I was really struggling with reading The Finkler Question recently – just feeling that I didn’t get it. All the quotes at the beginning of the book say how funny it is – The Guardian even calls it dazzling! – and yet the most I could raise was a wry smile. So I was extremely chuffed when three of the books I’d ordered from the library came in and I could legitimately put Howard Jacobson aside and work my way through those (My excuse for shameful book abandonment? Books from the library are mine for a limited time only, and so have to be read first).
The first on the list was The Serpentine Affair by Tina Seskis. This tells the story of seven University friends who, 25 years on from graduation, meet every year to catch-up, fall out, and make-up. The book focusses on one fateful picnic in Regent’s Park, which ends in tragedy, and jumps back and forth between that night, and its repercussions, and earlier years in the story of their friendship. It’s a gripping book, well told, with lots of twists and turns to keep you interested, and I devoured it in just a couple of sittings.
The next book on the list was Where’d you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I’d head good things about this one, but given how much I’d enjoyed the last book, I thought the chances of reading two awesome books in a row extremely unlikely (it’s the statistician in me, I guess). However, I absolutely loved this book, and will be leaping to recommend it any time I hear one of my friends (or, indeed, any passing stranger) wonder out loud what they should read next. Another book with an unusual structure – this one told mainly through letters and emails – it tells the story of 15 year old Bee – daughter of Bernadette, a former recipient of the Macarthur Genius Grant, and Elgin, a Microsoft whizz – and her quest to find her mother when she suddenly goes missing.
Hello, can I help you with something? If not, please step aside because I’m about to kick the shit out of life.
This is a really funny book (as you’d expect from a book by a former SNL and Arrested Development writer), at times touching, and extremely engaging throughout. I have a bit of a soft spot for books from the perspective of a precociously intelligent child (See also: Special Topics in Calamity Physics and The Fault in Our Stars), and this one doesn’t disappoint, with Bee being an extremely likeable and intelligent narrator. I started reading this on a Thursday evening tube journey, and finished it in my lunchbreak on Friday. Get this book, read this book, then tell all your friends.
And now I’m onto the third book. A totally different kettle of fish altogether – Fatherland by Robert Harris. I’ve not read any Robert Harris before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. This is his debut novel – a murder-mystery-conspiracy-thriller type, but with the intriguing twist that it’s set in Berlin in 1964, in an alternative world where Germany won the second world war. I’ve not finished this one yet, but so far so hooked – I’m fairly racing through it, and can’t wait to see where it’s going to end up.
So, I’m feeling pretty pleased with my latest library haul. What are you reading at the moment?
Today’s quote is from Lemony Snicket in Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid.