‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel
Tuesday 27th November – Wednesday 19th December
I am going to reveal the shameful extent of my ignorance. I decided to go into this book as blind as possible. No knowledge of the plot – in fact, I barely read the synopsis on the back cover – and no reading of reviews or Wikipedia entries about the book either. And so, when my mother mentioned that it was “about Cromwell and the Tudors” my immediate (mental) reaction was “eh? I thought the Tudors were 1500s, and Oliver Cromwell was 1600s…?”
Obviously, it’s Thomas Cromwell to whom she was referring and despite covering the Tudors at school, it became painfully clear that our education had been extremely lacking in the sort of detail which was abundant here.
I can’t express how much I enjoyed this book. It had great subtlety, the characters were brought to life wonderfully well and the graphic moments were infrequently employed which gave them greater impact.
This is probably my favourite book of the year so far, pushing ‘The Crimson Petal and The White’ into second place.
‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow’ by Peter Hoeg
Thursday 20th December – Wednesday 9th January
I found this very hard to get into at first, and it took me over a week to read the first fifty pages. After that, something clicked and I made more rapid progress, though rapid probably isn’t the right word; I worked my way through it slowly and steadily.
I found myself reading the second half of the book much more eagerly than the first and read the last quarter inside a couple of days. It was involving and better-written than many in the genre but I still found the plot progression a little tangential and the links from one situation to the next a little tenuous, as if the author knew where he wanted each chapter to unfold but was less sure of how to manoeuvre the characters there.
As I reach the end of the first year of keeping a Book Diary, I look back on it with pride. I have not only increased my blogging but I I’m quite pleased with what I’ve written. Having a regular theme leaves me free to concentrate on what I want to say (and I think I’m getting better and transferring that from feeling the text too) without the pressure of thinking “it’s my first post in months, I’d better make it a good one”.
It is interesting to see whether any conclusions can be drawn from the books I read. A lot were Scandinavian and American crime novels, as well as a handful of classics (though they weren’t among the best books I read), and several about aeroplanes. However, the ones which really stood out were those when I strayed from my usual well-worn paths – ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ and ‘Wolf Hall’ as the leading two this year, with ‘The Road’ not too far behind. This suggests that I should vary my subject matter more in future, and I certainly will. I have a stack of books lined up over the coming months which should give me the sort of variety I’m looking for.
I also made a point of not re-reading anything in 2012. Except for ‘War and Peace’ which I had started previously but not finished, I hadn’t read any of the books before. I won’t stick to this rule in 2013, though given the size of the aforementioned pile, I may not have time to re-read anything from my bookshelf!