Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: July review

sundaysalonMaybe it was the heatwave which meant it was too hot to garden, so I just sat and read. Or maybe the fact Mr Booker Talk was off with the fairies every evening for a summer festival run of Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I could just read without feeling guilty.

Whatever the reason, I seem to have experienced a bumper reading month. Bumper for me that is though I am well aware that I’m well down the pecking order compared to many other bloggers.

In total I read six novels, making it a record month. They were a good mixture, not exactly in the good, the bad and the ugly vein but more in the realm of ‘excellent’, ‘very good’, ‘good’ and ‘underwhelming’.

Excellent was how I would describe Petals of Blood by the Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, which is part of my Reading the Equator challenge.  I’d actually been reading this for more than a month because it was so moving I could only read it in short spurts. I hope to get around to writing the review this week.

Very good: two books fell into this category: The Country Girl, which is the memoir written by the Irish author Edna O’Brien (my review is here) and Archipelego, a novel by the Caribbean author Monique Roffey, that I posted my review on yesterday.

Good: I read Hotel du Lac as part of the reading Anita Bookner in July month hosted by HeavenAli It was actually a re-read but since my first encounter with it was easily 15 years ago, I thought it was time to re-aquaint myself with her writing. It was as well-written and atmospheric as I recalled it though not as substantive as many other Booker prize winners. Another Booker prize winner I finally got around to reading was Ruth Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust. I haven’t fully formed my thoughts on this other than the feeling that there was much more that she could have pushed the boundaries rather more.

Underwhelming: Sally Vickers has a huge fan club but after my first experience of her work – with The Cleaner of Chartres – I shall not become a signed up member myself.  My review explains what I saw as the flaws in the novel.

So much for July – what will I be reading in August?

I’ve started reading Memory in the Flesh, a novel set in Algeria by Ahlam Mosteghanemi, one of the best-selling authors to be writing in Arabic.  This is a novel I selected to represent Algeria in my Reading the Prime Meridian challenge.  It started as an intriguing monologue containing hints about a love affair that ended in bitterness and then takes us back in time to the beginning of that affair. But after 100 pages or so, it’s feeling rather repetitive and I am hoping that it moves up a gear shortly.

Progress on the Classics Club front has been a little slow lately so I’m going to try and speed this up by reading two from my list this month:


The Bottle Factory Outing, the 1974 novel by Beryl Bainbridge that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I read my first Bainbridge novel last year – The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress – which was actually her last (and unfinished novel). It gave me an appetite for more.



Grahame Greene‘s The Heart of the Matter from 1948. I have a few Greene novels on my classics list – they are all re-reads since this is one of the authors on the syllabus for my university module on twentieth century literature. But I remember little of the texts since we had to read so many of them in very short order. I recall that this was one of the best.


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

9 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: July review

  • A good month indeed! I hope August goes as well for you.

    • Hope I won’t be responsible for adding to your TBR pile too much as a result Vicki.

  • booknaround

    I have the Bainbridge sitting on my shelves unread for several decades now. Perhaps I should try and get to it sometime?! And sorry you didn’t live the Vickers. I have that one still to read but I did quite like two others of hers that I read long ago.

    • The Bainbridge one is quite a light read so far. Doesn’t feel like a Booker nominee somehow.

    • I don’t know why she isn’t more widely read these days. I’ve only read this memoir and her debut novel The Country Girls but was impressed by both of them

  • Greene was on my undergraduate list as well. The one I’ve always wanted to go back to is ‘A Burnt-Out Case’. It isn’t a novel you hear mentioned a lot, but it caught my imagination at the time and I’d like to see if I still feel the same way about it. I might put it on a book group list.

    • Greene would be a good choice for a book club read with plenty of topics to stimulate discussion in his Catholic novels or the ones with more of a political theme. I went rooting about in my boxes last night to check if I had The Burnt Out Case. The title is familiar but it see,s its not among my collection of faintly yellow Greene titles. Will look out for your thoughts on it.


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