While May is still all about finishing books on my reading pile (I've finished two and hope to finish a further two--maybe even three--this week), I'm going to fudge a bit on not starting any new books (I knew I would never be able to stick to that). Of course when I finish a book I had planned all along on moving up another to its place, but I'm afraid I've picked up two more books to add to my reading pile which I really hadn't planned. I'll just pretend it's advanced math and then admit that I never was very good at math. Besides reading at whim is a good thing, and reading should never be about feeling guilty.
Instead let me mention a few of the really good books I've been working on and a few more that I have high hopes for that I can't wait to spend more time with. The reading pile will work itself out in the end.
After a little hiatus (that would be a library due date that I couldn't ignore and getting back in line for a book), I have once again fallen into the story of Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles. This is one I hope to finish in a couple of days as it is a literary page turner. It's been ages since I read Homer in high school, and Greek myths are even further back in time. Were the stories as exciting as Madeline Miller makes them? Whatever and however she's done it, I am planning on listening to The Iliad on audio as soon as I can figure out which version I want to download. If you're not familiar with the book it is the story of Achilles and his friend Patroclus, a friendship that is a juxtaposition of one favored by the gods and one who is the underdog--all set against the backdrop of the Trojan War. Miller's book is shortlisted for the Orange Prize, ane while I've not yet read any of the other contenders, I would be very happy if she walked away with the prize.
I don't think I've mentioned yet From Newbury with Love, edited by Marina Aidova and Anna Horsbrugh-Porter. I want to write more about this one later, so I'll just say that it is a fascinating book of letters exchanged between a British couple and a Russian family in the 1970s. It's the sort of book you can easily pick up and read a bit of and then set aside and not lose the thread. I always tell myself I'll just read a few letters and then move on to the next book except I keep finding myself reading one more letter, and then one more and so on. There was a time when I was much younger that I went through a huge Russia/USSR phase, so this was a great find for me. And just the sort of nonfiction I am in the mood to read, as I can't seem to make much progress in any other NF books lately.
The other book I've been spending lots of time with is Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray. This is a YA novel that was recommended to me that happens to be written in journal format. I was very much enjoying it a while back but then it got sidelined, so I'm happy to have gotten back into the story. It reminds me vaguely of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle with another family living in genteel poverty, this time on the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray. The talk is of the political upheaval in Spain and Germany, but soon it will all become much more personal when two German soldiers arrive on their island.
As for the two extra books I've started? This is what happens when I go off on a reading tangent and ask for suggestions. Inevitably I'm going to take you up on your recommendations and why ask for them and then set them aside. I want to read them now, of course. Many thanks, by the way, for all the great ideas as now I have loads of good books to explore. I pulled out copies of Leaving Brooklyn by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (have owned this one for at least a decade I'd say) and Swamp Angel by Ethel Wilson. I like to think I am an equal opportunity reader, so the former is a New York author and the latter Canadian. Schwartz writes exquisite prose. I really did just think I was dipping into the book out of curiosity, but I liked what I read so much I decided to just keep going. I was going to share an excerpt here, but I think even that deserves its own post. I find myself wanting to go back and reread passages right from the start. How's that for impressive? Swamp Angel is a pearl-handled revolver! I just started reading and the story grabbed me so much I didn't want to put the book down. I read one of Wilson's short stories last year and thought it was quite unusual and have meant to read more of her ever since. It's nice to finally get around to a few of those 'mean to read' authors, of which I have many!