03 January 2011

Read 2011

JRR Tolkien The Hobbit (Dec-Jan 2012) (again, after a long time) Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze (Dec) Ian McEwan Solar (Dec) Molly Gloss The Dazzle of Day (Dec) (eventually left off)

Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot (Nov) Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the First The Bad Beginning, and Book the Second The Reptile Room (Nov) Lloyd Jones Hand Me Down World (Nov) Stef Penney The Invisible Ones (Nov) (resumed) AS Byatt Ragnarok (Nov)

Stef Penney The Invisible Ones (Oct) (interrupted) WG Sebald The Rings of Saturn (Oct) Ian McEwan Atonement (Oct) (again) Kazuo Ishiguro Nocturnes (Oct) Anne Tyler Back When We Were Grownups (Sep-Oct)

Michael Ondaatje The Cat's Table (Sep) Edith Pargeter The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet (Sep) (again)

Ingvar Ambjørnsen Beyond the Great Indoors (transl by Don Bartlett and Kari Dickson) (Aug) (again, again) Salley Vickers Short stories in Aphrodite's Hat (August) (just a few) Molly Gloss Wild Life (Aug) William Horwood Hyddenworld: Spring (Aug) (left off) Marilynne Robinson Home (July-August)

Molly Gloss The Jump-Off Creek (July) Jessica Grant Come, Thou Tortoise (July) Kent Haruf The Tie That Binds (July)

Rumer Godden A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (June-July) AS Byatt The Biographer's Tale (June) (stopped halfway) Kent Haruf Eventide (June) Kent Haruf Plainsong (June) Tracy Chevalier Remarkable Creatures (June) Nigel Slater Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger (June)
Kazuo Ishiguro When We Were Orphans (May-June) Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go (May) (again) Roberto Bolaño Monsieur Pain (May) (left off) CJ Sansom Dissolution (May) Tim Winton Scission (May)

Emma Donoghue Room (April) (resumed) Brady Udall The Lonely Polygamist (April) Christopher Isherwood A Single Man (April) Emma Donoghue Room (April) (stopped, might return to it)

Barbara Kingsolver Prodigal Summer (March) (yet again) Bruce Chatwin Anatomy of Restlessness (March) (left off) AS Byatt Babel Tower (March) Robert Holdstock Mythago Wood (March) (stopped halfway)

Louis de Bernières Notwithstanding (Feb-March) WG Sebald The Emigrants (Feb) Jeremy Mercer Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co (Feb) Virginia Woolf The London Scene: Six Essays on London Life (Feb) David Almond; illustrations by Polly Dunbar My Dad's a Birdman (Feb) John Berger HERE is where we meet (Feb) Ox-Tales AIR: Alexander McCall Smith 'Still Life', Beryl Bainbridge 'Goodnight Children, Everywhere', Helen Fielding 'Trouble in Paradise' (Feb)

Sebastian Faulks A Week in December (Jan) Andrea Camilleri The Patience of the Spider (Jan) Cormac McCarthy Child of God (22/01/11) Agatha Christie Three-act Tragedy (19/01/11) (again) Henning Mankell Italian Shoes (13/01/11) Sébastien Japrisot The 10:30 from Marseille (10/01/11) Per Petterson In the Wake (8/01/11) Colm Tóibín Brooklyn (5/01/11) Tim Winton In the Winter Dark (3/01/11)


  1. How is "Brooklyn"? I've not read anything by Colm Tóibín yet, but I want to read "The Master" and maybe "Brooklyn" as well.

  2. I didn’t enjoy 'Brooklyn'. I had not read anything by Tóibín before, but I read this one because I kept coming across the author’s name and this particular novel more than his others, and because the views seemed consistently positive I thought I’d give it a try. I was disappointed. I didn’t engage with the main character; she seems to do almost anything to avoid conflict and is also irritatingly passive, I found.

    The gist of the story is that as a young woman she moves from Ireland to America and sets up a new life and work in Brooklyn with the aid of an Irish priest. For the first half of the book, more or less, she’s dreadfully homesick. I think that if you are so homesick everything around you is that much more vivid, exactly because of its contrast with what you yearn for far away, but in the novel there are few sensory descriptions of the new life she’s leading and eventually comes to enjoy. Also, I found that she would consider – sometimes briefly, sometimes in detail – how to react to whatever it is that’s preoccupying her at the time only to make a totally different kind of decision. People do that in real life, at times, but on the one hand I don’t want to read a novel in which characters are ultra true to life and on the other there’s insufficient explanation or linking of ideas from the narrator to make those thoughts and resulting actions of hers appear as anything other than random. And so her engagement with her experiences didn’t hold much depth or meaning, for me.

    As for the style of writing, one of the review extracts on the back cover mentions ‘sly jewelled merriment’ – I didn’t find anything like that. The narrator shows a bit of dry humour now and then, but nothing to make you laugh out loud, and it seemed to me that the language in general is ponderous and literal – no figurative jewels to be had.

    A pity overall, because I was all set to like this novel.

  3. I read Italian Shoes, and was also "all set to like" it, but found it was yet another sad old man novel. I think I enjoyed the story, loved the setting, but read it amongst FIVE other "sad old man" stories, so was quite fed up by then!
    (Other sad old man stories that I read at the time: Solar, Ian McEwan, Beatrice and Virgil, Yann Martell, can't remember the others. But was disappointed.)

  4. I agree. I'd enjoyed Mankell's Chronicler of the Winds and was expecting to like Italian Shoes too, but was disappointed. Haven't read Solar (McEwan should be taken in small doses, I find), and I didn't enjoy Beatrice and Virgil at all.