Saturday, 25 August 2012

Summer reads

I recently re-read Jane Gardam's Old Filth for a book club meeting, swiftly followed by The Man in the Wooden Hat. I first read Old Filth about 4 years ago and thought it a wonderful read. I enjoyed The Man in the Wooden Hat just as much, as it did give further enlightenment about the central relationships in Old Filth. Discussing Old Filth without revealing what happens in the next book was a bit complicated, as many of the others in the group had not read it, although one or two had, and I don't like to give away the plot when talking to people who haven't read a book under discussion, unless perhaps they have no intention of reading it.
I have a certain sympathy with Edward Feathers, sent home to England from his Malayan childhood, even though that childhood was very deprived, as I too was sent to a boarding school in England, while my parents were working in West Africa. But Old Filth, as he is usually referred to, had no mother and was ignored by his shell-shocked father ; the aunts to whom he was ostensibly sent merely passed him on to a couple who were cruel and uncaring of the children in their home. Old Filth's first school seemed to be the saving of him, as the headmaster cared deeply for the boys in his charge. Edward makes friends with another boy, Pat Ingoldby and becomes almost adopted into his family, spending many holidays with them, until the outbreak of the Second World War. His experiences during this event varied from the horrendous to the faintly ridiculous and obviously marked him for life and affected his relationship with his wife.
Although I had read Old Filth a few years ago, I seemed to have forgotten some of the details of the story, so was glad to re-read it - as a general rule, I don't do a lot of re-reading, even though it can bring out much more of a book than a first or second read can.
Another re-read was Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, last read, I think, was as a youngish child. Again, I obviously recalled some of the main characters, both human and horse, and several incidents, but I had forgotten quite how didactic in tone this story is, both about human behaviour to animals and also to each other. It is still a perfectly readable account of a horse's life and is still a suitable read for a child.

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