It’s been a good week on the literature and arts front. I finally got the time to watch part of the BBC’s Hollow Crown series of Shakespeare’s history plays. Richard II was excellent – it doesn’t have the same level of dramatic action as Henry V for example, but BBC did a superb job of showing the dramatic tension between Richard’s belief in the divine right of kings and his realisation he doesn’t have the support to continue on the throne. Henry IV part 1 and part 2 were also good. I’m not a fan of the Falstaffian tavern scenes but this was one of the best I’ve seen. Just Henry V to go now and I love that play!
Also had a live Shakespeare experience courtesy of the National Theatre of Wales who too occupancy of an aircraft hangar to give a performance of Corialanus. We were all kitted with headsets at the start of the performance which was done in promenade style, using hand held video cameras. It meant we got very close up to the action so the angry scenes between Corialanus and the plebeians felt very real. Excellent experience.
On the book scene, I finished reading two novels from the Man Booker Prize 2012 long list – Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel) and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I just posted my review of the latter today (it’s a superb book and I highly recommend it). I’ll post a review of Mantel’s work next week but that was also superb although in a very different style. Saraswati Park was a leap in the dark – I had never heard of this author but found it recommended in an article about novelists of Indian origin and thought it sounded good. It proved to be another engaging experience – you can see my blog review here.
After three good books in a row, I’m a bit nervous about my next read – can my luck hold out??
So many things going on this week. Just keeping up with the progress of Team GB, Phelps and all the other men and women with unpronounceable names in lycra, is a challenge. There’s always something interesting just about to happen or a new drama unfolding.
On the home front my own domestic drama came to an end last night. Twelfth Night ended its run after 12 performances which means domestic normality will once again return to my house. I’ve been sharing it, not with Jeff but with his alter ego Sir Toby Belch for the last 3 months, trying to be patient as I hear Jeff rehearse his lines over and over. And sometimes getting roped into acting out all the other parts. But watching the final performance last night, it was clear how all the dedication to detail and the hours of rehearsal had come together. Even the rain held off to bring the Everyman Open Air Festival 2012 to a close for this year.
All of which meant I haven’t made that much progress with Bringing Up the Bodies – the only 2012 Man Booker longlisted novel it seems I’ll get around to reading before the shortlist is announced late September. The more I read of it though, the more I appreciate that this is meant to be taken slowly. It’s tempting to just keep reading but when I’ve hurried it, I’ve missed a lot of the subtleties. So I’ve decided to savour the moment instead of rushing to the end.
As a complete contrast, I’ve also started reading Saraswati Park by Anjali Joseph. There are some books that you only have to read two or three pages to know you’re in for a delightful experience. This is one of them. It’s set in Bombay (I seem to be reading a lot of novels set in India this year) and i the story of Ashish, a 19-year-old who goes to live with his uncle Mohan and aunt Lakshmi in Saraswati Park, a sleepy part of the city, so that he can repeat his final year in college. Mohan earns his money by writing letters and filling in official forms for those who cannot write. His days are spent at a table outside a busy post office but his real passion is literature and and his dream is to one day write his own book.
It’s the first published novel by Joseph and won her critical acclaim as well as a few prizes. Her second novel Another Country came out last month. She’s tipped as ‘one to watch’ .