‘The American Future: A History’ by Simon Schama
Friday 28th September -Tuesday 23rd October
I picked this up for mere pence in The Works some time ago, having seen the TV series and enjoyed it. The problem I anticipated was that as this was written around the 2008 American presidential elections, it would be dated despite only being four years old. However, I was completely wrong. Only the introduction dates the book, and even then not in an ‘oh-that’s-so-2008’ way, more a contextual anchor for the rest of the text.
Despite taking quite a while to read the book, I found it fascinating. I tended to read in bursts of dozens of pages at a time than gradually working my way through the text.
I learned an enormous amount about American history (despite having seen – and clearly forgotten – the series when it was on television) and it was interesting to read the contrast between intention and realisation. The book painted a very attractive picture of the American ideal and a depressing one of the way in which this was twisted and exploited by immoral and misguided people over the last three or four centuries.
Having read Simon Schama’s ‘Power of Art’ last year, and enjoyed the television series which accompanied both books, I can honestly say I would willingly read anything he has written.
‘The Children of Húrin’ by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)
Wednesday 24th October – Thursday 1st November
I bought this several years ago at a bargain price in HMV, but had repeatedly put off reading it, having been rather daunted by The Silmarillion’s dense text and foolishly assumed that The Children of Húrin would be the same.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite its very dark and tragic plot. The lack of hope, and the despair which permeates the entire story make more grown up than many of his other stories, and puts the tone in stark contrast to the (I feel) rather childish style of The Hobbit. In some ways it is probably right up there with The Lord Of The Rings as my favourite Tolkien story. At 250-odd pages, it’s a much quicker read!
With the film of The Hobbit imminent, I was struck by how easy it would be to turn this into a fantastic Middle Earth tragedy, though it’s debatable what sort of audience such a hope-free film could attract.