Tuesday, 21 November 2017

IGISIRI catch-up - my latest reads

A quick post today about my IGISIRI programme – you may have wondered why things have gone a bit silent on that front! If you remember, IGISIRI stands for I’ve Got It So I’ll Read It and it’s all about tackling those books on your TBR pile, at the rate of two a month. You choose them from your shelves quickly, without too much thought – because if you dither for too long you find you want to read everything you own all at once and you make no decision at all!

I was doing well until the summer. Summer, for me, is all about teaching. So my focus is on useful-sources-for-illustrative-passages for my creative writing students rather than damn-fine-reads-I-can-escape-into.

Here, then, is an update of books I’ve read for pleasure since my last IGISIRI post, taking us through the end of summer and the autumn.

On holiday after the teaching gigs ended, I read a couple of thrillers: Karin Slaughter’s Pretty Girls, which was in the holiday rental we were staying in and Peter Swanson’s Her Every Fear, bought at the airport. The former was, I found, well done but far too long and pretty distasteful, even though I have a strong stomach for the gory end of the thriller market. Peter Swanson’s novel was OK but curiously flat and I was irked by the errors of ‘British’ thought and expression when he was narrating from a British character’s point of view. Both books, I felt, could have done with better standards of editing.

Since then I’ve read Liz Jensen’s The Rapture – extremely dark and scary and I hope not too prescient. Then Michelle Paver’s Thin Air – like her previous ghost/horror story Dark Matter, it makes use of a chilly, inhuman location. In Dark Matter (which is one of my favourite ghost stories ever) she set the story in the Arctic – here it’s the Himalayas. It was excellent, though not quite as good as Dark Matter.

This month I’ve finished reading Michael Haag’s The Durrells of Corfu, which I started back in the early summer. I loved it yet almost didn’t want to know the ‘truth’ behind My Family and Other Animals and its sequels. What was lovely was the recognition of the places mentioned such as the White House at Kalami – we had lunch there twice when we holidayed in Corfu some years back (see my post here). It made me want to return to the island with my extra knowledge not just of Gerald Durrell but of Lawrence Durrell. I have to say that this book has emerged as a result of the popularity of the Durrells series on ITV, which I have watched occasionally because of the gorgeous scenery but find irritating in the way it patronises Greeks as ludicrous eccentrics, though I suppose the original books did that too.

Next, Jessica Bell’s memoir Dear Reflection: I Never Meant to be a Rebel. This is a book that shocks you not only with the events it describes but with its degree of honesty. She lays bare what she did and why she did it in such an unsparing, unflinching way you long to dart forward and tell her to be kinder to herself. What is also extraordinary is that her mother, musician Erika Bach, who suffered from psychosis brought on by withdrawal from prescription painkillers and whose relationship with her daughter was intense and love-hate all the way, writes directly to the reader at the end. Jessica ricochets from depression to alcohol abuse to self-destructive melodrama in her quest to reconcile herself to her family, society, the world and her own self. Searing stuff.

Finally, many readers have waited a long time for this treat – Philip Pullman’s long-delayed new trilogy The Book of Dust. I wasn’t going to wait for La Belle Sauvage, the first in the trilogy, to come out in paperback. I bought the hardback at the Book House in Summertown – see the lovely bag that came with it?! Beneath the dust(!)jacket, the book itself is beautiful with little gold speckles of dust on the binding and a lines from the story inscribed down the spine. La Belle Sauvage is proof yet again that Pullman is a master storyteller. Though it doesn’t pack quite the revelatory punch of Northern Lights, the first of the His Dark Materials trilogy, it is an enthralling read all the same. It is a joy to return to the alternative Oxford he creates and an added joy for me, as an Oxford-dweller, to recognise the landmarks and places he describes, from the Trout and Godstow nunnery all the way down the Thames – a Thames that decides not to flow sweetly in this story, but to inundate the landscape and island the spires of the city. (Not all that unlikely, given that Oxford is very prone to flooding).

Till my next ISIGIRI round-up, keep reading!

Next time, a guest post by Yvonne Lyon, whose story The Hungry Sails appears in Distant Echoes, as does my story ‘Salt’, published by Corazon Books - see the sidebar on the right.

Past IGISIRI posts are here - with links to previous ones at the foot of that post.

Read more about Jessica Bell here: http://literascribe.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/triskele-book-launch-power-of-writing.htmland her website is here. Jessica is a musician too. And a publisher and cover designer ...

Are you a writer - or do you want to be? Visit my website to download your free guide to launching a productive writing life. 

1 comment:

Jessica Bell said...

Thank you so much for reading, Lorna. I really appreciate it!