, but over a longer period of time than I’d expected, with other books in between.Jubilee 2012 184

A holiday from themed reading  has been invigorating. I could read whatever I fancied, just like ‘the old days’, not exercising my critical faculties at all. (I couldn’t read when ever I fancied, those ‘pesky children’ had to be entertained, educated, fed and watered, but I had the evenings and a few long car journeys.) Unfortunately, I didn’t read anything particularly ‘high brow’ – Wolf Hall notwithstanding. I’ve returned to a few comfort reads (Joanna Trollope’s latest The Soldier’s Wife and a couple more of Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn series) in addition to a few titles I’ve been putting off because they don’t fit into a theme: the Hunger Games trilogy, Tigers in Red Weather, Good Omens, Separate Lives.  It’s been fun to jump and skip about around time, setting, style and theme. The ‘holiday’ feeling has been difficult to shake off. I tried to be good and get into the ‘back to school’ mood by posting On Iris Murdoch (in anticipation). I fully intended to read at least one of her novels and one biography. imageI failed. Both Bruno’s Dream and The Sea, The Sea are woefully, pitifully read. I have started both, attaining about 10% progress. I also started A.N. Wilson’s respectful but unorthodox biography/memoir of Murdoch but am only up to page 52. Both the novels are refreshingly different to what I was expecting with eccentric, troubled male protagonists with tangled personal lives. I may continue to read their stories as they provide a refreshing change both from what I have read before of Murdoch’s novels and my recent fayre. But onwards, onto the next thematic challenge; merging October into November to avoid deadline anxiety with multiple family birthdays getting ‘in the way’ of my reading. Perhaps this holiday from a theme has exposed my intellectual pretence. I am a book tart, a bibliophilic magpie, a will-o-the-book-wisp. imageAm I the only one?

 

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On Not Packing Books

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The Summer holidays approach, packing will be done, adventures anticipated.

But am I the only person who considers the books to pack long before I’ve decided on clothes, which bag to use, or even where we’re going?!

The anticipation of potential reading time, uninterrupted by the usual demands, gives me almost as much enjoyment as the actual time away.

But I am constantly faced with a dilemma: which books to pack? What will sustain me for time away from my library (both personal and municipal)? What if I’ve taken the wrong books? What if I run out of books? How heavy will they be? Should I squeeze in an additional small book or additional jumper?

My Kindle was supposed to solve this dilemma. I now have over 800 books on my device: enough to satisfy even the most voracious reader for many holidays to come.

I should be happy with this. But, no. I still worry about whether to take my charger for a couple of days away. What if it breaks? Can I really survive without a ‘real’ book in my bag?

And so I am setting myself a challenge. We’re going away for four child-free days, travelling by train with limited luggage.

Can I ‘survive’ with ‘just’ my Kindle?

If yes, I might finally get to read ‘Wolf Hall’…

 

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Viva la Revolution!

To ring in the new year, I though I’d go back more than 200 years for January’s theme: the French Revolution. Partly inspired by the film everyone’s talking about, Les Miserables, I thought I’d tackle a few novels set in an era I know little about. It shows how little I knew about both the story and history that I thought it was set in the Revolution, when it’s actually about a century later… To be honest, what I know about the French Revolution could fit onto a small, lacy handkerchief: Marie Antoinette, ‘la Guillotine’, Bastille, cake or bread, lots of flag waving. So, when I opened Hilary Mantel’s first novel, A Place of Greater Safety, I was all at sea, without any meaningful reference points. Her mighty tome explores the lives of three major players in the Revolution: Maximillien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulions, Georges Danton. (no, I’d not heard of them before now either)

I had to restrain myself from reading much else; I needed to focus my time and energies on getting through all 878 pages. Interestingly, I ended up reading both a paper copy from the library and a paid-for version on my Kindle. By the end, I’d probably read it twice as I skipped through both copies to find where I left off and thus realised how little I remembered from day by day or hour by hour. Mantel writes in an interesting, unusual style; at times conversational and gripping, other times confusing and overwhelming. There is a very long list of characters (helpfully listed at the front; difficult to flick to it on the Kindle) and Mantel doesn’t always refer to her characters by name when conversing.

It has certainly whetted my appetite for the magisterial Wolf Hall, at least I am familiar with the Tudor court and main events of the period; I am less likely to read this one alongside Wikipedia as I did with A Place of Greater Safety.

Once half way through, I couldn’t give up; all those hours spent reading would have been to naught. So I continued, persevered, often feeling as though I had an assignment deadline looming. So why did I continue? Simply, I don’t like giving up on a challenge; I felt as though I should continue to the bitter end. And I now have a soft spot for Robespierre, Camille and Desmoulins. And am looking forward to reading Wolf Hall. My appetite is now whetted. I know I won’t be reading this one alongside Wikipedia as I hope that A level history has stood me in good stead and I’ll at least be familiar with the main characters and events.

As A Place of Greater Safety was just so long (over 870 pages), it’s meant I haven’t read much else. Can I ask that this novel counts as about 4 novels towards this year’s novel count?

On the subject of other novels, I shall continue to read Les Mis (on the go on my Kindle) but at 1000 pages, it’s likely to be on the go for a while. I might also find the chance to see the film everyone’s raving about.

I struggled to find other novels about the Revolution; anyone know any more?

I’ve ordered a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy from our library. It is full of ‘derring do’ by those rascally ‘Eeeenglish’ aristocrats smuggling French aristos from the embrace of ‘Madame Guillotine’. I am now quickly rattling through this, enjoying another perspective on the Revolution.

