Well, that was more of a break than I’d intended! It seems that even people who only work part-time sometimes need a holiday too, and I’m just back from two weeks of jauntering about England visiting unlucky friends and family and probably leaving a trail of odd articles of dirty laundry behind me. We learnt about the pioneering plastic surgery performed during the Second World War on pilots and aircrew who were badly burned at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead; we marvelled at Viking musical instruments and also a massive Viking poo at the Jorvik Centre in York; we revisited the ship burial at Sutton Hoo, despite the National Trust still a magical place; and we went several times to the Ipswich Museum, where the Egyptian Gallery has inspired my daughter to mummify the next unfortunate pet to die (she has even purchased a small canopic jar for the stomach; I am hoping that I can steer her more in the ship-burial direction, coward as I am).
Before my holiday I was tired, depressed and grappling with the problem I expect most of us deal with, of what is the point of any of this when there is so much misery, cruelty and destruction in the world. How can people bear such suffering as so many do, and how can we bear to witness it and yet do nothing effective to prevent it? Now I feel better but this is because I have distanced myself from it, and that feels wrong somehow, selfish and solipsistic. People who are fleeing war or poverty don’t have the option of taking a holiday, enjoying their garden, reading lovely novels or picnicking with friends. So although I feel happier at the moment, I do not know how to resolve this. Any suggestions gratefully received. :)
Anyway, back to the holiday and cheerier themes. As ever, I forgot to take any photographs. But! I also went a bit wild in the bookshops. For this we can all blame my parents who generously gave me a book token for Waterstone’s. (Although even I cannot blame them for the church-fête and charity-shop acquisitions.) So, I shall show you my haul and am keen to know which ones you have read and what you thought of them...
(The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, by Frances Wilson, because I love the Romantics and I love reading biographies of talented women; The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley, because her first novel was fun; The Encyclopaedia of the Dead, by Danilo Kiš, because both Kaggsy and Nicholas Lezard recommended it; Writers as Readers: A Celebration of Virago Modern Classics, because how could I not after reading HeavenAli’s review? Starlings, by Jo Walton, because she seems an interesting writer and short stories are a good way to get to know someone’s work)
(Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery, because how is it I don’t have a copy of this already? The Storm Keeper’s Island, by Catherine Doyle, which is obviously for my daughter and not at all for me; Peter Pan and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie, this is actually really for my daughter and is illustrated by Mabel Lucie Atwell sentimentally but sweetly)
(The Complete Fairy Tales, by Charles Perrault, which is a kind gift from Hayley of Desperate Reader and which I only just managed to prise from my mother’s hands; Folk Tales of the British Isles, edited by Kevin Crossley-Holland, my star score from the Samaritan’s Bookshop at only £2.50, I am still cackling with glee over that one how lucky am I? In the background a dragon made by my daughter is posing nonchalantly)
(And a handful of detective novels, The Glimpses of the Moon, by Edmund Crispin; False Scent and Death at the Dolphin, by Ngaio Marsh; I like to have a little pile of detective novels, children’s books and other easy reads for when I am lazy or tired and I now have definitely enough to keep me going for a while)
That is not all: I have forgotten to photograph another charity-shop purchase, Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, which I am devouring at the moment. It is lovely. Meanwhile, as if that weren’t enough, I came home to find Theodora Goss’s new novel had arrived, yippee!
And while I was away, Shiny New Books had their Booker Anniversary Week, to which I contributed short pieces on Troubles, by J.G. Farrell (winner of the Lost Booker), The Sea, by John Banville, and The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga. I enjoyed all of them very much but I have to admit my favourite was Troubles. The other reviews are excellent and it forms an interesting if partial survey of changing literary tastes and fashions.
Normal service here will be resuming, in the mean time please do comment with your opinions and advice and I hope that you have been enjoying the summer so far.