What I’m Reading: Episode 28, July 2020

I completely forgot to do this update in June. I shall have to make this a bumper episode about what I’m currently reading, what I recently read and what I plan to read next. 

What I’m reading now

Like many of you I’m finding it hard to focus while the word around me is in such chaos. I keep picking out books from my “owned but unread” shelves, reading a chapter and then losing interest. So I have five partially read books dotted around the house. None of them are badly written, they are just not suiting my mood at the moment.

Three have so far managed to retain my interest.

On my Kindle is a crime novel by an author who has chosen to make her home in Wales. Rather To Be Pitied is the second in a series by Jan Newton which features Detective Sergeant Julie Kite. They are all set in mid Wales which makes a refreshing change; so many crime novels have a city setting. I’m enjoying discovering the locations through the eyes of this DS who has moved to Wales from Manchester. Given Jan Newton’s current home is in Wales, and her book is published by Honno Press (A Welsh independent company) this novel more than fits the criteria for the “Wales” category in my 20BooksOfSummer reading project.

My project to read all of Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series, moved a little closer to the finishing line last month when I read Framley Parsonage. I’ve now moved on to book number five which is The Small House At Allington. It’s a lot more domestic in its focus than the previous books have been. While the previous books revolved around the political and religious worlds, this one concerns young woman of independent spirit who nonetheless longs to be loved.

Finally, a book I started reading in May but have only just reached the half way mark. I absolutely love The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel but find it takes a lot of concentration to fully appreciate and I don’t have that right now. So I’m reading it in small sections….

What I just finished reading

Back in 2019 I took out a monthly subscription with the Asympote Book Club, the only club I’ve found which is dedicated to world literature in translation. It’s introduced me to some fantastic new authors and books that I would never have discovered myself.

Love by the Norwegian author Hanne Ørstavik is a slim volume but for tension and intensity it knocks socks off novels that are double its size. It recounts the story of one icy night in the lives of a mother and her son. Though the book is called Love, it actually deals with emotional distance or the absence of love. Mind-blowingly brilliant in the way it weaves narratives from mother and child as they both venture out from the safety of their home onto the perilous darkened roads of a village.

What I’ll read next

I might return to one of those partially-read books I mentioned earlier. But I’m more likely to choose one of the novels that will be coming out in the next few months like Kate Grenville’s A Room Full Of Leaves and The Mission House by Carys West.

Also tempting me is They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell which was published in 1937 but is being reissued as a Random House Vintage edition. It’s a portrait of an ordinary American family struck by the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and having read a review of it just this weekend, I know it’s going to be one I enjoy.

On top of that I have The Dutch House by Ann Patchett to read for the book club meeting in August. So, as always, I am not exactly lost for options.


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.

About BookerTalk

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

Posted on July 8, 2020, in Reading plans, WWWednesdays and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 37 Comments.

  1. I also have They Came Like Swallows on my TBR shelf. Since it’s short, I’ll probably end up reading some time when I need to bolster my statistics.

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to the problem of focus, or lack of it. Your mention of the “partially-read books” strikes a chord with me. Like you, I have found it hard to focus on reading since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Although I have read a few books to the end, they are fewer than usual. Mostly, I find that light and undemanding reads – of the detective fiction or chick-lit genres, for instance – are easier to cope with than something heavier.

    My two book groups have continued to meet – one of them by Zoom, every six weeks as usual, and the other, consisting of only three members living in the same village, has managed to meet once face-to-face.

    A useful motto at this time is “Be kind to yourself”. For me, this goes for my reading choices as much as anything else. Read what you like and what you can. Nothing is too trivial; don’t judge yourself for putting a book aside if it doesn’t work for you just now.

  3. Anneontheshelf

    I read The Mirror and the Light over 4 months and really enjoyed it every day. Miss it now I’ve finished. Thanks for your interesting posts. Always read them.

  4. My backlog of audio versions is getting longer by the week. Because I’m not going to the gym or driving very far from home, I seldom get a chance to listen to them

  5. Just finished John McGahern’s collection of short stories “Creatures of the Earth”. It’s been on my shelf for a long while and finally got around to it a week or so ago. A curious mixture, I must say. Some good, some a bit difficult to get to grips with. Much of it,no doubt, autobiographical.
    Started “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng, which I can tell already that I am going to enjoy – especially in the context of what’s presently going on wrt race relations in the USA and elsewhere.

  6. robinandian2013

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading They Came Like Swallows. I read it some years ago along with his later book So Long, See You Tomorrow. Reading the two together was a special experience – to see how much his writing had developed over the 40 year period. The later book covers some of the same issues and themes as the earlier one – and does it much better. I finished SLSYT and went right back to the beginning and started again to relish it all over again – a rare decision.

    • that’s great endorsement of the quality of So Long See You Tomorrow.. I started reading They Came Like Swallows last night and already feel I’m in the hands of a good writer

  7. I’ve got the Jan Newton to read some time, but I don’t know when that’ll be, though I quite enjoyed the first outing of her Manchester cop out in the sticks.

  8. I started reading The Mirror and the Light at the beginning of lockdown and found it impossible to concentrate, so had to abandon it for a while. I picked it up again a few weeks ago and am enjoying it now, but like you, I’m still having to read it in small sections. I loved The Dutch House – I hope you do too!

    • That’s interesting to know your experience “mirrored” mine with Mantel. I had thought it would absorb me so much I’d rattle through it. I could do that but I don’t want to – its too good to rush

  9. You have been reading some lovely books. I loved those Trollope novels years ago. I loved Love, it haunted me afterwards, such a beautifully written novella. I thought They came Like Swallows was beautiful too. I need to read more Maxwell.

  10. I loved William Maxwell’s “So Long, See Your Tomorrow.” I’ll put this one on my list. It sounds good! I’m also picking up and putting down half-read books, during these concerning times. One is Marguerite Yourcenar’s “Memoirs of Hadrian.” Put it down three months ago at page 72 and want to finish it but just haven’t been in the mood for it.

  11. I am having a hard time concentrating too. At least 4 books started and put down. The book They Came Like Swallows sounds good. I will keep my eye out for it when it is rereleased,

  12. I’m reading lots of novels with French students. The one I’m reading by myself is the upcoming one by Randall Silvis, an author I really enjoy : No Woods so Dark as These.

  13. piningforthewest

    My next read will be one from my 20 Books of Summer list – maybe Cronin’s The Citadel, Snow by Orhan Pamuk or Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington. I loved The Mirror and the Light too.

    • The Citadel – that takes me back a long way to when I read this. There’s also a film version I believe. Snow didn’t resonate with me unfortunately

  14. Jan Newton is a fresh name to me, but I always like to hear of a new police procedural so I’m off to check her out.

    • It relies quite a lot on the idea of a newcomer to an area and finding everything different (so expect commentary about how impossible the Welsh language is). Which is fine for a new series but not sure how long you can sustain the idea

  15. I thought Love was extraordinary, too. I’m taking an age to work my way through Isabel Hardman’s Why We Get the Wrong Politicians and coasting through Stewart O’Nan’s Henry, Himself.

  16. Just finished To Pieces by Henry Morland – Scandinavian modernism and very good. Up next? A couple of possibles but probably the new M. John Harrison as I’m covering it for Shiny New Books. Or maybe a Jose Saramago for Spanish Lit month. I shall see how the mood takes me!

  17. I recommend the audio of Dutch House with Tom Hanks!

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