So, if nothing else, Spanish TV and its absolute bleakness means that I have managed to put a halt to neglecting my reading habits. For posterity, here’s a brief catch-up of reading this year:
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger ***
This book had a really interesting concept: a man who is (unwillingly) dragged back and forward through his own life and the effects it has upon him but mainly the woman he loves. It had some evocative scenes and the ending in particular stays with me, but underneath it all it was basically a love story rather than sci-fi and…er… I didn’t much care for that. The good parts, though, made it worth the read.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling ****
The Accidental – Ali Smith ***
I have a lot of goodwill towards Smith. Hotel World absolutely captivated me and this book gripped me right until the end. It’s one of those mysterious-stranger-shows-up-and-changes-everyone’s-lives kind of thing, but one full of literary jokes and an air of menace. I don’t know what happened towards the end, though. It was three-quarters a really, really good read, original, funny, dark and then just… not.
ETA: Although the scathing account of Love Actually and its inherent dishonesty was for me one of the lulziest moments of any novel I've ever read.
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon ****
Re-read. I love this book and loved it more upon the second reading. The end.
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway (unfinished)
I thought it was high time I read this book, so bought it on the flight back from America in April. It’s about something that deeply interests me – the Spanish Civil War – but I keep putting it down because something about the writing irritates me, possibly the fact that every time he refers to the protagonist, he uses his full name. It’s a small irritation, but one that drags me out of the narrative each and every time.
Labyrinth – Kate Mosse (unfinished)
I keep putting this one down and leaving it for weeks at a time. I don't know why; it's good and draws me in whenever I read it, but it's also easy to forget. Huh.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coehlo ***
I read Veronika Decides to Die a few years ago an came away thinking that Coehlo was a pretentious git. The Alchemist, though really evocative and thoughtful in some parts, did little to disabuse me of this notion. I know everyone loves this book and I suppose I can see why, but I still dunt like him.
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks ****
Yet another novel about the First World War, but so very well-written that it stands out as one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s about the life of young English soldier and his experiences at the time, but there are so many other strands to the story – his clandestine love affair with a married woman, his granddaughter’s quest to find out more about him, the fate of the people he fought with and so on. The war scenes were unrelentingly graphic; at times, it was hard to continue reading because Faulks doesn’t flinch from describing a man’s brains slopping out of the ruins of his skull when a paragraph earlier he had been joking with another character, so that I was relieved whenever the action cut to his granddaughter’s perspective years later. I managed to get so much from this book and I think it deserves the praise lauded on it by the press and public alike.
Manon Lescaut – Abbe Prevost
Still reading. Enjoying immensely.