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1A wee bit of culture via one of the great literary adaptations with wonderful music by Prokoviev. I try to see this every time it’s performed at Sadler’s Wells and it never disappoints. This was the turn of the National Ballet of Canada  with new choreography and glorious visuals – a series of Renaissance paintings brought to life. Really, really lovely and gloriously moving.

Scan 19To my shame I have never read any Gene Wolfe before now and decided to start with Peace, partly because of the beautiful cover (yes, I am that shallow) but also because the blurb on the back of the Fantasy Masterworks edition I have sounded intriguing and not at all fantasy like, and the book itself reinforces that view because it reads very much like an ordinary memoir of a man’s life, but it is implied that there is a lot more going on here.

Which is where I have to confess that I had a bit of a problem, because I clearly missed a lot of the subtext around death (not giving too much away as this is mentioned on the back of the book) and I was aware but possibly didn’t entirely understand the timey-wimey stuff until close to the end. This, I hasten to say, is totally my failure to appreciate what Wolfe was doing with this story.

Peace is beautifully written, engaging, with believable characters that I became very fond of, especially our hero Alden Dennis Weer’s Aunt Olivia and her various suitors.

Because I was aware when I got to the end of the novel that I had not really got underneath the skin of this novel, I went off to the world-wide webs to find out what others have said with the result that I am definitely going to read Peace again to see if I was just being particularly dim or if it is as ambiguous as it appears.

All of that sounds like I didn’t enjoy Peace but I really did like it very much. As I said, the writing is super. There is a female character who is rumoured (on apparently no basis at all) to be no better than she should be, the other ladies around her considering  all the rumours to be true because she is so fit

For to them a physical pliancy implies moral accommodation

There is also a lovely quote which made me think more about the process of writing than I normally do. Our narrator talks abut doing something between the last sentence he had written and the one he is currently writing, and says

have you never thought as you read that months may lie between any pair of words?

Reading back this is a very fuzzy and disjointed review of what is clearly an important book in the fantasy genre. But I was confused and can only leave you all with the quote on the cover from Neil Gaiman:

a tricky, deep and remarkable novel

I may have missed some of the points but I am very glad that I read it.

This was my first read for Once Upon a Time VII.

IMG_0106I think it was Anne Fadiman who talked in one of her books about the shelf where she kept books about her particular obsession which was (as far as I remember) polar exploration. I would have a similar shelf if I was more organised (and didn’t have quite so many books) but mine would be all about Royal and aristocratic women. I just can’t resist them, everything from Queen Marie of Romania to The Mitfords via our own royal family. Adore the glamour and clothes and jewellery and privilege as only someone brought up on a council estate in the West of Scotland can.

This is largely my late Mum’s influence and sits uncomfortably alongside my general centre left politics but, you know, can’t help it. Doesn’t mean I watch stuff like Downton Abbey though, I do draw the line (though I used to adore the Upstairs Downstairs, though I have no illusions that I would have been anything other than a scullery maid)

Counting One’s Blessings is a selection of the letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from her childhood to her death. I’ve said before that I often find it difficult to review books like this because they are what they are, and this very much is what it is – demonstrating nothing more than that the QM was a woman of her class and generation, loving the country (and in particular horses), with some insights into her life with King George VI (some of which is picked up in The King’s Speech), her friendships with some interesting people (Osbert Sitwell. Ted Hughes) and her interest in British Art.

If you are looking for scandal, especially around Diana, Princess of Wales, then you will be disappointed. It appears that the QM was so concerned in her later life about things being leaked that she didn’t put her intimate thought on such matters in her letters. Enjoyable if you are interested in the Royal Family or ladies of a certain class and era, but not sure it is for everyone.

AngelmakerI could actually review Angelmaker in one word – awesome. I totally, totally adored this book which was recommended  by my dear friend Silvery Dude who then bought it for me as a belated birthday present in Waterstones Piccadilly the day after the Oscar ceremony when I went to assist him in the spending of his Christmas book vouchers.

I also *fangirl squee* had a Twitter exchange with Nick Harkaway, the author, after which I swooned and then finished the book in a massive reading session on Good Friday.

This is the story of Joe Spork, who repairs clocks and automatons and other lovely mechanical devices in London, and is asked to fix something really peculiar which kicks off a whole series of events which brings him to the attention of secret bits of the government, a magnificent super villain, a notorious serial killer and a strange sect of monkish types. In this situation he finds himself in the company of the greatest lawyer in the world (sorry Silvery Dude) Mercer Cradle (on whom I now have a huge girly crush), the lovely Polly and the nonagenarian spy Edie Banister.

And then there are the mechanical bees.

This is just rollicking good fun, an exciting and pacy story with lovely, sympathetic, complex and realistic characters that I became very attached too. Without giving too much away (and deciding not to go on and on about Mercer but, you know, best thing in a lot of very very good things) I loved it when Joe decided to tap into the influence of his late Dad-with-a-criminal-past. I loved the fact that everything that happens in this has consequences both good and bad for the characters and so has a real heart of truth in amongst all the fantastical elements.

And there’s quite a bit of enjoyable naughtiness as well. For those who like that sort of thing (count me in).

Almost impossible to articulate exactly how wonderful this is. One of my absolute favourite reads of the year, can’t see it being shifted at all.

IMG_0083So, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is one of those books that everyone was reading at the same time last year, and, as I always seem to do, I postponed my read so as not to get caught up in it all. I have absolutely no idea why I do this but it has become a habit and I suspect I’m not going to change anytime soon.

I have read Gillian (a bit over-familiar, sorry) before, Sharp Objects which I reviewed here, and enjoyed it enough to buy (but not yet read, her second novel, Dark Places, and I do have a tendency to read things in order, but I jumped into Gone Girl because I became curious and ended up finishing it in a massive single sitting when I wasn’t very well just before Easter. And I can recommend it as a book to take your mind off illness because it is totally compelling and I really, really wanted to know how it was going to work out.

This is the story of Nick and Amy, a golden couple whose life changes when they have to move away from New York to Nick’s hometown when they both lose their jobs. One day Amy disappears; there are signs of a struggle and Nick is distressed but there is something not quite right, and we follow the investigation into her disappearance from Nick’s point of view, alternating with entries from Amy’s diary from the point at which she first meets her husband.

I loved this. I thought I knew where the story was going, and then a thing happened that both reinforced my theory and undermined it entirely, and then another thing happened which I didn’t see coming at all.

As well as a fabulous psychological thriller it’s also a compelling portrait of a marriage and reminds us all that you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head.

Gillian has been accused of misogyny amongst other things; if you want to know what her reaction is to that then do read this interview with her in The Guardian.

If you are one of the three people in the world who hasn’t read this yet then I can’t recommend it too highly.

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday


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May 2013