Wednesday 4 March 2009

Books books books

I've given up buying books for Lent, so I thought I'd do a round-up of the books I bought just before that. And then I'm going to focus on four that I'm really excited about, but might not be able to read for a few weeks. Doesn't seem fair to have such interesting titles just milling around my bookshelves and, increasingly, floor, without telling you about them so you can rush out and get copies yourself. What powers of persuasion I believe myself to have... And, of course, I welcome your thoughts on any or all of the books I mention - especially if you've already read them and want to pass on your thoughts.

So, the ones which aren't going to get a photo or description because otherwise we'd be here all day:

A View of the Harbour - Elizabeth Taylor (amassing hers, waiting for Nicola Beauman's biography later this year)
The Tigress on the Hearth - Margery Sharp (another author I've only read one book by, but still buy lots of when I see 'em... any fa
Yesterday Morning - Diana Athill
Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
(for book group... I'm not sure, having heard fairly negative reports in the blogosphere)
Before Leonard: The Early Suitors of Virginia Woolf - Sarah M. Hall (any excuse for something Virginian)

And now the Big Four...

Two People - AA Milne
When I first heard about Capuchin Classics about a year ago, and did an interview with Emma Howard, the title I was most excited about was this reprint of AA Milne's novel. I read it in January 2003, and remember it being slightly more thoughtful, even sombre, than most of his output - but also very good. I'm interested to see if six years down the line I still admire this portrait of a marriage after the passion has declined. To quote the blurb, 'Two People considers how two people can make a relationship work when those concerned have little in common but that intense fragment they shared when first they fell in love. Quietly and quintessentially English in every facet, Two People shines with a gentle himour and a subtle delicacy of style.' Perhaps not typical Milne fare, but I encourage you to get a copy and read it along with me. If Ann Thwaite's superlatively great biography of Milne is to be believed, the novel is more than a little autobiographical.

Hallucinating Foucault - Patricia Dunbar
Sometimes I enjoy picking up a novel I know nothing about, and putting it at the top of the tbr pile. This one won on title and brevity (I do like a short book, as we've discussed). The narrator is heading to France from Cambridge to rescue writer Paul Michel, the subject of his doctoral research, from a mental institution. I'm developing quite a taste for quirky literature (especially after reading Alva & Irva by Edward Carey) and this was irresistible.

Oh dear, this post is getting very long. Will hurry through the other two.

The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner - Giles Waterfield
Giles Waterfield wrote the wonderfully evocative The Long Afternoon, which is in my 50 Books..., and was later a novel I chose for my book group. Someone there recommended The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner as being equally good, but much funnier - set in the Museum of British History and around a painting by Gainsborough, this looks to have all the ingredients for a memorable and enjoyable read.

Virginia Woolf - Nigel Nicholson
How did I not know that Nigel Nicholson had written a book about Virginia Woolf? Sounds like a very winning combination, and maybe even something I can read over Easter under the title 'research.' At only 160 pages, it would be a shame not to.


  1. The only one of these I've read is Hallucinating Foucault which I thought was a compelling read. It’s both a love story and a story of obsession. I read it a while ago but there is a scene in an asylum which is particularly memorable and disturbing in its depiction of the inmates. The book explores what it is to be “mad” and also the relationship between the reader and the writer.

  2. These are just the most wonderful sounding books. I've read none of them, and think I must read them all. You should have plenty to take you through Lent, don't you think? And if not, there's always the library!

  3. I've read "Fugitive Pieces" - a strange book but I couldn't put it down but not for the usual reasons that people say that because it certaiinly isn't an action-filled page turner.

    I haven't come across that Elizabeth Taylor but I do enjoy all her writing.

  4. Giving up books for Lent! I know how difficult that will be for you Simon. I have to say that you are much more admirable than a woman I work with who has given up candy. But just the ones that have a wrapper.

  5. I've had Hallucinating Foucault for ages, but have not read it yet.

    The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner sounds intriguing. I love the title!

  6. "The Hound in the Left Hand Corner" is tremendous fun. I really enjoyed it. It wonderfully sends up the vacuousness of 'Cool Britannia' and the desperate lengths to which museums will go in order to try and be 'relevant'.

    Incidentally, Simon, I may be one of your Google Reader subscribers. I tinker with using it occasionally but can't really get to like it. Come to think of since I got frustrated with Netvibes (the main alternative to iGoogle), I've struggled to settle on any one rss reader. Currently I'm using a piece of desktop software called RSSOwl instead. Subscribing is so much more efficient than clicking on pages to see if they have been updated. I believe the Sony Reader (the e-book device you reviewed a few months back) can handle rss feeds too.


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