Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Celibate Season

One of the wonderful things about getting older is that I no longer feel I have to finish books if I'm not enjoying them. I don't have the time left to waste! And libraries make it even easier as books are free!! Isn't that incredible? When I think about libraries I am so grateful.

But anyway, back to my recent choices. As you may have guessed the first one I didn't finish reading.
Sweet Desserts by Lucy Ellmann. 
Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, it's written in a style I didn't enjoy so gave up fairly quickly.

The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia by Sarah May.
I got to the end of this but after every few pages I considered giving up. I'm not sure why I didn't really. It's also called a black-hearted soap opera, and looks in details at the lives of the residents of one close in the 80s. Not one happy character, not even one who wants to be happy. A miserable ending to a miserable story. 

A Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard.
"An original collaboration between two award-winning writers," and as one is a poet I was a little unsure whether this might be too literary for me to read last thing at night. It wasn't; it was an absolute delight.
It's written in the form of letters between a husband, Chas, and wife, confusingly Jock for Joycelyn, when Jock, a lawyer, takes on a 9-month contract to work in Ottawa on a Royal commission on women and poverty while Chas, an unemployed architect, is left in Vancouver to play house-husband.
If I'd written this yesterday afternoon before I finished the book I'd have had nothing but praise for it; as it is I felt there was one bit at the end that didn't ring true, but, on the whole, I would have been happy for it to go on and on. (It's quite a short book.)
I was so involved that I found myself saying, 'Oh no, do you think you should say that?' at various times to one or both of the writers. 'That's going to be misinterpreted,' or 'that sounds a little demeaning.'
Highly recommended.

Also recommended is This is Life by Dan Rhodes. 
A young French art student in Paris finds herself in charge of a stranger's baby for a week while across the city a run-down cinema used for erotic films is being prepared to host an art exhibition that involves the naked artist living in public view for a period during which he collects every bit of, well, anything that comes out of his body. 
It sounds peculiar but again this book is a delight. Gay in the old sense and Parisian and light. If I think of Sweet Desserts it would be as a big grey cloud; This is Life is blue sky with occasional wisps of cotton wool clouds.


mrsnesbitt said...

Yes empathised with saying stuff aloud when the plot doesn't work - whilst it's annoying I still have to endure the book to see if I was right!

Furtheron said...

I'm glad it isn't just me that fails to see how some books win prized. I spectacularly failed to read Hilary Mantel's work of literary genius as frankly it seemed to be a mess to me... but then I'm not a literary critic

nick said...

I loved This Is Life. I keep meaning to read some more Dan Rhodes titles but keep getting distracted by other authors - Meg Wolitzer in particular.

I can usually judge pretty accurately from reading the first few pages of a book whether I'll enjoy it or not. It's rare for me to get it quite wrong and have to give up on a book a quarter of the way through.

Rose said...

I have also decided that life is too short to waste reading books I don't like. I used to download some free books from Amazon, but so many of them were so poorly written that I not only gave up on them but also gave up on free books in general. But I also have some books that for one reason or another, I haven't finished and do intend to. Sometimes I have to be in the right mood for a particular book, too. Always good to hear other recommendations!

Ole Phat Stu said...

Book Tip:
The Screwtape Letters. By C.S.Lewis. 1941

Being the instructions to a lesser devil on how to tempt a human.

Subtly written and most enjoyable, even by Atheist me :-)

Liz Hinds said...

Thanks, Mrs N.

I read the follow-on Mantel book, Furtheron, which was difficult to follow.

Yes, Nick, I must look for some more Dan Rhodes'.

Yes, I agree, Rose, that sometimes only a particular book will suit the mood.

I read that years ago, Stu, but maybe should look it up again.