“No point feeling depressed any longer about Brexit. Happily readjusting to living back in the 1970s. Looking forward to a nice prawn cocktail followed by a Vesta Beef curry and then we're planning to settle down to an episode of Love Thy Neighbour with Jack Smethurst and Rudolph Walker. Laugh!”
As for David Cameron and his cowardly resignation after recklessly allowing the referendum to happen in the first place, I feel angry still. I felt somewhat sickened when his sycophantic Tory chums described his arrogant foolishness as ‘a brave decision’ and talked of the great courage he’d shown as their leader ... grrrr!
But I’m not going to talk Brexit ... well, not anymore. I’ve read a number of very good books over this period, so here’s a brief appraisal of them:
My Ántonia - by Willa Cather
This is a powerfully evocative novel about home, love and friendship by a wonderful writer. It is written from the perspective of the book’s sympathetic narrator, Jim Burden, who at the age of nine arrives at his grandparents’ farm in Black Hawk, Nebraska, and becomes smitten by the ‘force of nature’ that is Ántonia from the first moment he sets eyes upon her. The book is far more than just a love story though. The characterisations are richly satisfying and it left me with a powerful sense of place and time. Cather helps the reader understand, through her straightforward but nearly perfect prose, the strains, hopes and dreams of the immigrant settlers who inhabit her landscape, and gives us an insight into the fears and old oppressions they are fleeing from. This is one of those rare books that once reaching its end you could happily return to the beginning and start over. Excellent.
The Winter of Our Discontent - by John Steinbeck
This was Steinbeck’s last novel - not however his final book. It has been sadly overlooked possibly because it received some very mixed reactions at the time of publication. Don’t let this put you off. This is a very finely-crafted work, which seems particularly appropriate at this moment in time after the greed demonstrated by banks, corporations and individuals in recent years. Steinbeck makes a small East Coast town his backdrop for the moral dilemma that grocery clerk Ethan Hawley faces in this story. It is a morality tale. The writing is first rate. Definitely amongst my favourite Steinbeck novels and seriously underrated. Recommended.
The Road to Nab End - by William Woodruff
Autobiographical account of a childhood spent in Blackburn, a Lancashire cotton- weaving town in the early twentieth century. Woodruff never writes sentimentally about the terrible hardships these working-class people faced throughout the depression years. Unusually for an autobiography I found it utterly compulsive reading. It is the first of two parts and I definitely mean to read its sequel . A very fine slice of social history without the lecture; a masterfully-written account of an impoverished childhood. Superb.
When the Women Come out to Dance - by Elmore Leonard
These short stories are deliciously entertaining, great characterisations, lean prose, not a word out of place. Great fun to read.
No Name - by Wilkie Collins
This was considered pretty scandalous in its day because it deals with the subject of illegitimacy. It tells the story of Magdalene and Norah Vanstone, who are disinherited because of the sudden deaths of their parents. The family money which was intended to be shared between them goes to a miserly cousin who treats them with utter contempt. The sisters have very different personalities: Norah humbly accepts her lot in life and seeks work as a governess; Magdalene (the name’s a bit of a give-away - but this is nineteenth century literature!) seeks to regain her family fortune.
If you’ve read any Wilkie Collins before, you can expect a great cast of characters: misers, wicked housekeepers, scoundrels with a heart of gold and naval men with hearts of oak. It’s great stuff!
So, there you have it - everything I’ve read since I last posted a blog.
On 1 August I’m taking part in a summer buddy read with some chums I discovered on Twitter. Anyone can join in. We do two books a year. The current choice is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Basically all you have to do is get a copy and start reading on that date; no time limit, write a blog or leave a review and get in touch. It’s fun!