Sometimes the life of the dedicated book lover is not an easy one.
Like that fact that there are so many wonderful books to read. I remember an interview on CBC radio years and years ago; Vicky Gabereau, the wonderfully witty and engaging interviewer, was speaking with Robertson Davies, the wonderfully witty, erudite, and engaging icon of Canadian literature. And he said something to the effect that his one regret in life was that there were too many books to read. I’ve always loved that answer. So yeah. There’s that. Keeping up with my constantly accumulating “to read” pile… that’s hard sometimes. Good thing I’m retired.
|Vicky Gabereau source|
And then there’s the opposite problem. Finding good books to read. Especially when many of one’s favourite writers in a genre have died. Like P.D. James, and Ruth Rendell, and Reginald Hill. And Canadian novelist L.R. Wright, her mysteries are wonderful. Don’t get me wrong; there are lots of wonderful writers out there… the problem is finding them.
I get lots of ideas for new books and new authors from book review sites, and yearly lists of recommended books from book reviewers and editors, and long lists and short lists for awards. And great suggestions from readers of this blog. And even from former students, like Sarah Weinman whom I taught many years ago. Sarah’s a writer and critic in New York now. And recently, I subscribed to her newsletter The Crime Lady. It’s filled with all kinds of talk about books, and links to other articles about books. I also read writer Adrian McKinty’s blog The Psychopathology of Everyday Life where he talks about books, the ones he reads and the ones he writes. You might recall that I’ve mentioned (here and here) how much I enjoyed his “Troubles Trilogy.” But, you know, all this searching for book ideas takes time. Good thing I’m retired.
And then I find a writer I like. Whose work interests me. Who is talented, and inventive. Whose books are well written stylistically, which is important to me. Who does his or her research, and as a result, their books have that “value added” thing I talked about a while ago, where the reader learns about all kinds of new and interesting things and places. And I’m excited and really enjoying their books. And then they let me down. Not me personally, of course, but me as a reader.
|Sharon Bolton source|
Someone like, say, Sharon Bolton. Whose work I’ve read with interest for a while now. She’s a talented writer. Her settings are so well drawn that you feel like you are right there. Her characters are interesting, if a bit overly angst-filled at times. Even the secondary characters have intriguing back stories. Her plots are suspenseful and well crafted. That is until Bolton throws in that final plot twist that spoils it for me. And instead of surprise, I feel only incredulity. Really? Really?
Let’s take Bolton’s latest book Little Black Lies as an example. Set in the Falkland Islands, it’s a story of loss and revenge, of two women who are life-long friends, one of whom has lost her sons in an accident caused by the carelessness of the other. The novel skilfully recreates life in the sparsely populated Falklands twelve years after the war, breathtakingly beautiful but bleak, with a society that is isolated and inward-looking. Bolton deals with the aftermath of the Falklands War, when Britain can’t decide what to do with this “relic of empire.” Former soldiers cope with PTSD, local conservationists deal with the harshness of nature, and amidst all this, children begin to go missing. The story moves deftly between several narrators. I was fascinated by Bolton’s picture of the Falklands, and by her depiction of the lives of the three main characters who have been so damaged by war or by happenstance. And how they cope, or do not cope with tragedy. Until the end. The end really pissed me off… if you’ll pardon the profanity. It was an end unworthy of the rest of the book, in my opinion.
|Jane and Hugo… reading. Thanks for the photo, Jane.|