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Sunday Salon: July review

Maybe 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.

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