I was all set to start a different book when Tom Cox’s Notebook arrived in the post. This is a book I’ve been waiting for, delayed by the pandemic, pledged for in 2019. Cox is an author who does his own thing, publishing through Unbound since 2017, and a writer whose work fits the contours of my brain so perfectly that I don’t think twice about pledging for his books.
Before I even opened the cover, an extract on the back sleeve made me laugh.
Permafrost is the first novel by Catalan poet Eva Baltasar. It’s a thing of beauty, visceral and uncompromising. It’s about depression, and being cared about but not loved; it’s the story of someone who tries not to let others in because being self-contained is safer. It’s also deeply, dryly funny.
The final installment in Virginie Despentes’s Vernon Subutex trilogy draws together threads from the previous books and has characters zigzagging into one another’s lives, turned there by coincidence and kismet.
For my next read, I travelled from the 17th century and Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and England fighting to control trade across East Asia, as fictionalised in Shōgun, to the 18th century and the rise of a trading corporation with violence in its constitution. William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy is a boiled down history of the East India Company and its violent occupation and control of the Indian subcontinent that laid the foundations of the British Raj.
I’m still struggling to get my reading head together, so I thought I’d put together some ponderings on a series of books I haven’t read that are the basis for two tv adaptations that I’ve watched and loved. Just a bit of randomness to while away a moment. I’m also going full ‘blocks’ with this post, rather than relying on the safety of the ‘classic block’. Hopefully it will look okay when I post it.
February is six days old, and here’s the first Saturday of the month and Six Degrees of Separation. Check out the meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best if you want to join in. This month, in a return to normal things, we’re starting with a book I haven’t read, Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road.
James Clavell’s Shōgun was published in 1975. Five years later, it was adapted into a television mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain, which I was allowed to stay up past bedtime to watch. Ten years after that, the novel reached 15 million sales worldwide. It’s a true blockbuster novel. I hadn’t read the book until my friend Lisa lent me her copy, a well-read 1982 edition she picked up on the pound shelf at the local superstore. When I started reading it, it felt like pure escapism. There came a point, though, during my reading, when real world events made me reflect on the way human nature doesn’t change, our political systems behind their veneers of democracy are still feudal at heart, and to live through interesting times makes you fodder for future historical fiction. Shōgun is still a cracking yarn, though. Continue reading →