Michael lent me Imperium, a historical novel set in Rome, following the rise to Consular status of Cicero, narrated by his salve/aide Tiro. The book is sold as largely accurate for history, fleshing out the human side. This was a potent mix and the book was a pacey page turner. Rome was certainly full of political intrigue towards the end of the Republic and I got a keen sense of the political collapse.

Looking forward to reading part 2 of of the planned three parts of Cicero’s life. Lustrum

“Imperium” (Robert Harris)

The Lovely Bones

Christine sent me this book through the post after reading it, and it’s one of he most original books I’ve read for a while. The idea of a dead person watching their family cope with their bereavement is not a new one, but the narration of the story by the murdered girl is disarming and the opening chapter shocking in her quiet, accepting approach to her murder, I loved the tone and pace of the book until near the end, when there is a supernatural occurrence that I think the book would have been stronger by omitting. Just about to add Alice Sebold’s other two books to my Amazon wish list!

“The Lovely Bones” (Alice Sebold)

Two Caravans

Two Caravans Twocaravanswiki.jpg was a romp of a read. It follows the story of russian, polish and african migrant workers getting exploited in the UK. The themes are dark: sex trafficking, exploitation of migrant workers, sexual assault, murder. However, the treatment makes all this seem easy to cope with—the book is consistently upbeat. The success is in the fantastic dialogue and phrases used by the characters, which make the novel so entertaining. The Dog, gets a stream of consciousness which is highly amusing. This follows on A short history of tractors in Ukranian, both by Marina Lewycka.

Just added her third novel, We are all made of glue, to my Amazon wish list!

Purple Hibiscus

I was far too late to read this for the Free Press Book Club, but just finished Purple Hibiscus. One benefit of the book club is that I’m encouraged to try books that I wouldn’t normally read. Purple Hibiscus fits that bill. It’s a story about abuse of a family by a fanatically christian father, and how the family escape. It’s set in Nigeria and the description of the food and the family traditions are really interesting. Overall it was disturbing, and because it was believable, probably more disturbing than many books I’ve read that set out to disturb.

“Purple Hibiscus” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

The Shipping News at The Free Press Book Club

Had a good book club night at the Free Press reading The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. I read the book in June and loved the detailed, careful and exquisite language used, and the exciting visual imagery and atmosphere that the book generated. A few people didn’t get on with the book at all, found the style of writing in the first half too difficult to enjoy and couldn’t finish the book. ‘Book John’ gave a great insight: Proulx was using the language to mirror the mental state/development of the lead character, Quoyle, and make us feel the awkward and uncomfortable as he did. This makes great sense, but I’d missed it in my reading—as the development of the character/language happens naturally through the book.

Discussing the book with about 9 other people brought it all flooding back, and how much I enjoyed it:

As a hot mouth warms a cold spoon, Petal warmed Quoyle

Orlando: a Biography

This book was great fun. Not as much fun as Jeanette Winterson’s Boating for Beginners (which has a similar tongue-in-cheek tone). In this occasion, I really do prefer the film to the book. The books is full of wit, and fun, but in the end I found all the references to Vita Sackville West became a bit tedious and and sycophantic (probably because I read all the numerous footnotes). But I still loved the free and wide-ranging story, with sex changes, and wonderful imagery and atmosphere. The book explains some of the strange scenes in the film, and the importance of them. The film is better still, though, with the wonderful Tilda Swinton.

“Orlando: a Biography (Oxford World’s Classics)” (Virginia Woolf)

I, Claudius

Fascinating reading the exploits of the Caesars, particularly when the stories have been spiced up with a bit of fictional adaptation. I went back afterwards to have a quick flick through Suetonius (the Twelve Caesars) and Graves has actually followed the outline of Suetonius well (mind you it was Graves that made the translation of the Twelve Caesars that I have).

“I, Claudius (Penguin Classics)” (Robert Graves)