Signs of spring here in Wales yesterday just in time for the annual celebration of St David’s Day. Some years the daffodils (our national flower) are barely in evidence on March 1 but yesterday they were out in bloom as we drove home from a celebration weekend with the family.
The year is marching ahead so fast that I completely overlooked the third anniversary of this blog two weeks ago. It should be one of the simplest things to remember since the date coincides with Valentine’s Day but clearly my little brain can’t cope with too many pieces of data simultaneously. So it’s a happy belated birthday greeting this year.
February closed with the pleasure of a experiencing one author for the first time (Diego Marani) and becoming re-aquainted with one who has delighted me in the past (Emile Zola).
Marani loves languages (he works as a senior linguist for the European Union in Brussels and has also invented a language called Europanto) and has put that love and knowledge to good use in New Finnish Grammar. Despite the title, this is not a text book but rather a contemplative, atmospheric novel about the importance of language to one’s identity. Wonderfully written, by the time I’d finished it, I just wanted to start all over again.
Zola’s Germinal is one of my all time favourite reads. I didn’t think novels could be more powerful than that story of the misery and desperation of mining families in Northern France. L’Assommoir came close to it however. At the heart of the novel is Gervaise, a young woman who sets up her own laundry and makes it a huge success. It’s one of those novels that you read with a sense of foreboding. So pretty soon her husband is quaffing strong drinks at L’Assommoir and squandering the profits. Zola of course believed that our fates are governed by heredity and environment so there isn’t much hope that Gervaise,the daughter of a drunkard, would ever enjoy a happy life but still you read the book hoping that he’s wrong.
So much for February, what’s on the horizon for March?
I’ll be finishing A Room with a View by E M Forster which is part of my Classics Club list. I’m also reading Benediction by Kent Haruf. I’ve not encountered Haruf before but apparently this is his fifth novel. Written in a sparse prose form, it conjures up a strong sense of it’s location (a small community in Colorado) and of the inhabitants whose lives intersect with Dad Lewis, the owner of the local hardware store. He’s an ordinary man who learns he has just a few more months to live. He prepares to make his peace with the world and to reflect on how he made his own mark. I like the way Haruf deals with the subject of death without resorting to mawkishness and sentimentality.
After that, who knows. I don’t like planning too far ahead because I may be in a different mood when the time comes. It’s probably time I read one of the thicker Booker novels on my shelf or one of the authors from my world literature list. Or maybe I just wont be able to resist the second in the Louise Penny series……