Serious reading: another update

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The quality of my reading material has had a significant upgrade this year.  Thank you to everyone who’s suggested books – they’ve contributed to the growing pile of must-reads.

Here are the highlights of the last few months.

Top of the list are the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante.  They had their own post during the summer and, as that made clear, I loved every word of them.  I am in utter awe of someone who can write as she does, taking in daily life, ambition, friendship, inner thoughts, political events and family, producing credible narratives with connections and intricacies of plot that seem inevitable and effortless.

Apart from those gems, I went back in time with The Mayor of Casterbridge, a book club read that took a bit of getting into after a host of contemporary works.  I hadn’t read anything by Thomas Hardy since student days and I found myself remembering how I’d thought of books then and the sense that there were so many books waiting to be devoured.  I also wanted to shake the characters until they sorted themselves out – which I remember thinking the last time I read Hardy!

Back to the contemporary with The Green Road by Anne Enright, the story of the relationships between a mother and her children, told from the perspective of each of them in snapshots beginning in childhood.  I found it puzzling at first, because the first half of the book reads as a series of short stories.  The second half of the book brings all the characters together and they make more sense.

I think I’m the last person to have read by Us and One Day, both by David Nicholls.  Not a fan of either of them, because the characters and events didn’t feel credible.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton felt far more authentic.  It’s the story of a relationship after marriage.  His background is in philosophy and it does feel, at times, that there’s a clinical detachment to the storytelling.  Won’t be everyone’s taste, but I liked it.

And now for something completely different:  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  I’d steered clear of Hemingway for years, because I thought his books were written for men.  There’s certainly a male sensibility, but the writing is so beautiful that it’s accessible to all.  I’d like to read something else by him, but I’m not sure what to choose.  Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

The most recent read is The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.  At first, I found it a little too full of clever insights and acute observations, but I warmed to it by the end because her comments on society – the willingness of one person to protect their own position by lying about another; the herd instinct – continue to resonate.

I’ve just started Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.  I haven’t read enough to comment, but a report will be in the next update.

Once again, any suggestions for must-reads would be very welcome.

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