When I plucked Saving Lucia from my To Read pile, I wasn’t expecting another time travelling novel that takes imagination and rethinks reality. I also wasn’t expecting such a slim book to be so dense with ideas and feelings.
The Lucia of the title of Anna Vaught’s book is the daughter of James Joyce, incarcerated in St Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton in 1953. One of her fellow residents is the Honourable Violet Gibson, daughter of a Lord Chancellor of Ireland and famous for her attempted assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini. Violet makes it the work of her last few years to save Lucia from the pain of life in a psychiatric institution.
I did pretty well with this challenge. It’s the first time I’ve properly done Novellas in November. I’ve tagged the odd novella that I’ve happened to read in November before, but never followed the prompts. I enjoyed it. It made me think about my reading more strategically and helped me to knock six titles off my To Read pile.
My best friend bought me Alberto Manguel’s reflections on a life in books, because she knows me very well. Packing My Library is subtitled An Elegy and Ten Digressions. It opens with Manguel’s reminiscence about the last location in which he had set up his library of 35,000 books. His reflections on the serious matter of what libraries are and what they mean to us are punctuated with digressions that often stem from a throwaway thought but also season the whole.
Early on, Manguel warns us that he can’t think in straight lines, that he goes where his thoughts lead him, something reflected in his idiosyncratic approach to arranging the books in his library. Manguel groups things by the first language of the author, then by author surname. I’ve come across people who arrange their books by the spectrum of colours on their spines. I’m pretty much an author surname and publication date arranger, although with non-fiction the size of the book also comes into play, and I don’t necessarily arrange non-fiction by author or chronology.
I, too, love a digression.
The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald is a novel disguised as a travel book, recording a walk along the Suffolk coast and inland to Norfolk but also documenting local culture, the interplay between people and landscape, and how transient life is. I read Sebald’s Vertigo a few years ago and loved it, and have wanted to read more by Sebald since.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s second novel, The Dance Tree, crossed my radar thanks to Emma reviewing it as one of her 20 Books of Summer over at Em With Pen. Emma made it sound so appealing that I reserved it at the library.
Here we are again and already at the first Saturday in the month. July this time, and a new round of Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
I’ve read this month’s starting book, Katherine May’s Wintering. It’s a bold choice with which to start our chains, and it took some thought for me to find a thread. I forged my chain late on Saturday night, but chose sleep over wrangling it into a post. Only a day late with that.
Rating 4 stars
Staying Home is a collection of four short stories selected from the 2020 Comma Press Short Story Course. These course collections are available exclusively in Kindle format for 99 pence each, and are often the first time the included writers have been published.
The 2020 course collection features four women writers, one of whom is a friend. The course took place online in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic, and this is reflected in the subject matter of one the stories. Continue reading
Back at the start of the year, Mayri at Bookforager set up a Book Bingo challenge complete with bingo card. I decided that I would give it a go.
The first Saturday in May is upon us, and here comes Six Degrees of Separation, the book meme hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
This month, to start us off, Kate has chosen a book that I haven’t read yet by a favourite author of mine.
Rating 4 stars
The Silence of the Sea is a novella of occupation and resistance. It was published in German-occupied France in 1942, not quite two years after the occupation began. Its author, Jean Bruller, wrote it in roughly eight months, publishing under the pseudonym Vercors. I borrowed a bilingual edition from the library that reproduces the definitive French text published in 1964 alongside Cyril Connolly’s 1944 translation into English. Continue reading