Having learnt my lesson last month, I'm going to try to post about the books I am reading on a more regular basis! This month has been quite book-filled already - partly because I have so many to tempt me but also because I've been working on a large cine film transfer project so have had lots of time to read whilst I keep an eye on the reel quality. It must be rare to do a job where more work leads directly to more time to read so I feel quite lucky at the moment!
First up we have Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence which I "found" whilst tidying one of my bookshelves and realised I'd never read. The book is set in the strictly socially regimented world of New York's elite in the 1870s. At the outset of the novel, Newland Archer, a member of one of the city's best families, is eagerly anticipating his marriage to society beauty May Welland when May's cousin, the beautiful and exotic Countess Ellen Olenska, arrives on the scene from Europe having fled her husband. What follows is a story of conflict between desire and social acceptability and Wharton's acute character observations, which are never over-drawn, are a delight. Penelope Lively, who wrote the forward for the Virago edition I read, describes it as "One of Edith Wharton's finest novels - a rich and powerful description of a vanished world" and, given it also won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, who am I to argue with that recommendation? I really must re-read The House of Mirth...
Slam by Nick Hornby was on a "two for £7" offer in Tesco so was allowed into the house as a pre-birthday treat. My idea, obviously. Slam is about a very likeable sixteen year old boy called Sam who lives with his Mum and is a skater (he goes to great pains to explain that this does not mean ice-skating). I warmed to Sam and enjoyed his take on life as it takes an unplanned path for him. For me, Nick Hornby is at his best when writing about teenagers (or men who have not really grown up yet!) so this was a return to form.
I read about Garden Spells a while back over here on Cornflower's blog and agree with her comment that it's "a delightful novel of froth and whimsy". I was writing a carefully crafted synopsis to explain what the book was about when I found the American description which I prefer to the UK version so will abbreviate here!
"Bascom, North Carolina is a town where everyone is known for their family's characteristics, passed down through generations. The Waverleys are known for their magic touch: Claire, who came to town when she was six and never wants to leave, can turn the plants in her garden into delicious food and drink with spectacular effects on those who consume it. When her sister, Sydney, returns to Bascom with her little girl, in flight from an abusive marriage, she proves a catalyst for change."
It's a really delightful read that left me wanting my own, slightly less grumpy, apple tree. Which won't make sense unless you've read the book... This was Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel and she's added lots of books extras to her website that include some of the recipes.
Lastly, we come to Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale. It was the first of his books that I've read but I shall have to read some of his others as I loved his accomplished writing style. He vividly draws a realistic picture of what life must be like for talented artist Rachel Kelly, who has bi-polar disorder, her husband and four children. Each chapter starts with the gallery information notes for an object or painting from her posthumous exhibition and then follows the viewpoint of Rachel, or one of her family, to allow the reader to gradually build up the full story of her life. It's a very clever book and, even though you sort of know where it's going to take you and what it's building up to, I couldn't put it down. For more, visit his website here.