Saturday, 29 April 2017

April reading round up

I seem to have been doing a bit more reading than usual the past couple of months , but not so much blogging. Many of the books I've read have been garnered on quick sweeps in my local library; some are titles I've bought to read for the book club I belong to, others just acquired on a whim, such as Bee Wilson's This Is Not A Diet Book. I picked this up at my local university bookshop and read it that evening. It 's an interesting take on how to have a more rational approach to food and feeding ourselves as human beings - not depending on fast food and takeaways, but creating something nourishing from scratch, which is something I've tried to do for a very long time. There are a few useful recipes within and simple guidelines as to how to eat well.
 For a bit of light relief, I read a couple of titles by Veronica Henry, How to Find Love in a Bookshop, and The Beach Hut Next Door. Both are easy stories, with enough about the characters for me to care for them and to want to find out what happens to them.

Fredrick Backman's " A man called Ove" is a beautifully told story about a grumpy old man called Ove, who lives in a small Swedish town. Ove makes several, fortunately unsuccessful attempts to take his own life. Ove's life story is revealed slowly, over the course of the book: his childhood, his meeting with his wife Sonja and her childhood in an isolated house. This book gives a picture of modern Swedish life in all its complexity, including the bureaucracy revealed when an old friend in need of care is being hustled off into a care home, despite his wife's pleadings against this action. Ove's daily inspections of his neighbourhood bring him into contact with the many people in the locality, including recent arrivals Parvenah and her husband. Parvenah is Iranian and forms a close bond with Ove, He even teaches her to drive. This story is a complete contrast to the Scandi-noir thrillers which have been popular for some time.
Having recently watched the final of University Challenge, which I've been watching since its Bamber Gascoigne days, I picked up Jeremy Paxman's A Life in Questions ,(a sort of autobiography,) in the library and read it fairly quickly. It does give a picture of his family background and working life, but little of his personal, private life. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting read, despite its slightly limited scope on his life.
I don't know how, over a long reading life I haven't read anything by Penelope Fitzgerald. however I have now made a start with her last novel, The Blue Flower, a story about the love of Freidrich (Fritz) von Hardenberg for Sophie von Kuhn, who was only 12 when they first met. Von Hardenberg went on to write poetry and philosophy under the name Novalis. Set during the 18th century, on reading it I became totally absorbed into the life of the characters: she makes the 18th century seem very real and immediate and describes beautifully Fritz's family's total bemusement at his falling in love with an apparently rather ordinary, plain young girl, who is also not of his class in society. It is good to find a new to me author who has a solid body of work to keep me reading.
Note: there is more about Penelope Fitzgerald and her novel The Bookshop over on Vulpes Libris blog.

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