Sunday Salon: A snapshot of May

My monthly snapshot of what I’m reading, watching etc on the first Sunday of each month.

sundaysalonMay is here at last, the roses are in bud, everything in the garden is growing like crazy and it’s time to put away the thick sweaters and skirts of winter.

 

Reading
I’m reading two books at the moment that could not be further apart in setting, theme or style.

On my e-reader is The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee which is due to be published by Random House in the UK on May 22. It’s set in 1960s Calcutta and is the story of a large Bengali family that is falling apart under the strain of poisonous sibling rivalries, adolescent drug addition and instability in the family business. The fractures in the family mirror the cracks that are appearing in the society around them with the rise of political activism in rural areas. Mukherjee has created some wonderful characters, especially the matriarch of the family and her only daughter, a girl whose venomous nature has ripened over the years of rejection by successive marriage suitors turned off by her swarthy complexion and turned eye.

MrsPalfreyBy my bedside is Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. This is only the second work by Taylor that I’ve read. My first experience of her novels was A Wreath of Roses which I didn’t care for very much asI explained in this post. But so many other bloggers whose opinion I trust rate her highly so I thought she was worth a second chance and I am so glad I picked this up when I spotted it in the library.  The collection of characters she assembles at the Claremont Hotel are beautifully crafted and Taylor does a wonderfully job of  delicately balancing the humour of their various foibles with the note of sadness at the recognition that these residents are people who are approaching the twilight of their years. Forced by circumstances to live in a second class hotel instead of with family members, and with their resources dwindling, they are still determined to keep up appearances.  The novel started lightly but it didn’t take long for more deeper ideas to come through, in particular the theme of loneliness in old age to develop. If this is a truer example of Taylor’s writing prowess than A Wreath of Roses, then I’ll be looking forward to reading more by her.

Watching

The BookerTalk household has been working its way through the entire series of Foyles War, staring Michael Kitchen who is an actor so accomplished I don’t understand why we don’t see more of him. In this series he is a Detective Chief Superintendent based in Hastings, a seaside resort on the south coast of England, during World War 2.  He gives a masterfully understated performance as the policeman with high moral standards and a very shrewd understanding of human nature but with many a twinkle in his eye.  No doubt there are people who have spotted anachronistic items of clothing, household goods or army equipment) but the period setting seems pretty convincing to me. We’re almost at the end – just two more episodes left unfortunately.

Listening
I’m a little behind with my favourite radio program — the daily episode of The Archers. For those of you who live in the UK you’ll know this radio program is a national institution with around 5 million listeners some of who are extremely devoted and get very passionate about some of the story lines. It’s set in the fictional English village of Ambridge, featuring the daily trials and tribulations of the local families, many of whom have been farming the land for generations. Which means we get plenty of info about seasonal activities like lambing mixed in with the drama of family life and village events such as the annual pantomime and the quiz in the village pub. The story lines do dip now and again which is to be expected for a series that’s been running since 1950 but I still miss it when I’m away. Actually, many years ago on holiday in France, we managed to pick it on the car radio and so sat in a field somewhere in Normandy, eating our Camembert and munching on a baguette, listening to a people talking about sheep shearing or potato planting and the price of milk. Quite bizarre. 

Learning

The Future Learn on line course about Shakespeare’s World is now coming to an end. It’s sustained a high level of quality throughout and introduced me to new interpretations of his plays which I’d love to explore further when I have some time. It’s likely to be on offer again so keep an eye out for it.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on May 4, 2014, in Sunday Salon and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. The Lives of Others sounds very exciting. I”ll look forward to reading it when it comes out here in India.

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    • There are many aspects of the book that you would understand far more readily than I did like some of the poetry mentioned. But it didn’t spoil my reading, in fact it enhanced it on times like when there was a long description of the jewellery worn at a wedding. I spent quite a fun afternoon reading about that on the internet.

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  2. joyweesemoll

    I enjoyed the film version of Mrs. Palfrey. I didn’t realize it was from a book!

    I really enjoyed Foyle’s War and haven’t quite found something as fascinating to follow up. I’m watching Land Girls, now, but it’s more of a soap opera.

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    • One series you might like if you enjoyed the period setting of Foyles War, is Call the Midwife which is set in the east end of London. It wd a huge hit here in the uk Joy. I only watched a few episodes myself.

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  3. I adore Mrs. Palfrey. Happy you are enjoying it, too.

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  4. I am with you on Michael Kitchen and The Archers, but not on ‘Mrs Palfrey’, I’m afraid. I read this with one of my book groups earlier in the year and couldn’t warm to Taylor’s writing at all. However, I was the only one in the group who didn’t love it, so I know I am very much in the minority.

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