It seems that I must begin every post these days with an apology for failing to write anything here – I haven’t even been reading or commenting on anyone else’s weblogs either – and it’s becoming a boring beginning but it is true nonetheless, I am sorry that I haven’t been around. Casa gallimaufry has been blighted with endless colds and perforated ear drums and broken legs, while the mighty heap of Important Work Things To Do has piled up relentlessly and unhindered by anything in it actually being done. But most annoyingly of all, I have been and still am constantly tired, despite plenty of sleep and early nights. This has been going on for a couple of months now and it’s making me cross. It’s robbing me of the ability to think or write or play and it must stop. I don’t feel like myself very much any more.
The tiredness has contributed to a reading slump and a lot of half-finished books and what-do-I-really-fancy-reading? wasted hours, but all has not been lost and I have been working my way through these:
- Led by the Nose: A Garden of Smells, by Jenny Joseph, was a book I saw praised by Christine so I immediately ordered it. I made the mistake of devouring it in a couple of sittings; that is definitely not the best way to read it as it can be a little repetitive (maybe you don’t mind about that but I do) and it’s easy to skim over some of the lovely writing. While it is a good book for the armchair gardener, of which I am a fine example, it does also give plenty of practical advice about fragrant plants – and this includes plants which smell in unexpected ways – and what to do when in the garden, so I think I shall be referring to it quite a bit in the future on those days when I’m pretending to be a gardener. I am also stopping and sniffing and thinking about scent much more than usual, and this is very pleasurable.
- Seaward, by Susan Cooper, is a book I never knew existed until I saw it praised on several weblogs (I’m so sorry if one of them was yours, I can’t remember now!). It was just the ticket when I was feeling particularly ill; however, I couldn’t help wondering that much as I enjoyed it, would I have done so even more had I read it as a child. I do think that a frisson of nostalgia for my childhood and my first encounter with a book adds just that extra zest to some rereadings. Do you?
- De eerste zaak van Montalbano, by Andrea Camilleri, translated from the Italian into Dutch by Willy Hemelrijk. I am trying to read more fiction in Dutch, and I decided that detective novels were the way forward – strong plots to keep me turning the pages. I did intend to borrow one by a Dutch or Flemish writer when I last went to the library as I have been repeatedly told that reading translated fiction is not the best way to learn a language, but... with a complaining small child in tow and an array of big thick novels by writers I didn’t know in front of me, I wimped out and seized a small book with a familiar name on the cover. Inspector Montalbano is the only television I watch apart from the news, I love it, insanely unrealistic and whimsical as it is.
- George Eliot: The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes. Here’s a biography I’ve had for ages, bought years ago in a remaindering shop or whatever they’re called. I’m almost halfway through it, and Mary Ann Evans is yet to publish any fiction, but I have learned a lot about her early life and relationships. Hughes seems to see the roots of Eliot’s fiction (especially The Mill on the Floss) as in her childhood and her psychological speculations aren’t always very helpful. Despite this, her Evans/Eliot doesn’t really come to life for me. Sometimes she quotes a letter of Mary Ann’s and it is so fizzy and clever that I feel a bit suspicious of some of Hughes’ analyses. Hughes is strong on people’s foibles, less so I find on their strengths. The choice of subtitle is weird, and I think that some of the colour plates in my edition (hardback) are incorrectly captioned. However, she manages that tough balancing act between readability and scholarly detail exquisitely. She is also excellent at placing Evans/Eliot in her social and intellectual milieux and I am finding this fascinating – I mean really fascinating, more than enough to compensate for any shortcomings I’ve perceived. In fact, I am now rereading in the light of her observations of Evans/Eliot’s early life...
- ... The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot. After I read this the first time, I was so angered by the ending – how could you kill off Maggie, Mary Ann? – that while I subsequently read some of her other novels – Middlemarch in particular, such a brilliant, brilliant novel – I could never bring myself to reread this. Which was silly of course, but then I am silly. Anyway, I am deep into this and I cannot feel sorry that I did not reread it before because I am enjoying it all so much. I had forgotten just how funny George Eliot was.
Now I am toying with the idea of reading Romola next because I have just signed up for the Coursera MOOC (erm, what is a MOOC?) ‘Plagues, Witches and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction’ after I read Alex’s post about it. I doubt I will do more than dip into it but it looks fascinating and might breathe enthusiasm back into my lacklustre reading spirit. I also have a bottle of vitamin pills (they’re called ‘Multi A–Z Vrouw Vitaal’, I fancy being ‘vitaal’) and I hope that reading, writing and posting will all perk up again very soon.