And here we are again, almost two months on from the last post, with yet another late arrival. Why the long silence, I hear you say? Why indeed. OK, I had edits to do on BAD DAY IN MINSK (which you are going to LOVE when it comes out in April 2021, I promise you) and I had day job stuff to do, but that doesn’t really explain it. I guess it’s just life. Or maybe COVID ennui.
But I still have plans for this blog. I have things I want to write about. Writing things, mainly. But I also want to tell you about my recent Raspberry Pi project, of which I am actually quite proud – probably more than I should be. However, before we do that, I need to honour the commitment I made to myself to talk about every single book I’ve read.
(Parenthetical question: does anyone read blogs any more? Probably not. But I guess I’m too old for TikTok and I was never very happy with my foray into YouTube, so blogging is pretty much all I can do.)
So here we go. The books I read in August, September and October. Not nearly as many as I would have liked, but there you go. Blame that COVID ennui again.
Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR by Alexandra Sankova in collaboration with the Moscow Design Museum. Another coffee table book to feed my unhealthy obsession with Soviet design. Some extraordinary illustrations from the early days of the space race.
Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian. Lovely meditation on nature and our relationship to it. I’m a massive fan of Lev’s books (I’m currently reading his next one – Music to Eat Cake By – now) and this is an absolute treat. His description of the Rothschild Collection at Tring actually made me want to go back and take another look to see all the things I’d missed.
Appius and Virginia by G.E.Trevelyan. I got an advance PDF of this from the publisher. G.E.Trevelyan died in 1941 and has largely been forgotten, but if this is anything to go by, her books are worthy of being exhumed. This is a strange, almost unbearably sad tale of a lonely woman who adopts a young ape and attempts to raise it as if it were her own son. I’d definitely recommend it, although I would caution that it’s quite an emotionally demanding read.
Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion. The story of a soldier with PTSD who inherits an apparently possessed boat from his grandfather, and how that ends up affecting all the other relationships in his life. It’s a chunky but ultimately very satisfying read. I supported this one on Unbound and I’m very glad that I did.
Real Tigers by Mick Herron. God, I love these books. This is number three in the Slough House series, and probably my favourite so far. If you haven’t discovered Herron yet, get yourself a copy of Slow Horses now and start from there.
A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr. Everyone was recommending this one on Twitter a few months back and I finally got round to reading it. It’s a very short book indeed, but it’s every bit as wonderful as everyone said. It’s one of those novels where nothing happens and yet everything does.
An Inheritance by Diane Simmons. This novella in flash follows the story of a brooch (the “Inheritance” of the title) through several generations of a family. As befits the form, much of the story is in the gaps between the actual words, and the net result is a deft piece of storytelling. The traditionalist in me says that I’d love to read a “proper” full-length novel from her, but maybe I’m missing the point. In the meantime, this will do very nicely.
Defending the Pencil Factory by Adam Marek, and The Testimony of Alyss Teeg by Carys Davies. A couple of single short stories from Guillemot Press. I’m a big fan of both these writers and I was very excited to come across these shorts when I was buying Tania Hershman’s and what if we were all allowed to disappear – which I still haven’t plucked up the courage to read. Well, the good news is that the Marek story is excellent – strange, tense and menacing. The not so good news is that the Davies story doesn’t work for me at all, partly because of the folksy narrator and partly because of the treatment of the subject. It’s all a damn shame because The Redemption of Galen Pike is one of my all-time favourite collections.
Finally, a couple more Nightjars: so this is it by Paul Griffiths and The Violet Eye by Mike Fox. The first one of these uses only the words Ophelia speaks in Hamlet, and I must confess I failed to engage with it at all. My bad, I suspect. The second one is a haunting story of the relationship between a son and his father set amidst a failing marriage. I would read more of his work.