Thursday, 28 June 2007

Two biographies

I recently read Patrick Marnham's " Wild Mary: a life of Mary Wesley" while on holiday in France (weather being absolutely awful ) and found it quite interesting. I had read several of her novels not long after they were published and proving to be very popular with the reading public. I enjoyed reading them, but don't necessarily think of them as great literature, more as good middle-brow reads. I feel that the biography is about the same level - I found it filled in many gaps in my knowledge of the authors life and background, and did re-awaken my interest in her novels. I found a second-hand copy of A Dubious Legacy, which is one title I don't remember reading, so am looking forward to catching up with that soon.
I also finished Alexander Master's "Stuart: a life backwards", which one of my book club companions found a bit too much like work. I found it a bit hard to get into, as I didn't think I would find the subject particularly sympathetic, but was soon gripped by the events by which Masters gets to know Stuart. The Book Club felt that although Stuart's life may not have merited a footnote in anyone else's view, Masters had written a sympathtic biography of a man who had come to mean a lot to him as a friend and fellow campaigner in the fight to free two Cambridge charity workers who were unjustly jailed for allegedly allowing drugs to be sold in the charity premises, and that Stuart's life, with his dysfunctional family, disability and frequent imprisonments, still came across as a real, though exasperating person.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Reading groups

Since the act of reading , at least by most literate adults, is normally a silent, solitary occupation, the act of joining or even setting up a reading group might seem to contradict the reason for reading. However I have found that talking about books in a group who have all read the same book as me certainly adds to my reading experience and impacts on how I remember a book, and may make me read something that I intend to read when i can summon up the energy, will or whatever to get round to it. I am enjoying Yiyun Li's Thousand years of Good Prayer at the moment, a title I came across last year and suggested to one of the book groups, as did another member, so we'll be discussing that later in July. An upcoming book group read is Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of loss, which I read last year just after it won the Booker. I found it an interesting read, although not a perfect book. The contrast between the lives of the judge's granddaughter, living in the foothills of the Himalayas, and his cook's son in America was quite well done . I can still remember the atmosphere of the judges house that the writer evoked for me and the restaurent in America where Biju worked. Whether it was the best novel published in 2006 is probably a moot point, as is whether or not I re-read it.

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