Friday, 2 October 2015

What I've been reading

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The Book of You
by Claire Kendal
"Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand."
Absolutely not a book I would have chosen, but at the place where I worked one day a week they get through a lot of books so they offered a few to me. I gave this one a try and got away with it, but I don't enjoy reading about cruelty and abuse and feeling really tense, and the story isn't that good anyway - I didn't like any of the characters, not even the 'good' guy or the heroine. I avoid horror films for the same reason - some people must like feeling scared, but it would just give me nightmares. I won't be trying this experiment again.

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The Return of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

narrated by Simon Vance
"The great Sherlock Holmes is back from the dead and devoting his life once more to examining the criminal complexities of the capital."
Poor old Conan Doyle wasn't allowed to kill off his hero, and here he is writing another lot of short stories to the same formula. Holmes: crime-solving genius, Watson: well-meaning duffer, with a side order of wily criminals and desperate clients and bumbling policemen. I love it.

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Ten Things I Love About You
by Julia Quinn
"Annabel Winslow is in a pickle. Having newly arrived in London for her first season and being in possession of a voluptuous figure, is being openly courted the the Earl of Newbury, who is at least 75 and a nasty brute to boot."
Another ridiculous mock-Regency romance. Half way through I was determined to give up this author because all her books are fundamentally the same, and I may still pack it in. But I did enjoy it in the end. It's just that there are much more worthy and thoughtful books on my shelf waiting to be read, and spending time on this insubstantial fluff feels like a wasted evening.

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Rabbit, Run
by John Updike

narrated by William Hope
"At twenty-six Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom is trapped in a second-rate existence, stuck with a fragile, alcoholic wife, a house full of overflowing ashtrays and discarded glasses, a young son and a futile job."
What an excellent writer, and what a shame he has written such a horrible book. I was transported by the imagery he uses and his skill with words - wonderful, brilliant writing - but the people he has created and imbued with life are so mean, selfish and ignorant. Nobody is given any generosity of spirit and the lives they lead are bleak. Maybe this was the reality of life in 1959, and maybe I'm limiting my horizons by not wanting to read about it but I do want just a little bit of joy in my reading matter, and this has close to none.

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Tom Brown's Schooldays
by Thomas Hughes
"The book is semi-autobiographical and is based on Hughes’ own experiences at Rugby school, including his respect for his schoolmaster Dr Thomas Arnold, who is portrayed as the perfect teacher in Hughes’ novel."
When I started this book it felt very much like reading a set text for English at school: a worthy book with plenty of material for O level essays. Despite the language and attitudes to class and religion typical of a book written in 1857, it improved no end as I went along. I enjoyed setting the scenes of school life into the same Rugby School I visited earlier this year, and relished the detailed descriptions of the life of public schoolboys so different from my schooldays forty years ago, and even more different from what I imagine schools are like today. It is a historical document as much as anything else, and that is the most fascinating part - how our values and attitudes have changed, and how much our present has derived from its past! I am almost ready to write that O level essay...

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