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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.


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