My November Reading - a series of complex stories

Author: Anne

Date Published: Dec 2nd 2018, 4:53pm

And to the end of the eleventh month with only one to go. I need to think soon about writing my Best of Year blog to round off 2018 although, to my surprise, I see that plenty of people have already published theirs. Oh to be so organisaed or to have so much time !

I didn’t read a lot last month. Only 22 books in total which is the least for any month this year. I was quite surprised when I realised this because I wasn’t aware that I was reading any less than usual. The reason seems to be that I read a lot of complex books. That doesn’t mean that they were very long, although most of them were, but it means that they had difficult subject matter or took a lot of reading for some other reason.

Here’s a few that stand out for me in this month’s reading :

• “A Place of Greater Safety” by Hilary Mantel is a book of the French Revolution and there were a lot of characters and events to keep track of when reading. I enjoyed it but feel that maybe I need to know more about the period to get the most out of it

• “The Children’s Book” by AS Byatt is a family saga set at the time of the Arts and Crafts movement. Again, it had a lot of characters and nothing much seemed to happen for long periods. It was quite easy to put down although I am glad that I persevered.

• “Supreme Sacrifice” by Walter Reid is a book about the Scottish town of Bridge of Weir and recounts the histories of all the young men named on their war memorial as having died in the First World War. There are over 70 of them. It’s a great idea and the author is able to range around most of the areas where there was conflict and all the different services in telling the story. It wasn’t one you wanted to read in large chunks though because the relentlessness of the death was quite harrowing.

• “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi is a novel of the slave trade set in Ghana and America. It’s actually not as harrowing as I thought it might be but it deals with quite difficult subject matter so you didn’t want to read too much at once.

At the end of the month I was near the end of two other complex novels :

• “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton is set in New Zealand in the nineteenth century in the goldfields. There is a large set of characters to keep track of and a series of connected events. The author does recap a lot but the book is over 800 pages so it is taking a while.

• “The Vanishing Witch” by Karen Maitland is an historical novel set at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt and it is unrelentingly miserable – there isn’t a cheerful event or character in the book. Every time you think that things cannot get worse then they do ! I did enjoy reading this book but it was necessary to take breaks and look at something more cheerful from time to time.

I have now read 336 books this year so I anticipate reading 360 to 370 for the year. It is by no means a small number but it is less than I have read in a year since 2008. I have no problems with this as I am not in competition with anyone and I think it reflects that I have now begun to read longer and more complex books in amongst the genre fiction which has for so long been the mainstay of my reading life.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts about the year as a whole – the Best of the Year blog should be published in the next week or so.