Posted by: Corri van de Stege | September 18, 2007

Books on the go – 1

The armchair traveller challenge is completed, I’ve read my six books and reviewed them – and it’s not even November yet!  It’s been an excellent challenge: I’ve read books I might have ignored otherwise and the reading has taken me across continents and provided insights into different writing styles.  All good stuff. 

Now it’s back to my own disciplines, meeting the challenges of the creative writing course, reading books for the sheer pleasure of it but also because they are part of research for my own writing and approaches.  I find myself therefore with a pile of books that shifts across the house, depending on where I am and what I’ve been doing.  Writing at the computer, the books, or some of them, are on my desk right next to me, then, when I want a comfortable chair, I either take them back to my sofa or downstairs to comfortable armchairs, and on an individual basis they are stuffed into overnight bags and briefcases for reading on trains and in hotel rooms.  

So there they are, first of all two books I’ve read before but that have for some reason or other found themselves back into my radius: Any Human Heart by William Boyd and Atonement by Ian McEwan

Any Human Heart is a gripping gallop through the 20th century, via the diary of Logan Mountstuart, son of well-to-do parents, mother Uruguayan and father English, who live in Urugay but move to England when Logan is about 8, in 1914.  The style is so clear and readable and through Logan we are given snapshots of how one middle class English male, comfortably of, university educated, author of a tome on Shelley and then some more, experiences living in England and then Europe.  His loves and affairs, miseries, wars and meetings with a range of historical figures from the Prince of Wales to Virginia Woolf and European artists and writers.   I am slowly working my way through chapters and entries and savouring this book again, bit by bit, enjoying the style and excellent character descriptions that draws out the human-ness of the protagonist, his fallibility, which is so recognisable.  It is so well written.

 Atonement – yes I know, the film is coming out and is being reviewed left right and centre, but I wanted to reread it, in particular the beginning, the description and drawing out  of Bryony’s character – it is do well done – before it gets washed down by the visuals of a film (and I know, sooner or later I will want to see the film).  The description of the characters and the slow unfolding of events at the beginning of the book are McEwan at his best, I think.

Other books?  I’ll comment again, some time this week.  There are at least another three or four on the go – I’ve never done this before, reading this many.   Whether I finish them all is a different matter of course.


  1. Congratulations on a job well done!

    I’m half way through the stunt but have put it on hold as I’ve been reading books out of sheer pleasure and on the meaning of life. I’ll eventually return to it with The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy.

    Sometimes books keep on staring at me at the bookstore but I never muster up to pick them up and read. Usually it takes a blogger or two to egg me on to it and to get them a push.

    Any Human Heart falls into this category. I think I’ll check it out. 🙂

  2. Matt: Well, stick to reading books for pleasure – that’s what they are there for. Never heard of Elaine Dundy – so that’s one I need to check out!

  3. I’ve never heard of Dundy until I checked out the book a blogger reads for the armchair traveler challenge.

    Yesterday when I was at the library, I picked up a book by Elizabeth Bowen (one of the authors from outmoded author challenge) for which Elaine Dundy wrote an intro.

    What a delightful coincidence!

  4. Will check out your blog – you’re sure to have written about this!

  5. […] read McEwan because he crafts his stories in such a very professional and succinct way (see also my review of Atonement).  He flows from a present and moves effortlessly back, through the use of rather short chapters, […]

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