This is an entirely bookish update since the city is on lockdown again following a rise in COVID cases last weekend. So, real life has not seen any adventures recently.
On the plus side, I am over my reading slump. However, I am now faced with way too many books on my “currently reading” shelf. I started all of them at some point, then set them aside because of the slump.
I finished several books this week, the weakest of which was Less Than Angels by Barbara Pym. This was my second Pym (after Excellent Women) and I am sure that while Pym was an accomplished writer, her books just aren’t for me.
Yes, the Pym fans out there will gasp in horror, but I found both books deadly dull.
Only slightly more … engaging, because enjoyable is the wrong word, was A.L. Kennedy‘s Paradise, which was interesting because it follows the journey of an alcoholic in all of its believable by gut-wrenching detail. Enjoyable it was not, and I was glad to finish the book and leave the utterly depressing world that A.L. Kennedy threw me into. “Paradise” – LoL. It seems the author has a sense of humor.
I also finished two group reads with the “Agathytes” on Goodreads: Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie was our first ever club read. At this point, all of Dame Agatha’s mysteries are re-reads for me, but I loved revisiting this particular collection of Poirot stories because they show how much Dame Agatha was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories.
Our other (non-Agatha) selection was The Secret of Greylands by Annie Haynes. Haynes was a new to me author. While the story was not what you might call sophisticated literature, I had fun following Haynes slightly dim main character across the gorgeously atmospheric Yorkshire moors. It is clear to see that Haynes was inspired by the Bronte sisters in this book, and the best part of the book for me was not the mystery (which is laughable) but all of the high drama that Haynes threw our heroine into.
I look forward to reading more by Haynes, and in preparation, have picked up a few other books by her. Oh, who am I kidding? I picked them up because all of them have been re-issued by Dean Street Press with absolutely gorgeous covers.
I can also report that I have come to the conclusion that I do want to finish Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. We abandoned the buddy read over on Goodreads, but I just want to finish the book.
It’s not been an enjoyable or even engaging read, and I have had a lot of issues with Arendt’s writing in this book. However, the third (and last) part of the book seems to have picked up, probably as a result on Arendt working within her metier or social and political theory rather than trying to present historical analysis. I hope to finish the book later tonight if only to be able to say “BE GONE!”.
Without a doubt, the best book and reading experience I have had this week was a buddy read that we started last weekend. We picked Francesca Wade‘s Square Haunting, which features five short biographies of Virginia Woolf, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, H.D., and Eileen Power, who all lived at addresses in the Mecklenburgh Square area of Bloomsbury in the inter-war years. Of the five mini-biographies that Wade connects to Mecklenburgh Square, I had heard of Woolf, Sayers, and H.D., but Eileen Power and Jane Ellen Harrison were new to me.
I loved that book. I love Mecklenburgh Square, the place where Sayers created Wimsey and where her Harriet Vane resides also. Being a Sayers fan, how could I not be interested in the book. So, it was such a joy to find an author who apparently shares the same interests I have and who appreciates the same sort of details, because there were quite a few times throughout the book that I felt enlightened about issues that I had wondered about also.
Anyway, I loved the book so much that I ordered a physical copy for my shelves.
By the way, I strongly suspect that Wade’s title was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s short piece Street Haunting: A London Adventure. I may have problems with her stream of consciousness style in her novels, but I love quite a lot of her essays, and this is one of my personal favourites. Her love of second-hand books is one of the reasons why:
But here, none too soon, are the second-hand bookshops. Here we find anchorage in these thwarting currents of being; here we balance ourselves after the splendours and miseries of the streets. The very sight of the bookseller’s wife with her foot on the fender, sitting beside a good coal fire, screened from the door, is sobering and cheerful. She is never reading, or only the newspaper; her talk, when it leaves bookselling, which it does so gladly, is about hats; she likes a hat to be practical, she says, as well as pretty. 0 no, they don’t live at the shop; they live in Brixton; she must have a bit of green to look at. In summer a jar of flowers grown in her own garden is stood on the top of some dusty pile to enliven the shop. Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.
Reviews posted this week:
None. While the reading slump has gone, the review writing has not resumed, yet.