Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Random reading

On a recent visit to my nearest branch library, I picked up a copy of Susan Hill's newest title, The Small Hand. I read this over a couple of days, even though it is fairly short. However, it is still a tour de force of a story. Adam Snow is a dealer in rare and antiquarian books and on a journey from visiting a client, manages to get lost and finds himself in heading down a country lane, only to end up in the overgrown remains of a once beautiful garden and house. The small hand which creeps into his brings with it terror and tragedy, both slowly and subtly revealed. I enjoyed this very much, as the quality of the writing is excellent and the build up of tension and terror is quietly menacing. A satisfying read.
On a totally different level, Elizabeth Chadwick's historical novels are also for me satisfying reads. They give a picture of a historical period outside that of historical academic writing, but are well researched, but readable. The plots and characters are believable, the language she chooses to use flows easily. Maybe the real historical characters she is depicting didn't speak exactly as she describes, but what is written is believable and reads well. The most recent of her novels I have read is titled The Time of Singing, and describes the lives of Ida de Tosney and Roger Bigod , both actual historical characters. Ida has been mistress to King Henry 2nd from the age of fifteen, but after bearing him a son and meeting Roger, decides to ask the king if she can be married. Henry agrees and Ida and Roger are wedded, but Henry keeps Ida's son William at court. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Roger's father had been in revolt against the king, while Roger, heir to the earldom, had sided with the king. The turbulent lives of the period, the alliances by marriage, the intrigues between King Henry, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and John are all well described. History in a easy to digest form, fun and easy to read.
Although entirely about another war and its aftermath, Talking about Jane Austen in Baghdad by Bee Rowlatt and May Witwit is a very different read. It is basically an exchange of emails between two women from different cultures. and very different outlooks and expectations. Bee is a Londoner, married with two daughters and a third child on the way, May is older, a lecturer in English and Human Rights and democracy at a University in Baghdad, divorced from her first husband and childless. Bee works for the BBC World Service and is introduced to May through an interview. They begin a correspondence by email and friendship grows as aspects of both their lives are revealed, Bee's that of a working mother, May's that of an a fairly ordinary Iraqi,living in what was a nice part of Baghdad, coping with the aftermath of the war and the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Her comments about life under Saddam Hussein being at least more ordered than the chaos of the present may not be quite what we westerners expect. The conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite sects also affect May and her husband Ali, adding the very real fear of death to their already fearful lives. An excellent read for anyone wanting to find out how Iraqis coped after the invasion.

No comments:

google tracker