Greetings from the blistering heat of Wales. Now that’s not something you’ll hear me say often since we’re known more for rain than sunshine. But just when life couldn’t get more topsy turvy, the grey, cloudy skies turned wall to wall blue and the thermometer ratcheted up to 30C. Gardening has been abandoned since all I want to do is sit in the shade and drink iced water.
Forced relaxation has an upside however: it’s given me a chance to catch up on some reading. So here’s how things look in BookerTalk land this week.
What I just finished reading
Chauffeuring duties today meant I was able to finish The Mission House by Carys Davies while waiting for my husband to emerge from a medical appointment. It’s the book club choice for this month but I would have read it anyway because I love her writing. It’s just such a shame that she hasn’t written more because each published work has been a delight. This is only her second novel — it’s actually more of a novella — and it’s a delightful, slow burn narrative set at a hill station in India. Her main character is a man seeking refuge from everything that’s gone wrong in his life, including all the changes in the library where he works. Storytime sessions for children were bad news but it was when they removed all the dictionaries to make way for computers, that Hilary Byrd began to unravel.
What I’m reading now
I’m halfway through Tangerine by Christine Mangan which is book 9 in my #20booksofsummer and so far this isn’t lighting my fire. It’s meant to be a psychological literary thriller set in the oppressive heat of Tangiers in the 1950s. So far I haven’t felt the atmosphere of North Africa — we see the city in flashes — and the tension between the two main characters is taking a long time to materialise. Mangan’s novel has been compared to Patricia Highsmith but it’s really a pale imitation of the latter’s work.
My current audiobook companion at the gym is How I Rescued My Brain by Australian psychologist David Roland. It’s his memoir of how years of listening to clients’ tales of abuse and trauma, took their toll on his own health. He suffered post traumatic stress disorder and then a stroke. The book traces his journey towards recovery using the principles of neuroplasticity to re-wire his brain. it’s interesting but not the perfect match for a work out so I’ll need to look for alternative and listen to Roland in the car instead. If you’re curious, you can read the opening chapter here in which he’s at the hospital A&E but has no idea where he is or why.
What I’ll read next
I’ll be starting a new book tonight and, for once, I know what it’s going to be.
I’m departing from #20booksofsummer to read Lean, Stand, Fall by Jon McGregor . This was published in April 2021 but has only now become available in the library. The book relates the story of an Antarctic research assistant forced to return home when he suffers a stroke during an expedition. The novel’s title follows the stages of his stroke, from the expedition itself to therapy and rehabilitation and the effect his problems with speech affect both him and his family.
McGregor’s earlier novel Reservoir 13 was superb but I’ve seen multiple comments from bloggers that Lean, Stand, Fall is even better and should make it to the Booker Prize list this year. So roll on bedtime!
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.