Saturday, June 02, 2007

May - Books of the Month

Despite the risk of being reviled for "yammering" (see my previous post) I'm writing about the books I've read in May. No apologies - this does not pretend to be a "review", I wouldn't be so presumptious, but these are just my thoughts on the books I've read.

I've slowed down in my reading this month, partly because I've been blogging more, but also because some of the books have been long and detailed. So, I've read 6 books. The first one to be finished was
The Giant's House, which I've already written about. I read two non-fiction books - a biography Daphne by Margaret Forster and Alistair McGrath's The Dawkin's Delusion? which is a critique of Richard Dawkin's God Delusion.

Daphne is an extremely well researched and informative account of Daphne Du Maurier's life, taken from her letters and private papers, with personal memories of her from her children, grandchildren and friends. I did't realise until I started this that this year is the 100th anniversary of Daphne Du Maurier's birth and my reading was enhanced by several broadcasts on the radio and television of dramatisations of her books, plus the excellent programme made by Rick Stein "In Du Maurier Country", filming the locations of her books and interviews with her family. I'm also enthusiastic about Rick Stein's books and programmes, (cookery for those who don't know) - but I digress.

There is too much I could say about Daphne, not least that it is a candid account of her relationships, eg her troubled married life; wartime love affair; and friendships with Gertrude Lawrence and Ellen Doubleday, as well as an excellent source of information on Du Maurier's method of writing and views on life. She doesn't sound an easy person to live with or be related too, but that doesn't detract from her passion for writing and Cornwall. Of course there is Menabilly and the biography gives so much detail of her love for the house and how she renovated and restored it that made me realise all the more how poignant it was when she had to give it up. What makes this book unforgettable for me is Forster's eloquent way of writing, including so much detail, but never being boring or stilted, leaving me wanting to read on and on. And the book is illustrated with lots of photos.

In complete contrast to this is the Dawkin's Delusion, which I borrowed from the library. I read Dawkin's book earlier this year and didn't have it to hand when I read this one (I've lent it to my son), so I had to rely on my memory of The God Delusion. I was interested to read what an Evangelical Christian had made of Dawkin's book and wasn't surprised - he didn't agree with Dawkins! For an excellent review of Dawkin's book have a look at Bill Hanage's article "Them's fightin' words" on LabLit's blog . I think I got more out of this article than from McGrath's book.

Turning to the fiction, I read Blessings, by Anna Quindlen, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Body Surfing by Anita Shreve and finally Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders.

Anna Quindlen is a new author to me. I came across her whilst reading
Danielle's blog. Blessings is a satisfying read about a baby abandoned outside "Blessings", a large house owned by Lydia Blessing. The baby is taken in by Skip, the caretaker cum handyman-gardener, who looks after her at first in secret. The past of all the characters is slowly revealed and the effect that the baby has on them all. It's a sad book over all, with regrets for what has happened in the past. I shall look out for more books by her.

As for The Thirteenth Tale, I have resisted buying this book, after reading either how fantastice people have found it, or how disappointing it is. The copy I read is a BookCrossing book I found in our local coffee shop. It took me some time to get into this book and I found myself being both reluctant to read it and yet unable to stop. It was only with the appearance of the governess that I found myself actually enjoying the book - and that is the second section. I usually give up on a book before then. Part of the problem I have with this book is that I couldn't really like the characters, even Margaret, the narrator irritated me somewhat, even though she loves books. Another problem is the ending, which I found to be contrived. All in all, it is not a book I'll read again and I'm going to release it back to its travels.

Which brings me to The Woodlanders. I borrowed this book from the library to read before continuing with Tomalin's The Time-Torn Man. I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought a copy for myself. I'll post my thoughts in another post. This one has gone on long enough and the sun is shining!

7 comments:

BooksPlease said...

I don't know what has happened to the formatting!!

Karen said...

It's ages since I read the Daphne du Maurier biography but I remember enjoying it immensely (as I did Rick Stein's programme, except for the sad bits about Chalky). Have you read The Rebecca Notebook?

BooksPlease said...

Hi Karen, nice to hear from you. Ah, Chalky - that was so sad. I haven't read The Rebecca Notebook - but it's on my Wish List. Rebecca was the first Du Maurier book I read, and read and read.

Nan - said...

I can't tell you how much I loved Anna Quindlen's non-fiction book, Loud and Clear. Even if one didn't share her political leanings, I think a reader can appreciate the wonder of her writing, the kindness of her spirit, her love for her family. I listened to an unabridged recording with her reading it. I haven't read her fiction except for her long-ago first book. The subject matter just hasn't appealed to me.

I'm so impressed with your writing about The Woodlanders. I want to read it sometime.

Lovely yammering. I think we bloggers will be using that word for a long time now. :<)

Tara said...

I have enjoyed Anna Quindlen's writing for some time and read this in the past year or so. I particularly enjoyed her book One True Thing. She has written a short book of essays about what reading and books have meant to her. The title escapes me, but it is worth seeking out.

BooksPlease said...

Nan, thanks for your comments on my yammering on The Woodlanders. I think this is the book I've enjoyed most recently. I don't know anything about Anna Quindlen, but her writing in Blessings does show her kindness of spirit and understanding of human nature.

Tara, is it How Reading Changed My Life? I haven't read it, but someone else mentioned it.

danielle said...

I hate that word yammer, but I suppose it is what I do, too. Oh well--I thoroughly enjoyed your post! I am enjoying the Du Maurier bio, too, but going slowly. I have a cloth edition and it is too heavy to drag with me since I have another book (also big) that I read everyday on the bus. I really like Anna Q.'s essays--I have not yet read any of her fiction.