historical fictionSunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Looking for brighter horizons

sundaysalonI should have been writing this amid the aroma of my Christmas cake baking in the oven. But after a few hours amid the crush of festive shoppers, I decided that baking will need to wait until tomorrow. So a cup of my favourite Earl Grey tea and a slice of something creamy will have to suffice for inspiration.

I’ve been suffering from a dearth of inspiration having read three novels in close succession that were less than inspiring. The first two were from the Coursera historic fiction course. As my review indicates, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane was one of the worst I have read all year. I was hoping for something more substantive but instead got another lacklustre offering in the form of Fever by Mary Beth Keane. It’s the fictionalised account of an Irish immigrant deemed responsible for multiple deaths in the New York area in the early 1900s because, although she was perfectly healthy herself, she was a carrier of typhoid. Identified as a threat to public health and quarantined for three years, Mary battled to prove her innocence. How an author could take such a strong real-life story and render from it as dull a novel as Fever, astounds me. It reads more like reportage than fiction and not even good reportage at that.  Half way through I decided I’d had enough and so abandoned.

After those disappointing experiences, I was hoping that my luck would turn with the book chosen for our next book club read – John O’Farrell’s The Man who Forgot his Wife. It was not to be. It features a man who completely loses his memory and has to rebuild his life from fragments of memory which might be true but could easily be figments of his imagination. It’s funny in part but humour alone isn’t enough when the book has more than 400+ pages. I kept checking where my bookmark was and how many more pages there were left to read. Not a good sign!

I’m off for a trawl through the bookshelves in search of more meaty fare with which to sustain me through December.


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

12 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Looking for brighter horizons

  • The books for the class have been disappointing, haven’t they? I hope you were able to find something to really knock your socks off!

  • I’m on a slow spurt myself, having only read two books this past month, but they both were very good and now I’m feeling uninspired to read anything else.

    • maybe better to read fewer books but good ones that romp through ones that were not really worth expending the effort Bryan??

  • And then just when I thought the rest of the course books were all going to be awful, I began Ghost Bride, and I am surprised at how much better it is than the Dane and Fever. I don’t think it is the kind of book I would normally select. However, there are nice unexpected twists, strong dramatic tension and descriptions/explanations don’t seem dropped willy nilly into the plot for the sake of making the “historical novel” historical. Pleasantly surprised, but then my expectations were quite low.

    • now you have put me in a quandry. I had resolved not to spend time on it but I know you wouldn’t give praise unduly Barbara

      • I am a little more than half way through and am still intrigued. It’s quite different than anything else I’ve read. A modern novel with a middle section that is a ghost story with elements of myth — reminds me a bit of Gilgamesh — journeys to the underground but instead of great battles — a young Malayasan woman’s quest for marriage. She’s quite well spoken in her lectures about Chinese cultures. I would be interested in your thoughts. Maybe this would fit into your world culture challenge.

  • I’m in a similar position for much the same reason. The trouble is the book I have waiting for me is Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’ which I need to read for my next book group meeting. I’m no great lover of Rushdie and as you say 400+ pages is a lot when you’re counting down every one.

  • I know how you feel… reading three or four uninspiring novels in a row is depressing. Do not despair: try Alias Grace by Margaret Attwood… Irish immigrant experience … there is mystery and suspense… very well written … author is a master of her craft.

  • Oh isn’t it a pain when a few poor books arrive at once? I’ve had a very hit and miss reading month, and from all accounts around the blogworld, the Coursera book choices haven’t often been top notch. Hope you find just the thing to entertain you now.


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