I thought it was about time I did another reading list update, as it’s been a good six months or so since the last one. This is what I’ve read since, with some brief thoughts on each in case you’re wondering what to read next yourself. You can click any of the book covers to go to the Amazon page for each one.
The Pursuit of Love – Nancy Mitford (1945)
I’ve enjoyed discovering Nancy Mitford’s novels in the last few months, though I read them in the wrong order having started with Love in a Cold Climate. This one was just as good, if not better, with lots more of the eccentric Radlett family’s antics to enjoy.
The Sandcastle – Iris Murdoch (1957)
This was my second Iris Murdoch novel and I really liked it. It’s about a dull school teacher who has an affair with a much younger artist, though this is an overly simplistic summary. This is exactly the kind of novel I most enjoy, full of emotional complexity and the difficulties of being human.
Charlotte Gray – Sebastian Faulks (1998)
This tells the story of a woman drafted into Second World War espionage. Having enjoyed Birdsong a few years ago, I didn’t think this one was as good; perhaps it’s just that my literary tastes have changed since then. I did learn one or two interesting things about what happened in France during WW2 in France, and it’s rather harrowing in places.
The World My Wilderness – Rose McCauley (1950)
I didn’t overly enjoy this one. Set largely amidst the bombed-out buildings of London, it’s an atmospheric portrait of the city in the aftermath of the Second World War; but personally I found it a bit lacking in plot.
The Man of Property (Forsyte Saga 1) – John Galsworthy (1906)
I knew the story of The Forsyte Saga having watched the ITV adaptation a few years ago (starring Damian Lewis as Soames), but this was the first time I’d read the book. Or rather, volume 1 of an extensive set of books. I discovered that the ITV series is a pretty faithful adaptation and I very much enjoyed reading this first installment. It moved me to tears at the end, even though I knew what was going to happen. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the books in due course.
The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman (2017)
I had no idea that Philip Pullman was planning to resurrect the world of His Dark Materials until suddenly everyone was talking about this book. The Lyra we knew in HDM is a baby in this tome of a book, which is volume one with more to come. I didn’t find it as intellectually stimulating as HDM, but it was nevertheless nice to be immersed back in that world. I liked the fact that the Trout, a favourite Oxford pub, features heavily. The title of this volume – La Belle Sauvage – comes from the name of the boat central to the story.
The Diary of Two Nobodies – Giles Wood and Mary Killen (2017)
I’m a recent convert to Channel 4’s Gogglebox, but you don’t have to be a Gogglebox viewer to enjoy this delightful book by the programme’s two funniest stars. It’s very well written by both of them, and their observations about marriage are hilarious – they had me laughing out loud.
Don’t Tell Alfred – Nancy Mitford (1960)
Don’t Tell Alfred is a follow-up to The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, and while not quite as entertaining as the first two, it’s still an enjoyable bit of comfort reading. In this one, set quite a few years after Love in a Cold Climate, Fanny’s husband Alfred is appointed British Ambassador based in Paris. Cue plenty more larger-than-life characters and hilariously awkward social situations.
Murder in the Snow – Gladys Mitchell (1950)
I seem to have got into a tradition of reading a murder mystery novel between Christmas and New Year, and this one was a present from my sister. Subtitled ‘A Cotswold Christmas mystery’, it made ideal holiday reading for this Cotswolds fan. The new edition, which came out in November last year, has lovely cover artwork.
I must confess that I’ve also abandoned a couple of books since my last reading list update. I started The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell, as I was interested in learning more about the Scandinavian lifestyle, but I found it to be like a feature-length Cosmopolitan article in style and substance, and I just can’t cope with that kind of writing on that scale. Especially the fact that it’s written in the present tense – I can’t bear that. The other book I gave up on was, I’m afraid to say, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. I had high hopes for it, having loved Middlemarch, but there was just too much written in dialect and honestly, it was just too much effort after a long day of copywriting!
What’s on your reading list for this year?