What I’m Reading : Episode 36, July 2021 – from India to Tangiers and Antarctica

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.

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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.

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.



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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

13 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 36, July 2021 – from India to Tangiers and Antarctica

  • July 23, 2021 at 1:12 pm
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    I found Tangerine to be very forgettable, even as I was reading it. Lean, Fall, Stand on the other hand, is fantastic.

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  • July 23, 2021 at 8:54 am
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    I read Some New Ambush a little while back having enjoyed both West and The Mission House. I know you’re not a short story fan but perhaps you’ve read that collection. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the McGregor.

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  • July 23, 2021 at 12:54 am
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    I don’t know your books or even your authors. And the WA library system/Borrowbox doesn’t have any Patricia Highsmith, so I can’t try her.
    30deg is a mild spring day in Perth WA, but I can imagine it’s a shock in Wales.
    When I’m between books I pick a few off the shelves and put them on the bed (one of the advantages of being single!) where one of them generally manages to grab me – (Australian) Dorothy Hewitt’s Toucher at the moment.

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  • July 23, 2021 at 12:41 am
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    The Mission House appeals to me. I might look for it. So many books lately. The Australian book is one I’ve not heard of. Since I worked almost 40 yrs as a speech pathologist, Lean, Stand, Fall sounds interesting too. Enjoy your weather. It’s been in single digits here.🤠🐧🎈🌻

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    • July 23, 2021 at 8:52 am
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      The reviews I’ve read of Lean, Stand, Fall indicate it has a lot of content about speech so that could well be the book for you

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  • July 22, 2021 at 11:08 pm
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    I read Tangerine a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t very impressed. An escapist read, generally readable but it didn’t live up to its promise. A very pale imitation of Patricia Highsmith.

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  • July 22, 2021 at 10:23 pm
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    Nice!
    I’m currently reading two nonfiction books related to language:
    Living With a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin, a wonderful memoir by Ann Patty
    And a great classic by Owen Barfield: History in English Words
    Loving them both
    And listening to #26 in Hercule Poirot series: The Hollow

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    • July 22, 2021 at 9:28 pm
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      I suspect it got more attention than it deserved when it was optioned for a film with Rene Zellweger

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  • July 22, 2021 at 7:31 pm
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    My heavens, you must be melting there in Wales! (I’m melting here in Gulf Coast Florida, U.S.A., but that’s only to be expected this time of year. Florida summers are HOT).
    I found your reaction to Tangerine very interesting, as it so accurately reflects my own. I’m very fond of atmospheric mysteries and eagerly took up Tangerine shortly after it was published, based on the exotic setting and some very favorable reviews. I was, however, quite disappointed. I found the Moroccan atmosphere & the relationship between the two friends rather flat and the whole novel a little dull, so much so I didn’t bother reading the end (so many books, etc). I’m very hesitant to try Mangan’s latest, Palace of the Drowned, although I love novels with a Venetian setting.
    I’m a little tempted by McGregor’s Lean, Stand, Fall, based on the fact that I loved Reservoir 13. I’m not committing yet, however, as I don’t find the subject that appealing.

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    • July 22, 2021 at 9:30 pm
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      I’m at the point of deciding whether it’s worth continuing with Tangerine. I keep thinking of all the other books I could be reading that I would enjoy more…

      Just read the opening chapter of Lean, Stand, Fall. My gosh what a dramatic start. It was hard to tear myself away to make dinner.

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  • July 22, 2021 at 7:30 pm
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    I was wondering if you were affected by the heat. Reading is a great activity under so many circumstances!!

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    • July 22, 2021 at 9:31 pm
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      I’m a warm person – really don’t like the cold at all. But this has even me defeated. 30 minutes of gentle deadheading of the rose bushes this morning was more than enough exertion.

      Reply

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