Friday, 27 June 2014

A Year of Reading Dangerously, by Andy Miller,  which I've just finished, was an interesting read, though not to me particularly dangerous. It was refreshing to read about a man who reads fiction in the way that Andy Miller does, but I suspect he his not totally unique. Many years ago I did a survey of male readers in the library in which I then  worked. One of the questions I asked was to name some favourite authors. The majority of authors named were male, which I don't think was surprising. Given that one of the many reasons people read is to reflect on their own lives, surely  men will favour male writers and women will choose female authors on the same basis. But all real readers will choose authors of either gender if what they say has some resonance with them. Looking at Andy Miller's List of Betterment, he includes 39 male authors and 11 female, probably a slightly higher proportion of female writers than that chosen by those readers who responded to my survey. Certainly his reading was wide ranging, not genre-based and fifty books in a year , or about one a week is a good average for an average-speed reader. But its not how many books, or how fast  you can read that matters. What really matters about reading is that you read, with curiosity, interest, enthusiasm and hopefully some degree of enjoyment and even enlightenment. Just keep reading. Which is where I totally agree with Andy Miller.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A few good reads

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch comes in as a good read for me, and as I haven't yet read either of her earlier works, a good introduction to her earlier works. Although I thought some of the writing, particularly the descriptions of places and weather somewhat overblown, I still enjoyed the story.The plot centres on Theo's theft of a picture, The Goldfinch by Carl Fabritius, during a disaster in the Metroploitan Museum of Art in which his mother dies. Much of Theo's life after the death of his mother is concerned with his ideas of what to do with this beautiful little painting, as well as coming to terms with the loss of his mother. The story kept me engrossed as the characters who helped Theo, some almost despite themselves, were all fascinating although all were also flawed human beings, with their various weaknesses.

Anne de Courcy's tale of The Fishing Fleet:husband -hunting in the Raj is about the many women, mostly quite young, who left England to go to India to find a husband. Many had been born in India, and were returning to family after being educated n England. Others were joinng a fiance they had already met and become engaged to back home, but many were out to seek a husband, having failed to find one in England. The Victorians encouraged women and girls out to India, after the East India Company was pretty much taken over by the government, as it was considered more suitable for the men- soldiers, government  servants, and others to marry Englishwomen rather than Indian women. Many of the stories which Anne de Courcy relates are from the later part of the Victorian era and from the inter-war years, the 20's and 30's. Some of the stories of the women and their husbands are scattered across several chapters. Having had a colonial childhood,  although in West Africa rather than India, and much later than the period covered by this book, I enjoyed the read.
I have to add that I read both of these titles on my Kindle, which as it is a couple of years old, did nothing whatsoever for the illustrations in this last book.

One book I did read and enjoy as a printed book was Maureen Lee's Flora and Grace.
I don't remember reading any of Maureen Lee's many other titles, but this one was an easy and enjoyable read, fairly light despite some of  the themes it encompasses. Flora, a 17 year old orphan, has been sent to a small school in Switzerland, and one beautiful spring day during the war, is  standing at the local station when a train rumbles slowly through. Flora hears groans and moans and realises there are people inside. Suddenly an infant is thrust from one of the trucks to her, and she hears the plea. "Take him. His name is Simon" and Flora is left holding the baby as the train continues its journey. The plot then follows Flora's life as she eventually returns to England together with Simon, to her aunt, who had placed her in the Swiss school.

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