It’s Not All Mary Poppins

My Book Binge

book bingeToday is May 1: Book Binge round-up. Here’s what I managed to get through this month. Not as good as some years, but a respectable list:

1. Remind Me Again why I need a Man, Claudia Carroll. Woman of a certain age decides she wants to be married, and further decides to pursue this goal in a systematic, business-like way. Her attempts are entertaining, and her conclusions manage to have a smattering of wisdom in them. Fun read.

2. The Woman in the Row Behind, Francoise Dorner. Do not read this book. The characters are one-dimensional (if that) and entirely unconvincing, while still managing to be uniformly unlikeable. We are informed of plot developments by the narrator, rather than shown them by the author, and so they, too, are completely unconvincing. Yaaaawn. The one thing that can be said in its favour is that it’s blessedly short.

3. The Ginger Man, J.P. Donleavy. Quit, page 29 of 347, and here’s why:

From the blurb from the back cover:

“…wildly funny, picaresque classic novel of the misdaventures of Sebastian Dangerfield, a young American ne’re-do-well….”

And this, from the fateful page 29:

“He drove his fist into Marion’s face [his wife]. She fell backward against the cupboard… In tattered underwear he stood at the nursery door. He kicked his foot through and tore off the lock to open it. Took the child’s pillow from under its head and pressed it hard on the screaming mouth.

“I’ll kill it, God damn it, I’ll kill it, if it doesn’t shut up.”

“Wildly funny”? Anyone who thinks that’s wildly funny is not someone I’d want as a friend. I’m not even sure I want him/her free to walk the streets.

4. Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier. Have only just gotten around to reading this classic. Goodness, isn’t the narrator a hapless and helpless little doofus? Don’t you just yearn to knock some common sense into that empty head?

5. Just Jane, Nancy Moser. A romantic fictionalized fill-in-the-blanks of Jane Austen’s life.

6. The Stolen Child, Keith Donohue. The tale of a changeling, told from both the stolen and the substitute child’s perspectives. I really enjoyed it until the climax, which sort of… didn’t happen. It seemed to be building to a dramatic peak, but instead faded away. Too bad, because until then I’d really been enjoying it, and I’d still recommend it, with the caveat that the ending drifts rather than closes.

7. Around the World with Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis. Each chapter is a short story of the eccentric Auntie Mame’s travels around the world. Amusing in a mild-grin sort of way.

8. Sex, A Mystery, Fiona Quirina. Not a particularly sexy book, despite the title. A mystery solved by a courtesan. Decent summer read.

9. The World I Made for Her, Thomas Moran. Told from the perspective of a desperately ill man in an Intensive Care Unit about himself and his lovely nurse, Nuala. Engrossing, and oh, so sad. If you like teary books, this one’s for you.

10. Artistic Licence, Katie Fforde. Woman runs away from home to open a gallery to show the work of a very sexy man she met on holiday, while finding herself drawn to the apparently uninterested other guy. Guess which one she ends up with?

11. Breakfast at Stephanie’s, Sue Margolis. Stephanie attempts to mother her toddler son, build a career, and choose between two eligible men. The choice is obvious to the reader. Takes Stephanie a little longer to get there, but it ends happily, of course.

12. The Mother-in-Law, Eve Makis. Effervescent Greek girl married to repressed-but-loving English man deals with the nasty politics of his ice-queen mother after MIL moves in with them. Each chapter is headed by the name of a character, and told through that character’s perspective, alternating between wife, husband, and friend of wife, mostly. The plot is predictable but entertaining enough.

All characters, sadly, are mere caricatures — cold mother-in-law, warm wife, distant older son, warm and wacky aunt — and I really have no idea why we had to put up with chapters about Troubled Friend Lydia and her appalling brat of a son, Alvaro. After I’d had 1.5 chapters of the awful Alvaro, I skipped the rest of the Lydia chapters. It didn’t make a whit of difference to the book. I did manage to finish it, however, unlike…

13. Guests of Chance, Colleen Curran, which I quit at page 126 of 295. The plot bounced around its multitude of characters so vigorously that I simply couldn’t keep up. It could be that I was reading on a sunny afternoon with a drink in the other hand. It could be that the kids playing on the street* and the drink in the other hand consumed more of my interest than was fair to the book, and that I should try it again, undistracted and utterly sober. Given that it’s a frivolous, summer-afternoon type of book which shouldn’t be that much work, I won’t.

* Neighbourhood children, not daycare tots; this was after hours.

14. Lipstick Jungle, Candace Bushnell. Did you know that this woman wrote “Sex and the City”? I didn’t. Not that it matters; I’ve never watched a single episode of the show, either. (Did she have a hand in ths show, I wonder?) All that is tangential. If book #13 made me work too hard for my frivolous read, this one delivered just the right amount of trials, tribulation and triumph, all neatly wrapped up in a mile-a-minute plot.

15. Away From Her, Alice Munro. It’s taken me until my forties to really begin enjoying short stories, and Alice Munro is a master of the genre. This collection is masterful. Read it, read it!

16. Olivia, Dorothy Strachey. One of the first books of this century to be written explicitly about (to quote a reviewer) “lesbian love”. By today’s standards, it’s not ‘explicit’ at all: while it seethes with love, emotion, and unexpressed passion experienced in the hothouse conditions of a Parisian school for girls, there’s not really even a whisper of sex. Maybe an echo of a hint of a possibility of it… I found the behaviour of the adults in the story appallingly adolescent, but the narrator is compelling enough, as far as 16-year-old girls go. It was okay.

17. Simple Slipcovers, Tracey Munn. Well-illustrated book with great instructions, which taught me that slipcovers are not simple. At all. Guess I’m stuck with humungo green flowers for a little while longer. Sigh.

18. The Mistressclass, Michele Roberts. Haven’t finished it yet!

There you go. That was mine. How was yours?

May 1, 2009 Posted by | books | , | 12 Comments