What I’m Reading: Episode 29, September 2020
August disappeared in a blur and I’ve only now realised I didn’t do an update that month on what I’m reading currently, what I recently read and what I plan to read next. I’d better get my act together before this month comes to an end.
What I’m reading now
I’m flitting between Wales and Colombia at the moment.
I bought The Sound Of Things Falling On a few years ago after I read a review by Stu at Winston’sdadsblog. South American fiction seems to rely heavily on magical realism (which I’m not keen on) but fortunately Juan Gabriel Vásquez is more of a straight realist writer.
The novel does begin rather oddly however with an item making the news in Colombia:
The first hippopotamus, a male the colour of black pearls weighing a ton and a half, was shot dead in the middle of 2009. He’d escaped two years before from Pablo Escobar’s old zoo in the Magdalena valley, and during that time of freedom had destroyed crops, invaded drinking troughs, terrified fishermen and even attacked the breeding bulls at a cattle ranch .
This story, for a reason not yet explained, reminds the narrator of his acquaintance several years earlier with an ex pilot who gets gunned down in Bogota. The rest of the plot then focuses on the narrator’s attempt to discover why his friend was assassinated.
It’s beautifully written, with an overwhelming tone of regret that the narrator didn’t invest more time in the relationship.
Though I haven’t got to the heart of the story yet, it’s evident there is a connection to the country’s notorious drug trade.
On my Kindle app, I’m reading The Party Wall by Stevie Davies which was published by Honno Press earlier this month. I haven’t got very far into the book yet but it’s shaping up to be an unsettling tale of Mark who is trying to ingratiate himself with his recently-widowed neighbour.
It’s one thing to offer to walk her dog and offer her a sympathetic shoulder to cry on but Mark is decidedly creepy. What kind of neighbour thinks it’s ok to go snooping upstairs while the funeral wake is in progress, searching through his neighbour’s clothes and removing a few objects?? I have a feeling this book is going to get much darker.
What I just finished reading
I have a friend to thank for introducing me to Maggie O’Farrell when she gave me The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox as a gift one Christmas. Her latest novel Hamnet has cemented her as one of my favourite authors.
I’m not surprised she won the Women’s Prize for Fiction with this novel which is a fictionalised account of the short life of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet. It’s an exquisitely written narrative that vividly captures every day life in a sixteenth-century home and the strength of a mother’s love. Review to follow shortly.
Also highly enjoyable, though in a very different way, was Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Who can resist a book which has multiple lists of recommendations for other books to read? But Dear Reader is more than just a book of lists, it’s a very honest account of the way reading can provide joy as well as comfort at times of stress and pain.
What I’ll read next
Always a tough question for me because I much prefer to have flexibility in what I read and don’t like to be over-regimented.
I do have a copy of the most recent instalment of the Detective Inspector Tudor Manx crime fiction series set on the island of Anglesey, Wales. I’m looking forward to finding out whether the DI is still haunted by the disappearance of his sister many years earlier. Shadow Soul by Dylan Jones was published by Bloodhound Books in August 2020.
Also on the horizon is Old Baggage by Lissa Evans which I’m collecting from the library on Friday. It’s been around since 2018 but it was only recently, reading Susan’s review of Lissa Evans’ latest book Victory, that I got interested in this author. It seems there are some characters from the first book that make an appearance in Victory so it makes sense to begin with Old Baggage.
On top of this I have a (signed) copy of The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn which was published this month.
It’s a follow up to The Salt Path which was one of my stand out reads from 2019. That book finished with Raynor and her husband Moth at the end of their 630 mile walk around the coast of England.
I reached the end, desperate to know what happened to the couple. Did Moth’s health stabilise or deteriorate (just before they had set out on their walk, he had been diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disease) ? Had he managed to finish his degree? Were they still homeless? The Wild Silence provides the answers.
Those are my plans. Now what’s on YOUR reading horizon for the next few weeks? Let me know what you’re currently reading or planning to read next.
This post is for WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
15 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Episode 29, September 2020”
I loved The Sound of Things Falling when I read it a few years ago. A book that felt wide in scope yet intimate in detail – that’s my lasting memory of it.
I’ve just started the section where it broadens out from the personal story to the condition of Colombia
I heard O’Farrell’s talk at the Hay festival about the origin for the novel. Fantastic. She plays with names a lot in this book doesn’t she – Agnes instead of the familiar Anne, Hamnet instead of Hamlet and of course Mr S himself is never named – he’s always just the husband or the Latin tutor
Some great choices here Karen.
Currently reading: M. John Harrison short stories. Coming up: 1956!
Agh – I forgot to figure 1956 into my reading plans. Oh well, I did say I liked flexibility didn’t I??
Funny I just finished The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux, a Quebecois author. I will look out for Hamnet, it seems to be widely appreciated.
I’m planning to read a couple from the Booker shortlist, This Mournable Body and The Shadow King and also Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud.
I’m waiting for The Shadow King to come from the library – it may be the only Booker shortlist title I get to read before announcement.
There seem to be a couple of books with the same title….
I’m just about to read Dear Reader and very much looking forward to it. I read V for Victory having been sent it as a review copy, and enjoyed it without having read the earlier novels but in fact I’ve now discovered I not only need to read Old Baggage but also Crooked Heart. You might want to start there.
Thanks for the link, Karen. I hope you love Old Baggage as much as I did. I know Kath’s a big fan too. Quite tempted by The Party Wall.
I had chosen The Sound of Things Falling for my book club a few years ago. It was fabulous and the discussion as I remember was very lively. Thanks for reminding me of it. Your books are all exciting choices. I haven’t read Hamnet and not quite sure why I’m saving it. To the top of the pile with you Hamnet!
Hamnet was an emotional read! Most of it was the story of Agnes…but I guess that title wouldn’t have sold as well!
Your reading schedule is more ambitious than mine because I sprinkle an assortment of grocery store books into each month’s reading list. I just finished Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Wonderful and powerful.
The thing about my “plans’ is that they are always far more ambitious than it’s likely I can accomplish and secondly – they are subject to change! I don’t know Piranesi but will have to take a look based on your description Malcolm