Monday, 3 February 2014

January reads

1. January's book group choice, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, was one I expected to love.  I'm a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and when I heard that he'd published a new novel I was expecting something as narratively rich and brilliant as American Gods or Neverwhere.  Sadly, I was disappointed.  Now don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic book, but it has far more in common with his children's novel The Graveyard Book than it does with his work for adults.  While The Ocean... is a magical tale, I raced through it in less than two hours and never felt truly connected to the characters.

2. I wasn't entirely taken with Burial Rites at first, and in fact almost gave up on it, but I'm so glad I perservered.  Hannah Kent's novel is based on the true story of one of the last public executions in Iceland; that of Agnes Magnúsdóttir in 1829.  Beautifully written, with tension that builds to the final, inevitable and terrible, conclusion.  My sympathies were with Agnes, but also with the family with whom she is billetted prior to her execution and the priest who is assigned to provide her with spiritual guidance.  The harsh and bleak landscapes of Iceland and the hardships of life there almost two centuries ago are perfectly captured by Kent, who first had the idea for the novel when staying in rural Iceland as a student.

3. A Trick Of The Light was a quick re-read on the train home from Liverpool.  An Inspector Gamache mystery, I enjoy the recurring idyllic pastoral setting of Quebec village Three Pines and the colourful characters who reside there, but am less keen on the also recurring theme of police corruption.  I like my murder mysteries conversely peaceful and unblemished by the 'real' world!

4. 5. & 6. I raced through the first three Flavia De Luce novels, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, The Weed That Strings The Hangman's Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard.  This is more like it - murder mysteries without the complications of modern life!  Not in the least intellectually challenging, but the 11 year old heroine is a winning narrator and they make perfect reading for cold winter evenings.

7. A bit of a cheat to include this, as I didn't finish it.  But I didn't finish it because I couldn't bear to; I could see that things weren't going to end happily for poor old Eleanor and Park - madly-in-love punk-listening, graphic-novel-reading teenagers - so I decided to stop reading immediately, so now they're still together and happy in my head.  Yes, I am mad.  Shut up.

8. Goth Girl & The Ghost Of A Mouse is a hoot - full of brilliant literary and historical in-jokes and fabulous illustrations.  It's a children's book, but as we all know, most of the best fiction around at the moment is written for kids or young adults, so don't let that but you off.


  1. I will check some of these out. In January I read The Way by Swanns (Marcel Proust) and Stoner, both of which made me super duper sad and introspective and thinking about myself too much. February is set aside for light frothy reading instead.

    1. I've heard so many good things about Stoner, but I just don't think I can cope with the sadness and misery of it. I'm very averse to bad things happening in novels at the moment, I just want happiness and niceness (the murders in my much-loved crime thrillers aside, of course!)

  2. Oh dear. Just as I was starting to clear my to read pile you give me new additions! Terrible. x