Funny old things, holidays. They come and go and before you know it you’re back at work and realise once more that those two long awaited weeks off have just been that, funny old things. They don’t change your life, holidays, they don’t provide the kind of time that somehow or other create a new you, different, someone who is doing all the things you never have time for. ..
I did not write that book, I did not write those stories, in fact I did not even read as many books as I usually do and the reading did not provide the kind of stimulus I had expected from all the books I had hauled along with me. Most of them came back unopened, some did not keep me absorbed at all.
Cornwall proved a bit of a conundrum in that we obviously had booked the wrong cottage at the wrong end of it. Once we had exhausted ourselves with walks along the coastal paths in spitting rain interpersed with galloping clouds chasing a couple of sunny spells, once we had sampled the seafood served in the restaurants in the village, and once we had gone further afield to visit the lost gardens of Heligan, been on the ferry to Falmouth and sat on the terrace of some beautifully secluded beach hotels, once we had done all that we decided to pack up all our books, computers and further belongings, stack it back in the car and drive home. Yes, we did have our laptops, only there was no internet access anywhere in or around the cottage, and even the mobile telephone connections were intermittent and crackling… I can hear you all say, how wonderful and fantastic to live so close to nature, so cut off fromeverything, only it was more like being thrown back into the fifties than anything so romantic as ‘nature’. No, home comforts were the better bet and so the second week has been spent in utter bliss pottering around the house, the garden, the local shops and yes, even the Norfolk beach, which was exactly what it should be on a mildly sunny summer day: a long stretch of white sand, white clouds, warm sun, and a calm breeze. Why go all the way to Cornwall (an 8-hour drive, including holdups) when you have it all on your doorstep? That’s a lesson learned. Next year, if all goes well, we’ll opt for another hot and sunny spot somewhere in the mediterranean, with good food, guaranteed sunshine, a place with easy access (let’s be honest, I’m not someone who enjoys ‘basic living’, I need my comforts, including internet access and comfy chairs to read in, preferably situated outside somewhere, and wooden tables to put my laptop on and, yes, telephone access).
And the books I read or half-read? Here it goes, even if I am not in the mood to write full reviews, I’ll let you have them with some cryptic comments:
Before leaving I mentioned being disappointed with Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Undaunted, I decided to take her latest book ‘Home’ with me. I suspected that I might have been in the wrong mood when trying Gilead as I can see, and appreciate, how well Robinson writes. Her sentences and use of language are perfect, she knows how to evoke the astmosphere of Gilead, the characters in her stories. Reading Home, I realised that I don’t like the stories, I don’t like the characters, there is something unappealing in the small town living, I wanted to shake them up, in particular the sister Gloria from whose perspective the story of her brother, Jack, is told. Perhaps that is the intention of the book, but I found my impatience running out, in particular as I could not for the world of me believe that Jack was real: someone so insiduously bad (is the implication), who nevertheless comes across as quite a normal person in his rebellion against all the small mindedness of the village, and the religious bigotry. I realise that this has very much to do with my own impatience with it (which has a very long history) and so perhaps this is just the wrong book for me. Well written, yes, but not one that I enjoyed reading that much.
To perk myself up I read le Carre’s A Most Wanted Man: le Carre never fails, I’ve loved all his books, the stories about spies, about the east-west divide, the moral questions about political beliefs and convictions and the shadiness of such dogma’s. This book draws you into the world of Issa, an illegal immigrant in Hamburg and into the world of extraordinary rendition, treachery and convictions about doing the right thing. Issie is hunted by the English, German and American secret services but it is not altogether clear whether this is because he has actually carried out acts of terrorism or whether it is simply because he has previously been tortured by the Russians and hence is a suspect. Issie is a moslem and a Czechian. Le Carre’s writing is as subtle as ever and characters are revealed little by little until at the end we learn the cruel and devastating ways of intelligence and counterintelligence that takes no notice of human beings. Definitely a book to take with you if you are going anywhere on holiday.
Enough for one day – I’ll write about the other books in my next post. I have read The Looming Tower – Al Qaeda’s Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright (excellent), half read Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao (too many Spanish references, to many allusions to graphic characters that I don’t know anything about – great writing though) and have now picked up Stieg Larsson’s The Girl who Played with Fire (cannot put it down – am cursing myself for having bought the hardback version and not waited for the paperback: cannot possibly haul this around with me on the train next week!).
And then of course there’s the news that keeps us busy reading the newspapers: the green revolution in Iran, the encroaching swine flu, the continued recession and so many other things. The Sunday papers are waiting to be read, and then there’s the start of a full working week tomorrow, including visits to London and Wales. What’s new?