Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Kate's Reading Challenge 2010: Books 6-9

I've been rather tardy with my blog updating with all of the madness of the Bath Literature Festival 2010 so here's a brief update of my four most recent reads....
No.6: 'Foreign Affairs' by Alison Lurie (Random House, 2006)

Alison Lurie is the author of one of my favourite books 'The Nowhere City', (which is horribly out of print - but of course Mr B's can track down a second hand copy for anyone interested!) so I started 'Foreign Affairs' with high expectations and was unfortunately disappointed!

The book follows two American academics, who have come to London to study: Vinnie is a 54-year-old consistently unloved woman and Fred is a young, handsome and (until now) self-assured academic. As they settle into their new lives in London and struggle to focus on their individual projects both Vinnie and Fred find themselves distracted by members of the opposite sex (reluctantly so in Vinnie's case).

What Lurie does very well here is show how identity can get tied up with our sense of place, for example Vinnie is delighted when Chuck mistakes her for an English woman, and is generally unimpressed by American attitudes and mannerisms, but when she falls for him despite his all-American ways she is forced to question her views. In 'The Nowhere City' this relationship between geography and identity is explored in a much less obvious fashion, as a group of L.A. residents struggle to define themselves in a city where there is no unified sense of identity.

Nevertheless, I still think that this book is worth a read, Lurie has a wonderfully understated style, which illuminates the dynamics of the everyday in a very funny way.

Started: 13th February Finished: 21st February

No.7: 'The Missing' by Tim Gautreaux (Hodder and Stoughton, 2010)

OK so back to the strictly contemporary (briefly) - this is the book of the moment amongst the B Team, Caroline, Ed and myself have all just finished reading it.

It follows Sam, an ex-soldier, who is enjoying his job in a glamorous department store in Louisiana when a three-year-old girl is kidnapped, and he is fired. Racked with guilt and desperate to get his job back, Sam boards a pleasure steamer and turns detective in a bid to help the folorn parents find their missing daughter.

Periods of manic activity are interwoven with long atmospheric passages which beautifully depict the dusty jazz atmosphere on the boat, but create a very odd jolty pace, which I suppose echoes the movement of the boat.

Beautifully written, in parts totally implausible, but poignant and surprising moving.

Started: February 23rd Finished: March 5th

No.8: 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger (Penguin, 1994)

Sorry to tred on Nic's territory, but I decided to sneak in a quick classic! I am so glad I finally read this book! It was recommended to me when I was at school and I think I read a few pages and decided it wasn't for me, the narrator's voice got on my nerves! And of course it's that voice, which I now find so fantastic about the book.

For those of you who haven't read it - 'The Catcher in the Rye' is the story of school drop-out Holden Caufield, as he makes his journey back to his parents, dreading their reaction at the news he has been kicked out of another school. On his way Holden kills some time by smoking far too much, meeting up with a series of random acquaintances and contemplating his long list of dislikes. Plot wise, little happens but Holden's casual slang-ridden mode of expression is so consistently portrayed, and in very funny in places, this is a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Started: March 5th Finished: March 8th

No.9: 'Hector and the Search for Happiness' by Francois Lelord (Gallic, 2010)

This is so new, the pages are still steaming from the printing press! Hector is a successful but dissatified psychiatrist, frustrated that whilst he is able to offer pills, psychotherapy and sympathy to his patients he is unable to make them happy. So he heads off around the world on a mission to discover what makes people happy, and sets out a list of foolproof rules to ensure happiness.

Written in a childlike, matter-of-fact style, this is a fresh, entertaining, light read.

Started: March 9th Finished: March 9th

OK - not so brief then!


The Generalissimo said...

Really enjoying your reviews Kate and will keep looking for ideas. Come on Nic - your lagging!

The Generalissimo said...

Whoops - forgot to sign thr last comment - it's Susanne using Adrian's account!