Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.
To start, jediperson has been reading the Halloween-suitable Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss:
I’m loving it. Silvie, the surly, sulky teenage girl bouncing around the self-built roundhouse, with scratchy hay and deer skins to sleep on, in an archaeological experiment of ‘living like the ancient Brits’. The Northumberland moors, and Hadrian’s Wall are looming in the background whilst her oppressive and obsessive bus-driver dad who worships everything ancient British, and subservient mum, and a small group of archaeology students, and the Prof. are her spiky companions. She reminds me very much of me as a teenager. Snide, sarcastic with an inbuilt ‘hypocrisy detector’! What could possibly go wrong?
Ian Rankin’s classic Rebus novel Black and Blue is “weighty and complex”, says BobHammond2:
The central thread is Rebus’ investigation into the death of a maintenance engineer, who works in the North Sea oil industry but meets his death while back in Edinburgh for some rest and recreation.
Mixed into the book are a parallel investigation with which Rebus has become rather obsessed, into the ‘Johny Bible’ murders of several women – so called because of their superficial similarity to the Bible John murders that took place in Glasgow at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s.
And then there is an internal investigation into a potential miscarriage of justice involving Rebus early on in his career, which is being helmed by a Glasgow policeman with whom Rebus has earlier clashed. Throughout the book there is a genuine sense that Rebus’ career and reputation is under dire threat …
There is basically a heck of a lot going on in this book and this was the first time in a while where I’ve made some brief notes while reading, not least of all to keep track of the many supporting characters. All of this could have become a bit of a mess but Rankin marshals the various elements into a compelling whole. And, as with previous books in the series, there is a lot of pleasure in the exploration of Rebus’ complex character – by turns irascible, heart generally in the right place, regularly cocking a snoop at authority, and occasionally self-destructive.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo has not impressed scarletnoir:
Many will have read this and formed their own opinion already... For me, it’s yet another of these Booker winners which is wildly over-praised and over-hyped. It’s not bad at all, but the ‘greatest thing since sliced bread’? I think not.
What we get are potted biographies of a dozen women, each some 35 pages long. Though there are some links between these women, it feels like reading a number of short stories with no punch-line or denouement... As for the writing style - it is perfectly workmanlike but hardly brilliant. This style would work well for a thriller, where you just need to be told clearly what is going on - and where the plot is what keeps us reading - but here, it isn’t enough to bring pleasure in and of itself. Emphasis is produced by using a trick from poetry, whereby passages are finished with one word per line, but
To sum up: I don’t dislike the book - but feel let down by comparison with the expectations raised. It’s a worthy effort, where our sympathies are engaged, but it’s not compelling.
Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light is impressing lizz:
I have to read it slowly because it weighs a ton and is difficult to hold when I’m in bed. Despite the massive historical research that clearly has gone into it, the details of history don’t drag the story down, don’t swamp the reader. It really is a masterly exercise in world building and character creation.
“I finished reading Nemesis by Philip Roth,” says fuzzywuzz:
It was the first book I’ve read by this author and I really quite enjoyed it. I think the author did a brilliant job of layering the polio epidemic on top of the emotional turmoil felt by the main character, Bucky Cantor as he moved through his life, succumbing to polio. This was a man who had found and lost love, an athletic and passionate young working as a playground supervisor in Newark. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but this was a beautifully written tale.
Finally TomMooney says that Jim Dodge’s Fup is a “glorious piece of writing”:
Hilarious, touching and totally off the wall. Grandpa Jake is pushing 100 and, after a lifetime of gambling and drinking, has settled on his ranch with his huge grandson Tiny. He brews his own super-strength whiskey, watches his grandson put up fences they don’t need and spends a great deal of time mastering the art of staying still. That is, until the pair find a strange duck one day - a duck with a taste for pound after pound of sausages (and just about anything else it can get its beak on, including the liquor). Told in the deadpan style of the great American yarn-spinners - a tradition that stretches from Mark Twain, through Larry McMurtry to Annie Proulx - but with that Brautigan-esque splash of insanity, it is a glorious fable and a magical reading experience.
It is indeed a beautiful book, and a good point at which to pause Tips links and suggestions. I hope that we’ll be able to return in one way or another, before too long, and in better times. Please watch this space.
So that we can end on a high note, alongside the usual recommendations, I’d love to hear about the best tips you’ve picked up from readers of this page, or the five books you’d like to recommend to others. Let’s fill this page with wonderful books.
Interesting links about books and reading
A museum dedicated to the love of language has opened in Washington D.C.
Martin Amis lays into William Faulkner.
Sharanya Deepak on the many landscapes of Kashmiri writing.
Anne Carson on Catullus.
If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #GuardianBooks. Happy reading!