Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.
Let’s start with a beauty. Theothebook has been reading JL Carr’s A Month in the Country:
Tom Birkin, a restorer of medieval murals, has returned from the war. In 1920 he’s hired to restore a 14th century painting in a village church in Yorkshire. He’s looking back from a distance to the glorious summer, his work, the locals, the healing process he goes through with fondness, sadness, nostalgia for halcyon days. A beautiful little book that caused memories of my own to surface. Beautiful.
Patricia Duncker’s Seven Tales of Sex and Death has some good advice to ignore, says booklooker:
The story collection is rather dark with some beautiful passages and a wide range of narrative voices. Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure features as well. And all sorts of advice, mostly unfollowed:
“My mother told me you should thank a man who buys you a drink and then leave as quickly as possible, but not with him.”
Well, there’d be no story then, would there.
EM Forster’s Howards End didn’t quite stay the course for MachenBach:
Since reading The Age of Innocence for the Reading Group, I’ve also finished Forster’s Howards End, which was excellent for 90% of its length and then accelerated rapidly into an operatic, borderline farcical, conclusion which I instinctively disliked and am struggling to process properly. Howards End is, of course, famous for its ‘Only Connect’ injunction and quiz show spin-off, but my own favourite quotation from the book is: “It is impossible to see modern life steadily and see it whole” – a piece of wisdom that some contemporary writers could do with taking on board, but which many others have perhaps followed rather too slavishly. In any case, Forster himself doesn’t take much notice of it, and Howards End is full of grand statements about the state of England, or class, or modernity. And most of them are zingers; I can’t remember the last time I read a novel make so ballsily free with bold observations and epigrammatic statements. He’s like the Don DeLillo of 1910.
NicolaVintageReads “very much enjoyed” Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House:
Love novels with a house as character and descriptions of eaves, crawlspaces, window seats and abandoned ballrooms! The ending wasn’t quite as good as the buildup but it kept me turning the pages. Liked it even more than Bel Canto.
The Little Man From Archangel by Georges Simenon has become a favourite for safereturndoubtful:
Each time I read a Simenon romans durs it becomes my favourite, and no exception here. Jonas Milk, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who runs a secondhand bookshop in an unnamed small French town goes to bed one night to find his wife has left him. There is a 16-year age gap between them and he was forced into the marriage by her mother against the will of her father and brother, who never come to terms with Milk … rather than admit she is off cavorting with another man, Milk lies about her travelling to see a friend in Bourges. There is a victim and a death but they are not the ones that you expect. In a tale of discrimination, paranoia and loneliness, this is, on one level, a story about trust, and on another, something a great deal more profound. All of the neighbourhood, his past and his present, and the fear of being a suspect which drives him to lie, arraign themselves against Milk in this most relevant story.
Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone (translated by Susan Bernofsky) is “superb” says br5968:
Just brilliant - cleverly woven threads on contemporary political challenges, die wende, how life, land and money is valued; relationships, ageing and so much more. Retired professor befriends a group of refugees in Berlin and exposes himself to the kafkaesque bureaucracy and legal challenges they face. There was a point where I thought the relationship between the Prof and the refugees was too sacharine, too perfect, too paternalistic, and just at that point Erpenbeck provides a twist.
Only remaining quibble I’d have is the slighty dark and abrupt final chapter - felt it could have been unpacked more, but it’s got me thinking, so it was at least successful in that regard.
Barbara Noble’s The House Opposite has impressed dihuet:
A portrayal of what everyday life was like for people living in London during the Blitz: with blackouts, bomber planes approaching, deaths and injury, destroyed buildings, blocked roads, minor and major inconveniences - a fascinating and credible documentation. At the same time, many people went about their daily business working in offices, as medical staff tending the wounded as well as their regular kind of patients, providing for their families as well as they could. Yet, amidst all this brave coping, individual human uncertainty and suffering remain - unhappiness, fears, worries and disappointments - the normal everyday issues in life and relationships. And this is what makes the novel special: the vivid details of the effects of war as a background to believably depicted characters, human stories and relationships.
Finally, ChronicExpat has found some welcome escapism in Andrea Camilleri’s eighth Montalbano novel, The Patience of the Spider:
It is, as expected, absolutely delightful ... and a welcome place of retreat from today’s dreadfully sad news, and all that I fear will follow. The way Real Life is going, I feel like pulling up stakes, moving to the fictional Sicilian town of Vigàta and never coming back.
I’m sure we can all relate to that.
Interesting links about books and reading
Is it ethical for major publishers to crowdfund their titles?
In praise of mail-order books clubs.
“If there was another person like him in the wings I would be scared, but I don’t know if that person exists”: Dave Eggers on the US election.
A previously unpublished story by Edith Wharton.
Why Walt Whitman feels uncannily relevant.
If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #GuardianBooks, and we’ll include a selection in this blog. Happy reading!