You would think, spending five hours of my day commuting to London, I would find more time to read, but January has been as cruel as December and my literary hunger is still at record low.
Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
A classic piece of literary fiction you feel you should read, but find difficult to digest, Orlando is beautifully written but incapable of holding my attention. Set in the 1600s Orlando follows the protagonist’s life; beginning as a man he then metamorphosis into a woman and finally decides to alternate genders. While this take on gender lead me to select the book, I was definitely unprepared for the dull tale into which it is woven.
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
“Written as a fictional memoir by the elderly Miss July, The Long Song recounts Miss July’s life through slavery and emancipation on the Jamaican plantation of Amity. While innocently trying to befriend Mrs Caroline Mortimer as a child, the recently arrived widowed sister of the plantation owner, July is taken from her mother to serve Caroline at the main house. Unimpressed with the name July, Caroline renames her Marguerite, preferring the names sound as it rolled off her bloated tongue.”
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
“McEwen does something to me similar to Japanese horror films, he scares me without really showing me anything scary. It is the anticipation, noticing that all is not well, and the subtle character interactions; you do not need blood and gore with an author who can scare you with mere words. His characters are subtly creepy, like many dysfunctional people their oddities are slowly disclosed the more the protagonists are trusted or needed.”
The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks
Now one of my favourite books, The Wasp Factory is intelligently frightening; an indefinable balance between knowing what is sane and what is not. Set in isolated Scotland, The Wasp Factory is set over a couple of weeks in the life of Frank Cauldhame, a psychopathic Catcher in the Rye. In contrast to his brother Frank is the normal one, Eric Cauldhame however, has never recovered from a damaging mental breakdown. Frank’s hate of the feminine in his masculinity this is another interesting take on gender; The Wasp Factory is a must read.
Dear Lupin….. Letters to a Wayward Son by Rodger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer
“Dear Lupin… is beautiful not only in wit and genius but also in demonstrating the extent to which a father can love his son. Charlie Mortimer, fifteen at the beginning of the shared correspondence and over thirty-five by the time of his fathers death, sounds like a child over which any parent would worry. While an affectionate and amusing youth he grows to be allergic not only to full time education but, in addition, full time employment. In wit and determination Charlie clearly takes after Mortimer the elder; in terms of addictive personality, his mother.”