Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In the wings...

Another couple of weeks and The Ragazzo and I will be on vacation in England, so I'll be selecting my vacation reads from among these (and anything I pick up along the way and since I know of two bookstores we will be visiting in London and we'll be visiting Hay-on-Wye, that is likely).

My Life as a Dog is one of my top 10 movies of all time, but I have never read the book. The paper I am writing now draws heavily on this story so I should have it at my finger tips. Ingemar is around 11 years old, growing up in late 1950s Sweden. His mother is dying and the film is about the anticipation and the aftermath of that event. His life is an absolute wreck. He has an angry adolescent brother, none of the relatives want to take him, and he is the type of kid to whom disasters constantly happen. He muses on the dog, Laika, sent up in Sputnik without any food. He feels it is important to experience life's tragedies in perspective, he tells us. The film is touching, but not a downer, I don't know what the book is like but I am about to find out.

All my English booky acquaintances have been going on about Sarah Waters latest, The Little Stranger but the book pictured left caught my interest first. The Night Watch is set near the end of World War II in London and moves backward in time through the lives of ordinary people. The Little Stranger is a Victorian era ghost story. They both sound like entertaining reads, and Dani seemed to enjoy The Little Stranger. It sounds like an addictive, wait I just have to read the end of this chapter kind of book. I hope so as The Ragazzo and I are planning on doing four things, hike, read, have tea, and see friends. Oh, and go to bookstores, and theatre, and opera. Ok, seven things.

What Dovegrey had to say about this Orange Prize shorlister also caught my fancy. The central character is a woman of the theatre and the writer, Deirdre Madden, is Irish. So between my first career, the theatre, and my weakness for the Irish narrative voice (as if there is only one, but that little wee green island has churned out an impressive list of story tellers) I should have a good read ahead of me. The playwright muses over the nature of acting and writing as sculpters of identity, and the results sound as though they are thoughtful and moving.

It's A. S. Byatt's latest, what more can I say. I just read her sister's (Margaret Drabble's) book on moths, so I guess it is her sister's turn with dragonflies. Actually I don't know know much about this book other than the fact that it has a gorgeous cover and that Cornflower books is anticipating its pleasures too. Even when I haven't liked a book by Byatt, I have had to admire it. This sounds like it chronicles the end of innocence as the Victorian era gives way to the Edwardian.

I just picked Night Train to Lisbon off the bookstore shelf. It tells the story of a man whose life is changed by a chance encounter, in a bookstore no less. It sounds like it could either be wonderful or awful. But Isabel Allende liked it, the cover said so, and who am I to challenge her!

I read Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy as part of The Outmoded Author's challenge a few years back and I tore through those 900 pages like wild fire. If you are not familiar with the book, you might know the television adaptation Fortunes of War. A young English husband and wife go to Bucharest on the eve of World War II. The community of ex-pats of which they become a part has some very memorable characters and in addition to the involving plot, the book is simultaneously a history lesson about how the war unfolded for the niaive. They escape to Greece and as the first trilogy ends, to the Levant where the aptly titled next three volumes take place.

Those are just some of the pleasures that await me in the wings. And now, I had better get working on that paper.


Danielle said...

Anything by Sarah Waters has to be good--at least in my experience that seems to be the case! :) The Night Watch is next up for me (at least the next of her books). I'm really into this period right now, so it should fit in nicely with my reading. I have Olivia Manning on my pile as well (maybe will get to her this year....).

Isabella K said...

Byatt's book is excellent. The last couple of hers I've read I admired but found difficult, like she deliberately kept me emotionally distant from her subject matter. But this book -- I read it weeks ago -- I keep thinking about and marvelling over different and subtle aspects of it. Not much about dragonflies in it (the image is a reference to brooch by Faberge, whose art/craft she does discuss), but tons about pottery and Fabianism. I've written quite a bit about it lately, if you're interested.

Ted said...

Danielle - I can't wait to encounter my first Sarah Waters.

I - I had a great aunt and uncle who were Fabians in the 1930s and throughout their lives, so that should be interesting!