In all honesty, I’d have to call it mediocre progress. I’ve read:
The Financial Lives of Poets, by Jess Waters – This picked up enough for me not to have to force myself through it, but then fell apart again towards the end. I can see what the author was doing, a sort of febrile rant against the belief in the rightness of over-consumerism that led to the financial collapse. What didn’t work for me was the narrative voice, which is a problem with a first person narrator, but also a lot to do with my lack of sympathy towards the male ego.
Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel – Which I enjoyed for its storytelling ability, sense of threat, and frighteningly believable reason as to why world societies collapsed. After all, with Ebola and mutating flu viruses, what’s so hard to believe about a flu pandemic that kills within 24 hours? The interweaving of before the flu and after the flu stories was effective, and the unknown ties between characters, centering around attendees at a pre-flu performance of King Lear, allowed for disparity of experience while keeping the plot tight. I’m definitely looking for more by Mandel when I’m allowed to buy books again.
Mrs Hemingway, by Naomi Wood. In fact, all of the Mrs Hemingways, with a section for each of them from their own perspectives. I could care less about Hemingway as a person and his writing leaves me cold but his wives were interesting for themselves. And, of course, I now want to find out more about Martha Gelhorn, who seems to have given as good as she got.
The Old Wives’ Tale, by Arnold Bennett. I raced through this, the first thing I read once was my concentration was back, post Christmas illness. I like those novels that trace the lives of their characters, and in which there’s a strong sense of place. In this, the two sisters live ostensibly very different lives. Constance marries the assistant in her father’s shop and eventually takes over, never venturing far from Bursley; Sophia, the wilder sister who is desperate to escape the confines of the town, elopes to Paris with a traveling salesman, and when he eventually abandons her, starts a boarding house. Ultimately, both choose equally constrained lives for themselves, Constance because she’s happy in Bursley, Sophia because her need to control her environment and make money means all her attention goes to her hotel. She lives her life in Paris without experiencing Paris.
I still can’t bloody well find The Goshawk, despite a fairly thorough searching of the shelves. I need someone who isn’t familiar with the contents to pop round and check for me. And I couldn’t find Faerie Queen either, until it was staring me in the face. I’m really disinclined to pick up Nos4R2 again and I feel like a quick win next, so I think it’s time to head slowly up the Ganges with Eric Newby.