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.