Christmas and New Year is always a busy time with so many friends to visit and parties to go to but I’ve also had plenty of moments to myself this year which I’ve used to catch-up on some quiet reading. I love reading but my time spent with a book is usually limited to short spurts whilst on public transport and so I never finish them very quickly. Over the past three weeks, however, I’ve gone through a book a week, so I thought I would write a combined post, letting you know which ones I’ve been enjoying.
The Lighthouse: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery by P.D. James
Just over a year ago I attended a workshop on novel writing where P.D. James was the guest speaker. She gave a fascinating speech about her life, how she came to become a crime novelist and how she approaches the writing process, which thoroughly inspired me to start writing something of my own – I clearly wasn’t the only one to feel galvanized into action as the entire first three rows were scribbling energetically in their Moleskine notebooks as she spoke. (I was also very impressed how, aged 91, she stood for almost an hour and spoke without a microphone!)
Despite being one of the country’s best-loved contemporary authors, I was ashamed not to have read any of her work and vowed to make one of her popular Adam Dalgliesh novels the next item on my reading list. A year later, however, I still hadn’t made good on my personal promise until I spied 2005′s The Lighthouse on a friend’s bookshelf early December and snapped it up forthwith.
After a world-famous writer is found hanging from the upper railings of the lighthouse in a remote Cornish retreat, Scotland Yard’s Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his team are despatched to the island to question his resident editor, downtrodden daughter and reticent local residents, who form the requisite closed set of suspects. However, both visitors and residents are reluctant to speak and a second death throws the entire investigation into jeopardy.
Although new to the crime genre, I really enjoyed The Lighthouse. The characters are nuanced and engaging and the plot is well-timed with revelations that kept me guessing right until the end. Baroness James’s language is also a pleasure to read; the descriptions are vivid and atmospheric and each sentence is carefully crafted using an impressive vocabulary that really stretched me (in a good way). The Lighthouse is an intelligently written book that assumes its readers are intelligent too and I can’t wait to read another!
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
A Year in Provence was another book nabbed from my friend’s bookshelf. I have read many books about the life of an ex-pat in France but I found A Year in Provence a particularly charming and well-written example. There is nothing grandiose or wildly exciting about A Year in Provence, it simply recounts Mayle and his wife’s everyday experiences as they renovate their farmhouse, dine out and get to know their neighbours and their idiosyncrasies in the rural Lubéron Valley, albeit in a very witty manner.
Mayle is a master of observation, accurately capturing the simple pleasures of Provençal life as well as the amusing quirks and behaviours of his French friends and neighbours and effortlessly bringing them to life on the page. Those who have spent any amount of time in rural France will find plenty to smile at!
The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode
Close friends and family will know that I am a regular listener of Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s BBC 5 Live film review show (albeit usually in podcast format). I look forward to their movie discussions each week and value their opinions (although I usually try to see a film before I hear their review) and am particularly partial to a vitriolic Kermodian rant. So you can imagine how pleased I was to receive Mark Kermode’s The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex for Christmas. Discussing all that is wrong with modern movies – poor service at the multiplex, pointless 3D and stinkers like Transformers and Sex and the City 2 – The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex is deliciously ranty indeed. (I wouldn’t have expected any less!)
I didn’t really learn anything new from the book; nearly all of the arguments and examples I have heard Kermode give before on his show with Simon Mayo but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Despite the well-worn arguments there is something refreshing about someone standing up for cinema audiences and daring to admit the unspoken, that this is all a bit rubbish. Kermode describes situations that we are no doubt all familiar with, outrageously expensive ticket prices, jobsworth multiplex employees and blockbusters that take us for fools – I could have substituted his lengthy discussion with a multiplex employee about the image spilling over the top of the screen with one I had a few months ago about the 3D not being switched on! Overall, I found it a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable read – a must-read for all film fans that will have you nodding your head violently in agreement!
Have you read any good books lately?