Reading plans

What I’m Reading : Episode 41, January 2022: Assassins and womanisers

This is the first of my “What I’m Reading” updates for 2022. It’s linked to WWW Wednesday  hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words. WWW Wednesday is actually a weekly meme but I choose to do it just once a month, usually on the second Wednesday in the month (though sometimes I lose track of time and scramble to do it before month end).


What I just finished reading

The Old Woman With The Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo. I’ve made a conscious effort over the last few years to explore literature from around the world. I’m intending to continue doing so in 2022, getting underway with the first translation of a novel by the South Korean novelist Gu Byeong-Mo. The Old Woman With the Knife is a strange tale of Hornclaw, a 65-year-old woman who makes a living as a paid assassin. Out on an assignment one day she makes an uncharacteristic mistake, with consequences that prove dangerous to herself and the family of a doctor who has grown in her affections. It was good to read a novel from the perspective of an older woman (though I would hardly class 65 years as “old”) and the novel has interesting commentary on attitudes towards older people. But I did struggle to finish the book.

What I’m reading now

Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood . This has been hanging around in the bookshelves for about five years and I so wish I had dug it out sooner. I enjoyed Wood’s later novel The Hiding Game set against the backdrop of the Bauhaus art movement but Mrs Hemingway is even more engrossing. I knew Ernest Hemingway was a serial womaniser with four wives and a host of mistresses. But I hadn’t realised until reading Wood’s account of his marriages, as seen from the wives’ perspectives, just how horrible he was to the women in his life. Absolutely fascinating stuff and I’m loving the different settings: Paris, Key West and Cuba so far.

By coincidence one of the last books I bought in 2021 was The Paris Wife by Paula McLain which focuses on the first of Hemingway’s wives and their life in Paris during the Jazz era. This will be a great companion read I think.

White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector by Nicholas Royle: This book was popular with a number of bloggers last year including Karen at kaggsysbookishramblings and somehow (I can’t think how!) a copy has found its way into my house. Some people collect old cameras. Others love stamps. Roy;e’s passion is for the white spines of Picador paperbacks released between 1972 and the late 1990s. He’ll go to great lengths to track down missing titles from his collection, scouring second hand book shops in every town and city he visits. And he gets super when he finds they include written dedications and ephermera like letters and tickets.

You should know by now that I seldom make plans about what to read next. This year my plans will be even more nebulous because beyond general intentions (what blogger “Stargazer” calls guidelines).

The only book I know with certainly I will be reading before January is out, is On Wilder Seas: The Woman on the Golden Hind by Nikki Marmery. That’s the book club selection for this month and we’re meeting on Jan 23 so I’ll need to get started soon. It’s historical fiction as you might guess from the title, concerning an enslaved woman unwittingly ends up on Francis Drake’s vessel as he undertakes a voyage to circumnavigate the world. She’s the only woman among 80 men. What could possibly go wrong???

Beyond that, who knows. I just picked up a library reserve of A Fortnight in September by R.C Sherriff which is very tempting.

And of course there are the hundreds of books that I bought years ago and have yet to open. Maybe their time has come?

What are your reading plans for the next few weeks? If you’ve read any of the books on my “reading next” list you can help me make a decision.



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

19 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 41, January 2022: Assassins and womanisers

  • I loved A Fortnight in September so I hope you get to it soon and I look forward to your thoughts on it.

    • I’ve started it and though I’ve not got even as far as the seaside, I love this book!

  • What a great mix of books! White Spines sounds fascinating — even though I’m allergic to collecting anything, I like narratives that revolve around books. And retro-cool books — even better.

    • I’m not a collector either (though my husband would disagree about that in relation to the number of shoes I own). Yep book related books are so enjoyable

  • Your description of The Old Woman With The Knife intrigues me most, Karen. As it is I’ve got way too much unread matter to last me, oooh, eons, but I’ve also decided to patronise the local (“use it or lose it”) library and so am mixing reading books already on my shelves with impulse choices from round the corner. So I shall keep things simple…

    • I’m using the library for new releases or books I’m not sure I’ll enjoy. We lost our library in the village a few years ago – the council told us either it would have to be taken over (and funded) by the community or they would close it. So me and a few other people launched a judicial review in the high court. Sadly we lost. So it’s now run by volunteers.

      • That’s awful on so many counts, not least because of the cost of judicial reviews but because a library should be a local hub and not just a perceived luxury for booklovers. I’m so sorry your community lost out.

        • We managed to get legal aid for the case so didn’t cost us anything fortunately.

  • I wasn’t at all sure whether to read Mrs Hemingway not being a Hemingway fan at all, but I enjoyed The Hiding Game so much I though I’d give it a try and loved it. Wine Spines is a treat for the anoraks amongst us!

    • I’m not a Hemingway fan either – just can’t get enthused by his writing at all

  • Glad to hear you’re reading the Royle – I loved it, as you know! I’m currently juggling some poetry and a Very Hard French Book!!

    • It’s a little “nerdy” in places but I do love his enthusiasm

  • The womaniser headline caught my attention. The Hemingway book sounds interesting but I rarely read fiction books about real people as, after finishing them, I feel compelled to go and read a nonfiction book on the person.

    • I dont read that much non fiction so fortunately am able to resist temptation usually to buy yet another book that will simply gather dust, though I do go searching for background info online

  • Paris Wife was good. I can deal with old school attitudes when they are in their time period. Hemingway was a jerk no question. But I still think I liked Across the rive and into the trees BEST because it was about this (I know, i probably need therapy) Here’s my review (no pressure to read it) I suppose its like admiring Martha Gelhorne, but realizing all the havoc she allowed to happen in his life to his family. And, it’s also celebrating when she got hers so-to-speak. Talented people get away with a lot I think.

    • I don’t get in with Hemingway as an author – I find his prose too pared down and studied. Gelhorne is a fascinating person in her own right, she had a reputation for being fierce but there was also a compassionate side,

      • He is not a favorite of mine, but he’s grown on me more over time. We had him shoved down our throats like Steinbeck in high school–that put me off badly for many years. Parts of him I like, parts I detest–lol.


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