What I’m Reading: Episode 27, May 2020

Time to share with you all what I’m currently reading, what I recently read and what I plan to read next. 

What I’m reading now

Given I have zero tolerance for heights, you might be surprised to learn that I’m reading a book about climbing. It won’t be my first either – many years ago I was fascinated by Regions of the Heart, an autobiography of the British climber, Alison Jane Hargreaves.  She reached the summit of Everest alone, without oxygen or Sherpas in May 1995. Later that year she died in a storm while descending K2.

I suspect what interests me in this kind of book is that they reveal levels of endurance and courage I don’t have myself.

My current read takes place closer to home; among the slate quarries of North Wales. Many of them were abandoned when the industry declined leaving behind enormous craters; just the kind of terrain to attract climbers.

In  Slatehead: The Ascent of Britain’s Slate-climbing Scene, Peter Goulding talks about his love affair with slate and the motley gang who join him in scaling the heights of oddly named landmarks like Orangutan Overhang. I’m on the blog tour for this book which is published by New Welsh Rarebyte on June 4.

I’m also making my way through Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, number four in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. It took a time to get going but the drama has now kicked up a gear with the bailiffs about to come knocking on the door of a vicar caught up in the financial schemes of a so-called friend. Some of the well known and well-loved characters from previous books make an appearance including the quite awful bishop’s wife Mrs Proudie.  

What I just finished reading

I managed to get to the library the day before all branches in our county were closed indefinitely because of Covid-19. By good fortune it meant I could pick up Actress by Anne Enright. What a delight that turned out to be; a book so good that I didn’t want it to end.

It’s a character study in which a daughter tells the story of her actress mother Katherine O’Dell in an attempt to answer the question she is most often asked “What was she like?” There is another question in the narrative: why did Katherine go mad?

The book was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 but strangely never made the shortlist. Maybe she will be more successful with the Booker Prize when that longlist is announced in July – Actress is definitely on a par with The Gathering, the novel that won her the prize in 2007.

What I’ll read next

I’ve resisted the temptation to join in 20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy at 746books.com again this year. I love the event even though I have never managed to complete my list but at the beginning of the year I made a decision to avoid any challenges which involve reading from a list. That won’t stop me feeling envious when I see all the other participants blogging about their reading plans

I do have a few books lined up already, the result of getting carried away with review copies. Plus I’ve been trying to support independent bookshops and publishers during these extraordinary times so my book buying has gone through the roof.

First for me to read will be The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith. It’s a debut novel taking place amid a health crisis in the world – a theme we have become all too familiar with in recent month. Smith’s novel is about one woman’s hunt for her birth mother at a point in the future when an antibiotic crisis has decimated the population. The ebook came out in April with the paperback version published by Orenda out on July 9.

There are some new books coming out I have my eye on. One is by the Welsh author Alis Hawkins. Those Who Know is the third in her Teifi Valley Coroner series. It’s out in ebook format but publication of the paperback (the format I’d prefer to read) is postponed until September. I’m waiting for my order of her novel set during the time of the Black Death – The Black and the White  – to arrive through my letterbox.

And I’ve just taken delivery of Nia by another Welsh author, Robert Minhinnick, published by Seren Books. It’s about a new mother who joins forces with two friends to explore an unmapped cave system. As events unfold, the strands of her life come into focus – her dysfunctional parents, the daughter she must raise differently, the friends with whom she shared childhood.


Those are my plans. I’ve only now realised that a number of the books I’ve mentioned have a Welsh connection. Now what’s on YOUR reading horizon for the next few weeks? Let me know what you’re currently reading or planning to read next.


This post is for WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

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 27, 2020, in British authors, Classics, Irish authors, Reading plans, WWWednesdays and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I’ve just read a book also about climbing, great novel. My review should be up before this evening: A Hundred Million Years and a Day.
    I haven’t participated yet in the 20 books of summer challenge. I may join, just for the sake of connecting, as it’s not really a challenge. For instance I have read 12 books so far this month

  2. I admire your ambition. I’m still not making plans, just turning to my TBR stacks and shelves to see what draws my attention next. Although I have been able to read after the initial shock of COVID-19 lockdown, writing is still a problem. So I’ll keep reading and save reviewing, which requires more extended concentration, for later. Thanks for sharing your reading list.

  3. So glad you enjoyed Actress, I thought it was brilliant. I was also expecting to see it on the Women’s Prize shortlist. I’m not doing 20 books of summer either, I seem to not cope with reading from one pile of books.

  4. I too must read a few more Wales-related books this year, so I should seek out what is still hanging around on my shelves while I’m in semi-book-buying purdah. I’ve scheduled a post tomorrow about my coming reading plans and, yes, I’m doing Cathy’s summer book thing but I’ve limited it to ten — gives me more flexibility about what I read and when.

    • Half the fun of 20 books of summer is putting the list together 🙂 Last year I based mine on some virtual travel never realising that this year there would be even less chance of doing the real thing 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing 🙏 I’m currently reading Lolita but I find it to be monotonous and boring, maybe I had my expectations up to high I kinda feel let down. On the other hand I haven’t been able to find a better pick as of yet but I may just settle for the second part of Faust. I read the first part and it left me wondering what the sequel would be like. I love classics, not sure what to do when I’ve read them all.

  6. Currrently reading a book on Ruskin, which is rather interesting. As usual, no idea what will come next but a post up tomorrow with some possible piles!

  7. I just missed out on picking up Actress from the library before they closed and I had been meaning to get hold of my own copy this month, but the best laid plans and all that! I must try and do better by it in June.

  8. Thanks for sharing 🙏🙏

  9. Karen, your sharing buttons have disappeared.

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