I was lucky enough to have a week away in the sunshine recently, and here’s what I read:
Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess: a warm, ornately embellished and beautifully written story of the unfeasibly eventful life of an octogenarian writer, with a particular focus on his lifelong struggle between being gay and wanting to be a good Catholic, and what this says about free will. Immensely readable, funny and sad.
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: until about a year ago I’d read almost no Dickens at all – a regrettable omission I’m making amends for at the fastest pace I can manage. Those who’ve read more will confirm or deny this as appropriate: but I can’t imagine much else in Dickens’ canon is as fast-paced and exciting? Great fun.
Independence Day, Richard Ford: this has been on my bookshelf for years, literally, and I read (and in fact blogged about) the first in Ford’s trilogy – The Sportswriter – at the time. I remember being very aware of the skilful writing in The Sportswriter but found it hard to engage with the central character Frank Bascombe, finding him excessively cool and aloof. By the time Independence Day arrives Frank has reached a relatively more settled, happier stage of life, and the novel has more of a focus on the events that happen around him, which escalate with wry hilarity.
Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy: I think the most violent novel I’ve yet read. McCarthy’s take on the Western, following initially a teenage boy known only as ‘the kid’ but then shifting attention for most of the rest of the novel to the brutal gang of scalp-hunters the kid takes up with, who are contracted to kill Apache Indians but know no limit where victims are concerned. A typically McCarthyian evocation of wild places and people runs throughout: spare, surreal, doom-laden, ageless.
The Dickens was my favourite, perhaps unsurprisingly.