Once again it's a little too warm and I am a little too tired to think very hard. So tomorrow Laurie King's A Grave Talent and today let me share what I'm reading at the moment. At the beginning of the month I was feeling sort of directionless and out of sorts with my current reads, but I've been concentrating on a smaller pile of books and have been enjoying them all immensely (mostly anyway). I might not read as much as I had hoped this month (and when am I ever really satisfied with how much I get to read?), but at least I am settled well into them.
Okay, so let's start with Charles Palliser's The Quincunx. I have, of late, a really bad track record when it comes to Big Books. This isn't as big as some others I have read, but weighing in at over 800 pages it's big enough. I admit I have been dragging my feet a little bit with it. It's an engaging story and when I am reading I am enjoying it, but if I let it sit for a few days it risks the possibility of languishing. I already have too many languishing books and I want to stop the trend of not sticking with long books (well, and short ones, too for that matter), so I have been paying extra attention to it this week. Had I not joined Buried in Print in reading this I think I might quietly have set it aside, but reading along with someone always helps me stay motivated.
In case you are not familiar with it, it is a Victorian pastiche, a story of which Dickens would be proud. It concerns a widowed mother and her son who become, as the story unfolds, ever poorer. They hold a codicil to her grandfather's will that more than one relative wants to get their hands on. The thing is, like any good Victorian story, this is a riches to rags story (I hope their riches are eventually restored!) and one where every bad thing that can happen to the two seems to happen. I have finally (nearly 300 pages into the story) become privy to the content of the codicil and things are tripping right along. I think it is the endless chase and unpleasant things that is wearing a little thin. But I am nearing the end of a section and so am optimistic that Something is going to Happen soon. I do hope so. In any case, I've done the math. A mere five pages daily will ensure that I finish the book by year's end. I hope to finish sooner than that, and have been reading more than my 'required' five pages, though.
I'm really enjoying Philippe Claudel's Grey Souls, which I am reading for Caroline's Literature and War Readalong. Now here is an author where I ask myself--why have I not read his work before? I'm making myself slow down and enjoy the story and the writing style. He's a French writer, so I don't know what his work is like in the original, but the translation must be good since I am finding it so hard to put down. Although the setting is WWI France (though he moves around in time), the war mostly happens off stage (am at the midway point now). This reads more like a murder mystery since at the heart of the story are two deaths, but it is at least as much about memory and perception. There is lots of reflection. An unnamed (as yet) narrator. Lots of questions that keep me reading and wondering and hoping to find out the answers. And the narrative moves in a languorous almost meandering way, but I like it, since it moves so smoothly. I'm going to dig out the other books by him I own.
I've been working on Peter May's The Lewis Man, which is the second book in his Lewis Trilogy. I just discovered that the third book, The Chessmen, has recently been released in paper, so I was prompted to get moving and pick up the next in line. I loved The Blackhouse, which I read last year. I was surprised by how easy it was to pick up the thread of the story where it left off. It wins a prize for most atmospheric setting by the way.
Hilary Scharper's Perdita is another compelling read and one I might just end up calling a favorite this year. Whimsical is not exactly the word for it--it reads a little like a fairy tale almost. You have let go any preconceptions of what reality should be. There are two storylines going, one set in the present and the other in the 19th century, which is told through diary entries. I'm not yet sure who Perdita is, but the diary-keeper is a woman named Marged who claims to be 134 years old. Her diary begins in 1897 when she is only fifteen and living on a Canadian peninsula, where her family takes care of a lighthouse. All sort of favorite storytelling and setting elements that I love is going on here. And there are mythological references, which I love, too. I think I might have to order her other book, which is a collection of short stories called Dream Dresses.
And Mary Stewart's Airs Above Ground is my lunchtime reading material. I really like Mary Stewart. She is pure and utter comfort reading. If I let myself, I would inhale this story. It's easy reading (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) and a story you can lose and wrap yourself in. The setting is Vienna, and there is something of a mystery about the circumstances that Vanessa March finds herself in. I was fortunate enough to have lived in Austria for a year many years ago, so there is a nice familiarity to the setting, which (silly as this sounds) makes me feel all warm and tingly. Both the story and the setting!
My reading pile is going to increase by one as I don't think I can pass up Cornflower's next Cornflower Book Group choice, Jane Gardam's Crusoe's Daughter. I own a lovely Europa Editions edition and have already pulled it out and I'm ready to start reading.
I have several 'almost finished with this' books on my night table as well, and will begin cycling them in as soon as I finish a few. It feels so much better to have settled myself in a few good books with more good ones on the horizon (and I have even got back to doing a tiny bit of needlework each morning, too). There is something about reading that restores my equilibrium. Thank goodness for books with good stories, yes?!