Books, life the universe

Monday, 21 May 2007

Season of the Witch

I am reading 'Season of the Witch' by Natasha Mostert. The gothic horror novel par excellence. It's scaring me rigid and I'm really not sure whether I'll read it all word for word. Two sisters and a mysterious house and the art of memory - think Giordano Bruno, Frances Yates and Hermes Trismagistus - not sure whether I got the spelling quite right here. What could be more terrifying than someone taking over your mind? If you put the two sisters and the house together with a 30 something man who is arrogant and confident he can out do anyone in the computer hacking field, as well as being an expert remote viewer - a mind reader - and you have the recipe for disaster.

Gabriel Blackstone is asked by a former lover to find out what happened to her step son who has disappeared. Naturally after initial relutance, he takes on the challenge and comes very close to losing his sanity and his life in the process. But I won't spoil it for you - do read it if you're at all interested in a more sophisticated horror story. It is well written and the characters are believable, and it could just happen. Who knows but this might not be the warfare of the future?

On a lighter note - I have just discovered Jill Churchill - American crime writer. Amusing, light, easy to read - fluff if you like. But every one needs the fluff occasionally.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

On Chesil beach

I have just finished Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach' virtually at one sitting - it is a short book, only just over 160 pages, but well worth reading. It is a masterly piece of fiction with not a cliche to be seen. Every word is made to count and is perfectly in context. If this isn't at least on the Booker long list I shall be surprised and it is in my opinion a worthy winner. 'On Chesil Beach' makes you realise how you can effect the whole course of your life, and other people's, by not saying or doing something at a particular moment. Edward and Florence are all too memorable characters. I loved this book.

Politics and books

I'm usually quite disinterested in local elections but this week's was an absolute gem of the English political scene and brought joy to my heart. I live near Boston in Lincolnshire and councillors for our area sit on the Boston Borough Council. For years Boston has needed a bypass - a proper bypass that is. Currently the A16 goes through the middle of it and there is gridlock every day of the week. Finally we had lots candidates standing as Boston Bypass Independent - with many of them having defected from the main political parties. What happened? They got overall control of the council at the first attempt! This is an absolute triumph for democracy in my opinion - it could only happen in the UK. What their chances of success are is anyone's guess but their going to have a go - and more power to their elbow is all I can say.

Books - I've just finished Nigel Slater's 'Toast' - and very good it was too. Growing up in the 50s and 60s. I remember how fruit cocktail and tinned peaches were a treat for high days and holidays, when choc ices came in silver foil, how the only pre-prepared meals you could get were fish fingers. Whatever happened to Surprise peas? Those little shrivelled green blobs that looked like something you'd throw out rather than eat but tasted delicious after they'd been boiled. And what about Ruffle bars? I also remember coffee crisps - what happened to them? I totally agree with his comment that there's no such thing as a bad crumble!! Thoroughly recommend it for the memories it brings back for anyone growing up in that era. His 'Kitchen Diaries' are very much cookery and food as porn -love it!

I have just bought Tim Pears' 'Blenheim Orchard' and Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach' - thought I'd do some literary reading for a change. I will report back on both of these in due course. I also have William Horwood's 'Dark Hearts of Chicago' to attack as well - but that is going to take a concerted effort as it is rather large, then of course there's Michel Faber's 'The Crimson Petal and the White - another large book, not to speak of Umberto Eco's 'The Name of the Rose'. Somehow I find myself not always keen to start on a large book - unless it is by a favourite author, but I'm sure I'll get there in the end. I've also ordered one of the Mapp and Lucia books by E E Benson. They seem to keep coming onto my radar and are obviously trying to tell me something.

Have also been reading some so called chick lit - Rosy Thornton's 'More than Love Letters' - it makes a change to find a book set in anywhere other than London - this one's set in Ipswich and consists of letters and e-mails with no other narrative. The novel of letters brought up to date. It's still a good format which shows the eighteenth century novelists knew what they were doing. I recommend it for light reading.

I shall sign off as I have bank statements to check, breakfast to eat and a cake to make - and a long weekend to enjoy - no work until Wednesday.