Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year Reading

In between the shopping and wrapping and visits and visitors and cooking and hoovering for the next round of visitors and cooking and eating I've managed to find time to finish reading Sarah Waters' "The Little Stranger" which I started about two months ago. It's no reflection on the book that it took so long for me to finish it. In fact as I got into it I wanted to wait til there were no distractions to interfere with the gorgeous moody writing. It has so much of what I love in a novel: a terrific setting in the mouldering Hundreds Hall, evocative imagery and characters, a slow boiling plot that utterly pulls you in.

"The Little Stranger" is on the list of prescribed text from which I must choose three for my Leaving Certs, so when I started out I was under-lining and writing in the margins. I soon realised that while I love it most sixteen year olds probably wouldn't. Too much brooding menace, plot revealed too painstakingly for the quick hit they're after. Its a perfect book to read in winter though, by the fire in long uninterrupted spells. Farraday is the narrator you love to hate and hate needing, while Robbie and Caroline Ayre and their mother are genuinely intriguing and you root for them despite knowing better.  The star of the book is of course the incredible crumbling Hall. As Farraday insinuates himself more and more with the family the house comes into its own. Enough said.

As always nearing the end of a good read I'm slightly panicky about what I'll read when I'm done and I had a stash of short stories piled up garnered from the papers in the last few weeks when the work and shopping and wrapping etc..put paid to satisfying reading of anything other than recipes and facebook. So I was delighted when the first of these I picked up was Penelope Lively's "Stairs" from the Observer in which the character of a house is again central to proceedings. Lionel Shriver's "Repossession", first in a Winter Fiction special form the Guardian Weekend, continued the theme. I'm all house-guested out now and relaxing into Jim Crace's sumptuous description in "Harvest". Happy New Year, Happy reading.
You can read Penelope Lively's "Stairs" here and Lionel Shriver's "Repossession" here

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