Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring reading

A quick round up of my recent reading.

I finally read the third book in Patrick Leigh- Fermor's epic walk across Europe in the early to mid 1930's, The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos., published in 2013. I'd read the two earlier volumes in the trilogy a long time ago. This volume describes his walk across Bulgaria, parts of Romania and Greece. It was published posthumously and is based on his diaries of the time, and an early draft written in the 1960's. It also has his reflections on his earlier behaviour and appearance during his travels. These follow a similar pattern to the two preceding titles, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. He sleeps in huts, shelters and peasants homes as well as staying with consuls, ambassadors and other well-to-do people from time to time, thus contrasting rural life with urban life. The final section details his visit to the monasteries on Mount Athos in Greece, their treasures, the monks and their welcome, how they fed him - food and drink are important to a young man! He eventually arrived in Istanbul in 1935.
The places he visited during his journey were changed absolutely after 1939 and changed even further after the rise and subsequent fall of communism in the area. 

 Peter Carey's Jack Maggs was discussed enthusiastically by my Book Club, as most of the group had read other titles by the author. This story is a sort-of spoof on Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, but includes Charles Dickens within his own story, although with a different name. Although there are similarities to Great Expectations, there are a lot of differences too, and these make it an exciting, fast-paced read.
Jack arrives in London,after having been transported to Australia for his crimes, seeking out one Henry Phipps, his son, whose expensive education he has paid for. Jack manages to be taken on as a footman to Percy Buckle, next-door neighbour to Henry Phipps, who is away. Jack searches throughout England for Henry, aided by Tobias Oates, a writer with an interest in magnetism as a cure for various ills. After many adventures, Henry is finally tracked down, but Jack has a life to lead elsewhere. 

Jenny Landreth's Swell: a Waterbiography is more than the author's own story of learning to swim and develop her swimming abilities, it is also a brief history of how swimming suffragettes, those women who were determined to swim and to encourage other women to swim as well. The waterbiography part is Jenny's own swimming journey, in which she progresses to becoming a cold-water swimmer in Tooting Bec Lido, which is unheated and open all year round, although winter swimming , from October to April, is only available to South London Swimming Club members. Jenny Landreth also describes sea and night swimming in Greece. There are several passages which had me laughing out loud as she describes various aspects of swimming behaviours of other swimmers as well as her own. She has strong and amusing views on these.
This book certainly brought back many memories of my own swimming, which I've been doing all my life. The only competitive swimming I did was at school, a lifetime ago. I've swum in the sea, in pools indoor and out, in rivers, especially in France and now swim regularly in an indoor pool and an outdoor when I can. This book was a must-add to my small collection of books on swimming.

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