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Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup ofyour comments and photosfrom the last week.
“Stand back,” says reenimus, for a review of The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch:
This is an excellent novel to start early into a pandemic lockdown. It will accompany you in all shades of mood from desperation to elation; even if you find yourself in a slough of despond – nursing a coronavirus patient impatiently – you can comfort yourself that you will never suffer as Charles Arrowby, a man with a deep navel, does …
I am loath to give away any specifics lest anyone who might be tempted to read this novel would be on the receiving end of a spoiler but I can heartily recommend it. Murdoch’s idiom is so modern in places, you have to remind yourself this was written in the 1970s. You may fall in and out of love with it but it will be a solid friend to you in a three-month hour of need, even if you abandon it in favour of shorter works along the way. I recall most fondly a sunny afternoon spent on a blanket in a nearby field reading a big swathe of it, wanting only for a fresh apricot.
Theothebook has just finished Irmgard Keun’s Child of all Nations, translated by Michael Hofmann:
Seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Kully, it tells of her wanderings around Europe with her mother while her father, an author, is often elsewhere trying to scrounge/find money, after they’d left Germany. Sad and sometimes wonderfully funny observations of a child. Michael Hofmann writes in the afterword, “I ended up so charmed by Keun that I translated the whole book. On the way, I read – much of it aloud – everything else of hers I could find. I suppose it’s a little like enjoying your round, and buying the golf course.” It was during the last years of Joseph Roth’s life that she lived and travelled with him, June 1936 to January 1938. Suffice it to say I’ve already recommended this to a few of my friends as well as earlier today ordering three of her books I can find in English.
The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley has been a good re-read for vermontlogger:
The intertwined lives of five cousins before and during the war, so much gaiety and fear and sorrow, the young fighting men, the old men of the last war, the independent-minded women, the schoolgirl burdened with a secret, the tangled love affairs, everyone extraordinarily alive, all told at a rattling pace, three quarters of it conversation, with a gathering decades later to see how they aged. An enjoyably racy work of fiction that is so well done it feels like vivid reality. Years ago I read all 10 of her novels. This one I come back to time and again.Advertisement
Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers has hit jimitron5000 hard:
I have read a couple of Myers’ books before and thoroughly enjoyed them but this is a whole new level. Cracking book. It’s the story about a traveller recently recently released from prison who is trying to make his own way in the world but his family history is always in the shadows. It’s brutal, tender, poetic, dark and sometimes shocking. Brilliant.
onlyonpaper has found John Williams’ Stoner “a quietly powerful read”:
For me, the characters were very believable and emotive. I found myself close to tears, raging at the page, gobsmacked: often all at the same time. I thought it a well sculpted novel which is not only a great example of realism but also full of wonderfully enchanting allegorical passages. If I had to choose one word to sum it up: Captivating.
“For something different,” says Tambok, “try The Weight Of Small Things by Julie Lancaster”:
About a 9-year-old girl who comes back from a birthday party to find her mother dead. The police say suicide, she thinks murder. This is no cutesy child detective tale, it’s very dark and you’ll find yourself playing some Joy Division afterwards to lighten the mood. It is however superbly written and I particularly liked the loose ends, little snippets of people’s lives where the reader is left to decide what happened.
Finally, ModerateObserver has just read A Month in the Country by JL Carr:
A young man back from the WWI trenches moves to a Yorkshire village where he is contracted to uncover an Anglo Saxon wall painting in the local church. As he unveils the astonishing painting, he slowly enters into village life and gets to know the idiosyncratic locals. Just a 100-page novella but it beautifully evokes the period and a rural life that has now gone forever. The last few pages are truly heart-rending: looking back on love and youth with almost painful nostalgia.
It is indeed beautiful.
Interesting links about books and reading
- “When my wife calculated that there were 300 boxes of books stacked precariously in our basement, I was sure she exaggerated.” Reader, she didn’t.
- Jonathan Gibbs on Maigret.
- Frankie Thomas on The Secret Garden.
- Book publishing’s next battle: rightwing blowhards.
- Have a look at Charles Dickens’ handwritten manuscript for Oliver Twist (and pity the person who transcribed it).
If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #BloomgistBooks, and we’ll include a selection in this blog. Happy reading!