Wednesday, 29 February 2012

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

Titus Alone
by Mervyn Peake

"Titus has set out from Gormenghast castle on his own, attempting to escape the monotonous rituals of his home, and ends up stranded in a big, bustling city. Now Titus, the deserter, the traitor, longs for his home, and looks to prove, if only to himself, that Gormenghast is truly real."
This guy really likes his adjectives, lots of them, and the more vivid and obscure the better. Having said that, I looked up 'scorbutic' and found that it means 'affected by scurvy', which perhaps I should have been able to work out. On the other hand, 'empyrean' is a word I doubt that I will need again ('heavens, sky, the apparent surface of the imaginary sphere on which celestial bodies appear to be projected'). An interesting trilogy, but too wordy and obscure for me. I can see the appeal to its admirers, though.

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The Man of Property
by John Galsworthy

"London of the 1880s: The Forsyte family is gathered - gloves, waistcoats, feathers and frocks - to celebrate the engagement of young June Forstye to an architect, Philip Bosinney. Amongst those present are Soames Forsyte and his beautiful wife Irene - his most prized possession. "
This is astonishingly good considering it was written in the early 20th century, a period which I often find results in books that seem much more than a hundred years in the past. Behaviour is described exactly and precisely without being spelled out; the Forsyte family is almost mocked for its characteristics, some of which I recognise in my own family and others I know. Having seen the TV adaptation, it was also interesting to find that the source material is so much more economical with the story: where TV needed to act out a whole scene, Galsworthy summarises the entire episode in a sentence thus: "The morning after a certain night on which Soames at last asserted his rights and acted like a man, he breakfasted alone." There are nine books altogether in the Forsyte saga, and you can be assured that I will be reading them all.

Image of the book cover

Dark Matter
by Michelle Paver

narrated by Jeremy Northam
"January 1937. Jack Miller has just about run out of options. His shoes have worn through, he can't afford to heat his room, and he longs to use his training as a specialist wireless operator instead of working in his dead-end job. When he is given the chance to join an arctic expedition, as communications expert, by a group of elite Oxbridge graduates, he brushes off his apprehensions and convinces himself to join them."
A stab in the dark, this one, just on the basis of the description, gushing reader reviews, and because I was all out of audio books. Not bad, but not great, no arc to the narrative really, just one long description of being in the arctic after a short introduction in pre-war London, with a short post-script to tie up all the ends. It wasn't even scary. I didn't like it anywhere near as much as the reviewers did.

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