A Blogging Holiday and Reading Catch-Up

14 09 2008

Without really intending to, it seems I took quite a lengthy holiday from blogging.  My summer break has been extended due to being a daily supply teacher (rather than having a very-much-hoped-for real job) and thus I extended my blogging break too.  I suppose what it comes down to is that I’ve taken a very extended break from writing and even blogging seems a difficult hurdle to overcome in that regard.

I didn’t take a break from reading through – quite the reverse.  Some of the books I finished a few weeks ago and have faded from memory though, so here is a brief overview of my recent readings:

I finally finished The Gathering.  I nearly gave up on it, but in the end I was glad I finished it, though not because I changed my mind about it.  I found the narrative completely disorienting.  I’m usually quite a fan of the unreliable narrator, but I found it hard to know where and when I was in The Gathering.

Next, I read All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills.  Another odd read.  I purchased it during the winter for all of 99 cents and I was looking forward to a book that promised on the book cover to be “Absorbing, darkly worrying and very, very funny” (The Times).  I didn’t find it absorbing or funny, but it did carry with it a sense of worry.  There was this undertone of fear, this sense of menance that ran throughout the entire book.  It focuses on the narrator, a young man who has stayed in a vacation town after all the other tourists have left.  He is taken advantage of by the man who rents him camping space and the man’s daughter, and he also begins to know various locals.  There was this sense throughout the entire thing that something evil was just about to happen, but then nothing did.  And then when something did happen, it was hurried over and there was little reaction.  I read the end and knew I’d missed something.  I had a sense I knew what it meant, but I couldn’t grasp it at the time.  It finally came to me three weeks later, as I was sitting telling a friend about this book that I couldn’t make heads or tails of.  As the words came out of mouth, I knew exactly what the ending meant and then I thought it rather clever (and myself rather dim), but not enough me to rush back to Mills’ work anytime soon.

I was excited about reading Daphne after several reviews I had seen online.  I enjoyed it, but it too I found a little lack-lustre.  I didn’t find myself swept away in the way that I expected myself to be.

There was a gem in all of this reading though: Helen Humphrey’s The Frozen Thames.  I kept this volume beside my bed and would read three or four of the stories before going to sleep each night.  What Humphrey’s has done in The Frozen Thames is write a brief story – no, story isn’t the right word.  What she writes is a vignette or an image or a moment from each time the Thames froze.  Some stories are heartbreaking, some are humourous, some are the briefest of moments, some just images that slip through your fingers.  There is something to admire in each and every one of her passages.  It is a clever idea that would have been so much less in the hands of a less skilled imagist.

I seem to be on a bit of a WWII kick right now.  I recently finished Transgression, which held my attention from start to finish.  It focuses on Adele, a girl living in occupied France who falls in love with a German solider.  The narrative shifts between Adele’s wartime experiences and the discovery of a body in post-war Canada.  The brutality of Adele’s treatment once she is punished as a horizontal collaborator was captured with such immediacy and horror and the shifts back and forth in time really increased the tension of the story, making it hard for me to put the book down.

Next up is Humprehy’s Coventry.




3 responses

14 09 2008

From your brief description about Transgression, it seems like a book that I would like to read. Perhaps if I find it on the book shelves, I’ll give it a read.

14 09 2008

I would definitely recommend reading it if you come across it.

19 09 2008

It’s odd, I found it really tough to keep up with blogging this summer as well!

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