After the hurly-burly of Halloween Bingo, I’ve relaxed into a very comfortable reading speed. I love it, but it means that I don’t have a lot of new books to update on again this week. However, I’ve been on staycation for a week and managed to dive into some serious reads:
Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales had been on my radar for a long time, but it took a friend’s reading updates on LibraryThing to intrigue me enough to order a copy.
As I hadn’t checked the details, I ended up with a modern translation of the tales, which initially caused me some concern. So, I also found a version of the text in the original Middle English. It was fun to compare the two. I liked the Middle English version for the poetry, but I preferred the modern translation for readability.
Much has been written about The Canterbury Tales already and I’m not sure whether to try and add a review later this week. However, I would like to say that – once I switched off my 21st-century reader’s outlook – I enjoyed many of the tales for quite a variety of reasons – some were funny, some were thoughtful, some seemed way ahead of their time (late 1300s). I’m not sure I’ll read more medieval poetry anytime soon, but I am glad I read The Canterbury Tales.
The second book I finished was Sandi Toksvig’s memoir Between the Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus (2019). I really loved this book. This wasn’t just a great memoir delivered in an unusual – and to me very appealing – style, I loved that we got to see sides of Sandi Toksvig that are very much understated in her tv appearances mostly because they are glossed over by an obvious comedic performance. In this book, “performance” took a backseat, and the more serious – though still hilarious – side of the author came to the fore. We follow her on her commute by bus (yes, she takes the bus) from her home in South London to her place of work near Oxford Street. On the way, the author stops to highlight London landmarks and embark on discourses of memories and thoughts that she associates with them. It is an unusual memoir in that way but it works – whether it was because I could relate to some of the landmarks or whether it was because many of her points about feminism (she co-founded the Women’s Equality Party) and society struck home, I don’t know. I am just glad I finally got to read the book in full after hearing snippets of it at a talk by the author in Edinburgh last year.
Finally, I finished reading a collection of W.H. Auden‘s poetry. I started reading this collection in June and I am so glad that this has been my companion over this summer. I don’t know what it is about Auden, but his poems speak to me. It may be that it stood out to me how much he emphasised the impermanence of everything. It may be that I appreciated his experimenting with different styles – some worked better than others. It may be that I appreciated that he didn’t hide behind euphemisms. Something just works for me in Auden’s poetry and I am not even all that keen to dissect what that something is.
As many others, I was introduced to Auden through John Hannah’s rendition of Funeral Blues in Four Weddings and a Funeral (“Stop all the clocks, …”), but over time he’s become one of my favourite modern poets.
Other reviews posted this week:
Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
Testament of Youth – Vera Brittain
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson – Laura Beers
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)