Posted by: Corri van de Stege | June 12, 2010

The Sunday Salon – some more Cloud Atlas and what I’ll be reading on Cyprus

In Saturday’s Guardian David Mitchell gives a us a nice insight into Cloud Atlas – how he came to write the book the way it turned out.  I have now finished reading this for the second time and am still so very impressed by his writing.  Not only has he managed to write a book that is absolutely fascinating as well as being brilliant  / clever, but at the same time he is clearly someone who loves  language, his words, and his sentences and so has managed to create a book that is quite extraordinary.  It is a Russian doll, the first half unravels stories to be finished one by one in the second half of the book picking up on the links left in other stories.  It is amazingly well done and to get your head around it it is best to read David Mitchell’s own account of what it is that he is doing in The Cloud Atlas.  By the way, the title is taken up in one of the stories as  a  musical composition.  This is really clever writing, which takes imagination as well as a mastery of language.

Well, I’m almost off on my yearly break, to somewhere warm – Cyprus this time.  The agony is packing a suitcase, and I’m determined not to take too many clothes (there’s a washing machine after all) but nevertheless have enough reading to cover all eventualities.  There’s nothing worse than being in the wrong mood for the books in your suitcase, is there?

On top of my own reading I want to pack some stories for granddaughter, who will be coming on holiday with us (and her parents).  So my suitcase needs to make space for some additional ‘sticker books’, reading stuff for 5-year olds and other surprises.  I’m not giving anything away here, as they need to be surprises. 

My e-reader has Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna (yes, the Orange Prize winner), Aftermath by Peter Robinson, Zadie Smith’s The Return, Pulmann’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, and even a Homer and Alice in Wonderland.  Then, my shelves are sagging with all the books that for some reason or other I thought I might want to read urgently and I have to decide to take one or two or three.  How many books can you read when you have much better things to do such as walking to the beach with your granddaughter or teaching her how to swim in the pool?   And reading to her.   Exactly, time’s too short.  I’ll make up my mind about my reading list just minutes before I close that suitcase on Tuesday.  How’s that? 

Meanwhile I’m reading Lorrie Moore’s fantastic book A Gate at the Stairs.  I leave you with a quote that shows what a good writer manages to do: come up with absolutely amazing observations that make you smile and think, yeah she’s so right.  These two really tickled me:

‘After a childhood of hungering to be an adult, my hunger had passed. Unexpected fates had begun to catch my notice. These middle-aged women seemed very tired to me, as if hope had been wrung out of them and replaced with a deathly, walking sort of sleep.’

And then, in the next paragraph, a telephone rings:

 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” its vigorous twang not unlike a harpsichord at all, and so not completely offensive to the spirit of Mozart, who perhaps did not, like so many of his colleagues, have to roll about as much in his grave since the advent of the electronic things.”

Don’t you just love it?  I’ll be very happy spending my flight from Standsted to Cyprus reading this and more.



  1. A Gate at the Stairs sounds very tempting! I’ve been noticing this author around and have not yet read anything by her!

    Here’s my salon:

  2. I really enjoyed A Gate at the Stairs…reviews were mixed, but I found her writing just delicious.

    Your holiday sounds superb… I’ll be anxious to hear what you thought of the Lacauna ( I didn’t much like it, I’m afraid.) Peter Robinson is always a good bet for holiday reading!

  3. Cyprus sounds like a lovely destination for you and your loved ones! I can’t wait to take my wee girl on a vacation.
    And Cloud Atlas… it has been on the periphery of my vision for some time now; you have convinced me to read it at last.
    I hope you have a wonderful trip – don’t get sunburned!!

  4. Cyprus? Packing a suitcase, just one, with special clothes and things and “books?” Unplanned time? Walking with a “grand” on the beach? All bliss. All sounds perfectly perfect. Yes, you will known exactly what books to pack on Tuesday.

    I don’t know THE CLOUD ATLAS but am intrigued. Also by the L Moore book. (I’ve read one of hers; BIRDS OF AMERICA, and found it yanking at my heart throughout for no particular reason, and NOT becuase it was sentimental. Yes, I shall revisit Moore.
    In the meantime, you visit Cyprus and love it love it love it and come back to tell us tales of the Med. You are my fave travel writer.

  5. I have an award for you here:

  6. Have a great holiday. I suspect the Lorrie Moore book is the best of the books you mention – although your e-reader is obviously well-loaded. I didn’t get on with The Lacuna for some reason and gave up on it much to my shame

  7. All – thanks so much for all your good wishes, prizes and other comments on my reading list – I have been terribly lazy and not opened my computer much this holiday… shows you that a bit of sun, good beaches and particularly good taverna’s and beaches can actually make you turn your back on things you do in normal life! I’ll catch up shortly, promise. Am on my last day tomorrow and then it will be back to the grind, but also to discipline of blogging. Not that I haven’t read, oh yes I have, will let you now all about it, sooner or later. xx

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