Seems summer has finally ended. Last Sunday, against all expectation of how my Sunday’s usually happen, I was in a forest in Rugby with some friends playing laser-tag for a stag-do and worrying that I didn’t have any sun-cream on. This weekend we put the heating on and I had to wear a coat when I went out. Not that I’m sad about it. There comes a point during Summer and Winter when I get tired of the weather and begin to pine for its opposite. I am more than ready for an extra blanket on the bed and trying to find my gloves in the mornings.
So the booker prize short-list came out and I had a look through for what I fancied reading. There were three that appealed to me, two of which I have since read. The first, Snowdrops by AD Miller, was a book I had seen on the shelf a while back and almost bought but ended up buying something else instead. I had fancied a thriller since playing LA Noire on the xbox and when I finally got around to reading one I went for a well-regarded classic, The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy. So when I saw Snowdrops on the booker long-list I was reminded of it and bought a copy on my kindle. It wasn’t quite the book I expected it to be. There was a lot of discussion around about the booker judging panel perhaps being more drawn to crime and thrillers this year so I went into Snowdrops with an expectation of spies and stuff. My expectation was wrong but the book didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of a slightly hapless English lawyer in Moscow and how he gets caught up with a pair of sexy Russian girls and a property scam they are perpetrating. I have no idea how realistic the portrayal of Moscow is – never having been there – but it’s strongly and evocatively written. The simple plot actually relieves some of the problems I have found in other thrillers; namely that plot, in an effort to be intriguing, becomes overwhelming.
The other booker short-listed book I read was The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I had never read any of his stuff before, but he comes with a lofty reputation. I read the book in very short order. It’s not long, only 150 pages, but it’s also very hard to stop reading. It skips along, scything out decades of superfluous story in order to remain on point. The point mainly being an examination of an event from when the protagonist – Tony – was young, many years later when he is older. The tacit acknowledgement right at the beginning regarding the reliability of memory and historical fact announces early on that our narrator is going to be, somewhat classically, unreliable. He reveals himself to himself as the novel progresses toward the – I hesitate to use the word twist, which doesn’t seem to quite fit even if it is apt.
So, very good books both. The third book that I fancy from the short-list – Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman may have to wait because Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot finally appeared this week. I started reading it, only about 20 pages, before I decided to read Sense of an Ending first, but now I can’t wait any more. It’s been eight years or so since Middlesex, I feel like I have waited long enough. And very soon Haruki Murakami’s IQ84 is set to arrive in the post, and that’s another book I won’t be able to hold off of reading. A while ago I decided that I would not read two books by the same author back to back like I used to. When I was younger if I found a writer I liked I would read that writer exclusively until I either ran out of books or lost interest. I gave a large chunk of my formative years to Terry Pratchett and Anne Rice. By insisting on switching author every book I read more widely. In anticipation of IQ84 I have been holding off of the remaining books on Murakami’s back-list that I haven’t read. Murakami’s books are always a treat. I deliberately avoided reading Kafka on the Shore for a long time, until I really needed it. I ended up reading it while I was recovering from my brain haemorrhage. I was glad I waited.
So between The Marriage Plot and IQ84 I couldn’t be happier that summer is finally making way for winter; it gives me a great excuse for staying in.