Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.
First, a report from lazalex, who has written in just before reading the last paragraph of John Steinbeck’s East Of Eden:
It’s been one massive emotional roller coaster all the way! I’ve come to the conclusion that JS wanted to rival the Bible in scope and depth and considering the scale of this ambition he makes a pretty good fist of it... Ambition is also the weakness of the book, too, as it rivals the Bible in its sprawling plotlines and self-conscious mythologising. Exhausting but hugely rewarding. Don’t be put off by the book’s length, you absolutely want to read on to the end to discover the resolution, if any. I haven’t quite got there yet, so no spoilers please!
JayZed “absolutely loved” Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout:
Like another favourite of mine, Anne Tyler, Strout really gets under the skin of day-to-day domestic life to the deep and often heart-wrenching emotional undercurrents. There were a lot of things in this book, particularly around the disappointments of life, the disillusionment that can set in from middle age, the struggle to adapt to change, and the way that people cope with these things, that really resonated with me.
FrogCDE has been reading No Name by the great Wilkie Collins:
Less well-known than The Woman in White and The Moonstone, but still considered one of his big four novels, the other one being Armadale. The two sisters who give the book its title have no name because they’re illegitimate, so they don’t automatically inherit their parents’ wealth when they die intestate. That makes it sound like an issue-driven novel, which I suppose it is, but I should have known the master of sensation fiction wouldn’t be content with worthy diatribes. After a first chapter (or ‘Scene’ - the novel takes some of its cues from the theatre) that sets everything up, the adventure starts, following the fortunes of a vengeful heroine who is a mistress of disguise as she travels around the country living on her wits. It’s a lot of fun, with a great comic villain called Captain Wragge and his put-upon wife, whose attempts to cook for her husband are disastrous. Collins gives us the exact recipe for ‘omelette with herbs’ and breaks it down line by line getting the maximum comic effect out of it. Like his friend Dickens, Collins seems to know a lot about a lot of things, and that gives depth to the novel without detracting from the entertainment.
I am so disappointed by this book. Environmental activism was better done circa 40 years ago in Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang … I also do not empathise with a single character, I feel the dialogue isn’t right, and yet I agree with the overarching premise of the book that we are committing ecological destruction. It is certainly not a bad book, but it is not the great book it is made out to be.
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Ross Benjamin, has wowed Melia13:
Wow! Historical fiction isn’t usually my thing, and I got the book from the library only because I’d read all the other books shortlisted for 2020’s International Booker. Someone else reserved the book, and I was about to return it unread when I opened the cover. When I looked up, I was 78 pages in … Tyll is charming and mischievous and a little bit devilish. The world Kehlmann creates in incredibly vivid - whether that’s the Thirty Years war or a mother morning her recently stillborn child - and there is enough background woven into Tyll’s adventures to give context without ever needing exposition. Elizabeth Stuart, the “Winter Queen” exiled from her throne in Bohemia and not particularly happy about it, is particularly brilliant.
High Skies by Tracy Daugherty is worth a shout, says safereturndoubtful:
I haven’t shouted about a book for a while here, but want to do so about High Skies. Growing up in West Texas in 1957 had its difficulties, but Daugherty’s message in this excellent novella, is that it can be the making of the man. Ten-year-old Troy suffers badly with asthma; ill-health just one of the problems of the inhabitants of Midland, caused by the dust-storms, made worse by years of “bad farming”. The best novellas leave you wondering how so much could be fitted into them, and this certainly does that … It is a deeply human story of living in fear of another world war, and communism, amidst social divisions, bigotry and climate change, that resonates well today.
Finally, a success. “Based on mentions here, I’ve been looking at Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen”, translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, says robertrudolph1:
I’m enjoying it; the many short chapters, each like a picture of the island and the farm family, build a picture of their way of life. When the priest is rowed out to the island, and considered how long this way of life existed, since the beginning of Norwegian Christianity, I thought that he underestimated time. The heroes of The Long Ships, in the year 1000, who were brought up as pagans, would have found much that’s familiar in this way of life.
It also reminds me of the structure of Evan Connell’s Mrs Bridge, with its many short, memorable snapshots. Thanks for the recommendation.
It’s always good to hear from a happy reader.
Interesting links about books and reading
A copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio just sold for $10m (£7.7m).
Last night I dreamt I went to Menabilly again: the inspiration for Manderley.
An editor tried to sneak something past Don DeLillo. It didn’t work.
Zora Neale Hurston and her connection with Fannie Hurst.
If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #GuardianBooks, and we’ll include a selection in this blog. Happy reading!