It has been a strange month and it looks like life will continue to be strange for some time. The month has been particularly unusual for me because I had surgery on my left foot right at the beginning and have effectively been housebound ever since, until the lockdown restrictions came into effect and I was legally, as well as practically, confined to my home. As I was confined to home and forced to sit with my foot up I had no alternative other than to read books !
My 12 in 12 Challenge for March was to read 12 biographies and memoirs from my to-be-read pile, The object of this year long challenge is to group my unread books into themes so that I can reduce their number – reading 12 each month means that I should have 144 books fewer on my to-be-read shelves at the end of the year. Of course that only works if I don’t buy any more !
I have enjoyed the biographies and memoirs I did read in the month and have created a new blog post about each one as I went along. I have achieved my target for the first three months of the year and hope that I can continue to do so. For April I am going to read historical novels so look out for those posts.
Just at the end of the month I read my one hundredth book of the year. I wouldn’t normally expect to get to that point after only three months but what with the foot surgery and virus lockdown I have definitely had the opportunity to read more. The book concerned is Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker, It is a fantasy novel about an engineer who ends up being in charge of defending a city against a siege. It turns out that his best friend is the besieger and that the residents of the city don’t trust him at all. I found it amusing and clever with a very interesting main character. A fun read on my Kindle – I cannot remember why I bought this book in the first place, it may have attracted my attention in a Kindle sale, but I did enjoy it.
Some other books I read this month but which weren’t in the 12 in 12 Challenge :
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is set in India and tells the tale of twins growing up and their family. It moves between the past when terrible things happened and the present where people are still living the consequences of it. I can see that this book is well written and I thought that the descriptive writing was well done but no one in the book is very nice and the whole atmosphere is of death and decay. Not one I would reread.
- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. I haven’t read the original play so I enjoyed this as a standalone novel. It is a very enjoyable story about Kate who keeps house for her family and works in a nursery but who seems to be stuck and is being forced into a marriage of convenience by her father who wants to keep his Eastern European assistant in the country after his visa runs out. I did enjoy this story but possibly would have got an extra level of enjoyment if I had read the original play.
- A Stranger in the Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher has been unread on my shelves for about five years. I am glad that I finally got to it. It is set in rural Vermont in the 1950s. It is seen through the eyes of a teenaged boy looking back from adulthood and covers one summer when a new preacher and his son come to town. The preacher is black and there is local opposition to him as well as outright racism but the author doesn’t place this at the centre of the story although events around the preacher move the story along. It is a coming of age story with a celebration of the country and its people. I thought that it was a very powerful book.
- Early Riser by Jasper Fforde is a clever and highly enjoyable book. I love this author’s use of words and his imagination and he uses both to the full in this book about a world which looks like ours in the 1960s or 70s but where the majority of the population hibernate each winter as the weather becomes very cold, It is impossible to describe this book so I advise you to give it a go – it is amusing, absurd, inventive and very, very British. I loved it.
- In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin is a travel book and a sort of history of the area. The author travelled there and seems to meander about the country staying with people and hearing their stories as well as telling us about people connected with the past. As I don’t know anything much about the history of this area of Argentine I got very confused and couldn’t place the stories in any sort of order. I also noticed that all the stories were about immigrants to Patagonia and these were the people he met as he travelled so I have no idea about the area itself and how ordinary people live. I gather that this book is regarded as a modern classic – I found it a bit of a mess and rather frustrating.
- Hogfather by Terry Pratchett is one my favourite of his books set on the Discworld. I like it particularly because the main character is Susan, adopted granddaughter of Death, who is trying to be sensible and normal. In this story the Discworld’s Santa Claus figure, the Hogfather, is missing and Susan, the Death of Rats and an eyeball fixated raven have to work out what is going on. The author also has a lot to say about myth making and the importance of story but he does it in a really amusing way.
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was loaned to me by my friend Carol. It is a book of related incidents all of which feature Olive either directly or peripherally. Olive is not always likeable but she can be compassionate. The stories don’t seem to have a theme except to talk about the complex ways in which we connect with others. It is an interesting read although I can’t say that I was really captivated by it.
Lots to have a look at there. I hope you can find something to keep you engaged through lockdown – Keep reading (you probably have plenty of time !)