Saturday, September 05, 2009

Back to books

It seems ages since I wrote about books. Reading time has had some pleasant interruptions, in the form of the arrival of one granddaughter and the visit of another. Then there has been the sewing and lots of cooking for the visitors but I am hoping now to have a little period of catching up.

I am currently enjoying The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru. It is described in the blurb as "Grand, sweeping and marvellously funny.......... a vastly enjoyable romp: an epic, like they used to tell them.." I am about half way through at present and it is living up to that description.

It is a story set in the early part of the twentieth century against the background of growing discontent in the British Empire. The central character (I don't yet know if he is hero or anti-hero) is a handsome, pale-faced Indian boy of mixed race and fortune. I know  that his adventures will eventually take him to Britain and Africa but I haven't yet got beyond India.

The writing is excellent; the characterisation and pace of the story remind me of Fielding, Smollet and Sterne. I will let you know if Pran Nath retains his place among Tom Jones, Peregrine Pickle and Tristram Shandy when I have finished reading his adventures.

The last book that I read was Mary Olivier: a life by May Sinclair. This is an "almost autobiographical" novel, describing the life of the only daughter in a middle-class Victorian household. It is a remarkable story of strength of character. Mary is expected to devote herself to feminine accomplishments and to be a companion to her mother, while her brothers are given the best educational opportunities. The determined girl educates herself, studying Greek and German, philosophy and science from books provided by her brother and a neighbour.
Mary forms her own views about religion and refuses to conform to her mother's strict beliefs. She is a devoted daughter, who sacrifices her youth for her mother but she maintains her intellectual and moral integrity and independence in spite of enormous pressures from her family.

I was really disappointed when I came to the end of the book. I had not encountered May Sinclair before and have been reading a little about her. Writing became her means of escape from poverty, she published poetry and several novels as well as becoming a greatly respected literary critic. It was she who coined the phrase stream of consciousness, referring to the writing of Dorothy Richardson and she uses this technique in Mary Olivier.

I am keen to learn more about May Sinclair and to read more of her books. This morning, the postman delivered a copy of The Life and Death of Harriett Frean to add to the TBR pile. The teaser on the cover simply says "Shocking". I can't wait to get started.

Also in this morning's mail was the autumn edition of Slightly Foxed. I can see that there will be little time for anything other than reading for a while.


  1. m. I can't paste directly into the comments box from MSWord, but can apparently paste into the box marked "Edit" ?????

    The best use of one's time IMO (other than spending it with grandchildren) is in a good chair with a good book (a nice snack doesn't hurt either).

    I've just started reading Scared Hearts by Sarah Dunant. The writing and the story line seem ordinary, but perhaps it will get better once it gets started.

  2. e, I can't work out this new format at all. I have been trying to get the profile icons to appear but Blogger doesn't seem to recognise the difference between Yes and No. I'll persist for a while longer then I might just go over to TypePad.

    I heard a little of the dramatised version of Sacred Hearts on the radio recently. It is difficult to judge from those versions what the book might be like. Let me know when you have finished.

  3. The problem about going over to TypePad is exporting/importing your existing posts. I know your son-in-law is a geek (do you use that word for electronic wizards as well?), so if he does it for you, pls send me the directions.

    I spent at least half an hour just writing the couple of sentences in my last comment. When I think Shakespeare could have written an ode in that time and he didn't have MS Word at his disposal.

    You'll be amused to learn that I was able to copy the sentences above, paste them into Word, run them through spell check and paste them back here with absolutely no difficulty now!

    Talk about mysterious forces?

    Be back at you with a critique of "Sacred Hearts."

  4. Must have been that threat of going over to TypePad!

  5. Hi Monix
    I have been distracted too so haven't been over for a while - glad you are getting back to books. I'm readig Burning Out by Katherine May - very intriguing - may attempt a review when I finish. Some fab writng in it.
    PS like your new photo too.

  6. That's Saunton Sands, Ali, just up the road from us.

    I can see that you have been busy, hope the book takes off soon. I look forward to reading your review as I haven't read Burning Out.

  7. The Impressionist sounds like I would enjoy reading it, and now you have me interested in May Sinclair and her life and writings.
    My want to read lists grow too long!
    I just returned from a bookstore and saw a book I want to read: Henry the VIII's Children.
    Bookstores and your blog are places I where I add to my TBR lists.

  8. Terra
    My TBR shelf developed into a bookcase, then a mountain after I started to read booklovers' blogs!

    I would like to read more of May Sinclair's books and will write more about her at some point. I really admire women of her time, who were largely self-educated and fought for the rights we take for granted nowadays.


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!