Beyond Black

Beyond Black by Hilary MantelThis is the first of Hilary Mantel’s books that I’ve read, and I just *loved* it. The use of language is superb, and the way that Alison’s memories of her appalling childhood build up over time is beautifully dealt with.

I wish that Colette had been a more rounded character – I found her very unidimensional (is that a word?), and her actions at the end were quite unbelievable.

I understand that many people think that this is one of Mantel’s less good books; in that case, I’m very much looking forward to reading some of her others.

The People's Act of Love

A piece of snow rested on her mouth. She licked it off and tasted the grainy, rainy, travelled taste of it.

the people's act of loveI tried so hard to like The People’s Act of Love, by James Meek. But I didn’t, and I simply can’t put my finger on why. It took me a long time to read, and I nearly gave up several times.

the use of language is wonderful – see above. The plot is good, the characterisation is good, the reviews are splendid (which is why I bought it), and yet – somehow – it just didn’t work for me. But it has put me in the mood to watch Doctor Zhivago, which I may just go and do shortly.

p.s. perlmonger has just brought me toast and marmite. See why I love him?

books read 2006

I should have posted this last weekend, but managed not to get round to it – mea culpa.

Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories

perlmonger bought me this last October, and it’s been sitting on the “to read” heap for ages, while I ploughed through other stuff. I love Alan Bennett – his writing, and his plays, and his monologues, and I was looking forward to this enormously. And most of it I enjoyed enormously, although I found myself flagging a bit about two thirds of the way through, when he was writing about art – a subject on which I am, I fear, a bit of a philistine. But it was mostly joyous stuff, and vintage Bennett, and I could hear him in my head reading the passages to me.

but the trouble is that I’ve heard him parodied too much (albeit affectionately) by Dead Ringers, and when you’re actually reading Bennett writing about Dame Thora, you just expect a pot of Earl Grey and a macaroon to feature in the proceedings. Still well worth a read, mind you.

after that, I mopped up Cat Confidential by Vicky Halls, which we acquired as part of Waterstones 3 for 2 offer – a marketing strategy on their part which is causing us to run out of wall space for books even sooner than anticipated.

there wasn’t much in there that was surprising – after all, we run our own feline research station here (although who is studying whom is difficult to say …) – but there were a few points which made me go “oh, I never knew that!”. Written in a very chatty style, I enjoyed it as light reading, and mopped it up over last weekend.

now having a bit of fiction, reading Jenny Maxwell’s blacksmith trilogy – haven’t read them for years, as the first in the set went missing, but I picked up a copy from Amazon marketplace last year.

The Narnia Chronicles

I’ve bought two boxed sets of C S Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles in my life and (I think) had one bought for me… I certainly had all the books when I was a child, but I have no idea what happened to them. And, indeed, they may not have been in a box. But I digress … The first set I bought was for my daughter kalunina when she was small, and the second a few years ago, from Amazon, for myself.

that last set sat on the bookshelves, unopened, until we catalogued all the books last year, when I did at least rip the cellophane off them. I hadn’t read them myself for over about 35 years, probably, and I decided to do so over the recent late December holiday period.

I’m sure I bought them from Amazon UK, and was somewhat irritated to find that it is a US printing – odd typefaces, spelling USAnianised in places, and very badly proofread / typeset, with paragraphs repeating themselves in places.

I had remembered the the stories with much fondness – religious allegory and all – after all, I’m a convent girl, and I can brush religious allegory aside when need be. I was really looking forward to them, but oh *dear*. The Xian stuff reads to me now as though it’s been shovelled on with a JCB, and the whole middle class mores jarred horribly. And the stories themselves are really quite light in most respects. I was actually pleased to finish the last one this morning – I was determined to get through them, but it was tough work.

I doubt I’ll read them again, and I’ll wait for LWW on DVD, I think.

next up: Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories – looking forward to that.