Sunday, 7 July 2019

A year of reading (to be continued..)

Since I last wrote anything on this blog, almost a year ago, I've not stopped reading, but just didn't feel inspired to write about the books I have the time. Much of my reading is picked pretty much at random from my local public library shelves - I look for authors I may be familiar with, but have a newish title I haven't yet read, or I will try an author whose work I've read reviews or blog posts about and which look interesting.  I enjoy catching up with new authors, but I don't feel compelled to read a new author/book the minute its published.

Some of the more memorable reads of the last few months have been Tim Pears West Country trilogy, beginning with The Horseman, continuing with The Wanderers and ending with The Redeemed. I loved the quality of writing, which although seemingly slow and gentle yet describes some violent actions and emotions quite plainly.Since the novels are set in the period just before, during and after the First World War, some of the events described are quite dramatic. He also seems to be able to imagine how life was lived at that time; how most people rarely went further than a few miles from their farm or place of work, how they communicated with each other without any modern methods, only talking directly or writing letters.

Another writer who has a similar quiet way of telling a story is Kent Haruf, several of whose novels I have read in the past. His last book, Our Souls at Night, is the story of Louis and Abbie, neighbours in the small town of Holt. One evening Abbie asks Louis if he can spend the night with her just for company. Their relationship develops slowly and gently. During the summer Abbie's grandson Jamie comes to stay with her, as his father Gene is divorced from Jamie's mother. However after a fall in which Abbie breaks a hip and is hospitalised, she moves away to be nearer Gene and her grandson. Both Addie's son and Louis daughter seem to be unhappy about the relationship between Abbie and Louis, which brings them both much happiness and joy in their later years.
Is this disapproval because the young cannot conceive of older people having an emotional life,of finding happiness and joy in the company of a member of the opposite sex to whom they are not married, or is it perhaps jealousy at their parents happiness, while they themselves are feeling upset and unhappy?

I picked up Salley Vickers The Librarian as soon as I saw it appear o the library's shelves, and although I enjoyed it, I finished it with a slight feeling of disappointment. Sylvia Blackwood, a young, recently qualified librarian, arrives in East Mole, a middle England country town in 1958. She is very enthusiastic about her role, re-arranging the children's library to make it more user-friendly, giving talks to local schools, and encourages any child she meets to join the library. She befriends Millie, her neighbours daughter and urges her to join the library.
One of the themes of the story is the impact of the 11+ on children of that era, and their future life chances. ( There are still a few local authorities in England who administer the 11+ exam)
Sylvia has an affair with a married man, who very bright young daughter leads Sam, a local lad ,somewhat astray, but all turns out well at the end.
I have to say that this book left me with some unanswered questions., despite its enthusiastic support of children's librarians and all they did and still do to support and encourage children to read widely and with enjoyment. This may be because I can remember some of the things Salley Vickers describes, although my career in libraries started a decade later n 1968 and things were beginning to change.

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