And I still haven’t got round to reading Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; another month perhaps…

As a segueway between the Revolution to February’s Regency Romance theme, I have started Cynthia Harrold-Eagle’s The Tangled Thread(the 10th installment in The Moorland Dynasty, not that I’ve read any of the earlier stories); It’s almost as though I’ve planned this…

Here’s hoping that February’s Regency Romance theme will allow me to rattle through novels at a much faster rate. Georgette Heyer, Mary Balough, and timely enough, Jane Austen; heaving busoms, strict conventions and even tighter trousers, arch observations, here I come…

 

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End of April, end of history (month).

As previously mentioned, this year I’m attempting my first ever monthly themed read. I’m not used to disciplining myself, or keeping to a reading deadline, so although I’ve relished the process of selecting a large pile of books from my shelves and local library, I’ve been reaching the month’s end with a frustratingly small number actually read. I give in to distractions, reading group books, and am always greedy for more books than I can make time to read.

This month I’ve time-travelled between 1920s Paris to York in the 1560s; New York in 1938 to London’s East End in the 1880s; London during the Suffragist’s struggle to the ton in Regency London,  learning much about characters, feuds, passions and romance both real and entirely imaginary.

So, what I actually read this month was:

The Rules of Civility – Amor Towles Although centered around a trio of Katy (narrator), Eve and the alluring and enigmatic Tinker Grey, the relationships spiral outwards as character’s fates take them up or down. Evocative of time and place, his is an interesting debut novel. As slick, glamorous and ephemeral as the jazz age in New York this story is set, I was left wondering what was the novel’s central message.

The Paris Wife – Paula McLaine (April’s choice for my reading group)  I know very little about Hemingway, having only read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, thinking he’s a man’s writer. I was wrong. This fictionalisation of his first marriage to Hadley Richardson opens in Chicago 1920. The slightly naive and gauche Hadley meets the charismatic, handsome, young ‘Wem’ through mutual friends. Both young, Wem is only 20 although Hadley a little older, he’s the centre of his social circle; Hadley is on the edge. It is eventually Wem’s gregarious nature which undoes their marriage. Moving between Paris, Spain, Austria and Chicago, notorious characters from the literary Jazz Age make cameos such as Fitzgerald and Stein.  The couple’s joy together, particularly once their son ‘Bumby’ joins them, is poignant knowing their marriage will fall apart through Hemingway’s inability to remain faithful. Based on the couple’s intimate letters, this novel so effectively captures Hadley’s voice and their loving relationship.I quick online search added an extra dimension as I found photographs of the young Hemingway and Hadley: handsome devil! The Sun Also Rises is now added to my ever-increasing ‘to read’ list.

Minerva, and The Taming of Annabelle – MC Beaton – The first two stories about the 6 Armitage sisters. Recently repackaged to build upon Beaton’s success with Hamish McBeth, Agatha Rasin and The Travelling Matchmaker series. These are light, very enjoyable Regency romances; perfect escapism and easy to flick through a few pages surreptitiously. I’m going to enjoy reading the rest of the series (bought at a bargain price).

Fifty Shades of Grey – EL James  I’m going public: I confess! I read this year’s most talked about book based on an interview on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. I wouldn’t usually be attracted to a BDSM romance (in fact I’m still not entirely sure what it stands for; lots of rule-driven, complicated, sex of the bondage variety it seems), but enjoyed this as another escapist, easy to read, disposable novel. The sex became over the top; after a while I started to tune out, reading more for the relationship development than the ‘action’. That’s my main hesitation about the romance/erotic genre; I prefer sex in novels to be understated rather than overplayed. But now I have to read the rest of the trilogy to follow the story to its conclusion. I fear it will begin to be repetitive and tiresome  but I’m learning some things along the way(!)

Half of the Human Race – Anthony Quin Another novel with romance at its heart, this centred on the lives of Constance, a suffragist and frustrated surgeon, and William, a county cricketer trying to prove his mettle. An expansive novel, I grew very fond of Connie but frustrated with William. I stayed up until 1am finishing this story; sign of a good read! One of Specsaver’s Channel 4 Book Club choices.

As I’m not used to a reading deadline, as we start May, I’m still reading:

The White Queen – Phillipa Gregory This, the first part of The Cousins’ War trilogy, explores the lives of the women at the heart of the struggle for kingship between the houses of York and Lancaster. I thought I knew something about the Wars of the Roses through history studies at A level, but there’s so much I knew nothing about. At heart, it’s another love story (an inadvertent theme this month) with more slaughter and peril than usual. Very enjoyable. I have the other two lined up, alongside some supplementary reading for more historical context.

The Somnambulist – Essie Fox Only just started this story of gothic Victorian mystery. Seems promising, taking a picture by John Millais as inspiration, and it has a gorgeous cover! I love a bit of Victorian gothic.

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England – Ian Mortimer A remnant from March’s non-fiction attempt which reads so well, it’s a great accompaniment to anything set in the medieval period.

And I didn’t have enough time to give justice to the magisterial Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel   I’ve managed the first few chapters, settling me into the feel of it, having listened to the first couple of cds of the audiobook. It’s on my Kindle (perfect for reading such a large novel) but I’ve been dipping into it rather than giving it a concentrated effort. One for my (virtual) ‘keep reading’ pile.

And now onto May: classic British detective fiction. Hoping to find some -as yet- unknown gems. Christie, Sayers, Allingham are the obvious starting points.  Any suggestions?

 

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