May in books

May2015_booksFar from the madding crowd by Thomas Hardy. I re-read this (after a gap of more years than I can remember) because I’d seen a trailer for the new film adaptation and quite fancied going to see it. Reading the book again changed my mind; I really enjoyed it and decided that the film probably wasn’t going to do it justice.

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin. The final instalment of the Tales of the City series, I was a little disappointed in this one. Good for fans and completists.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I’d really enjoyed The Secret History and loved The Goldfinch (even though it did drag a little in the middle) but I found this – by and large – to be 550 pages of poorly-edited dullness. In fact the whole thing reminded me of the dragging middle section of The Goldfinch so it also had the unfortunate side-effect of cheapening that novel too. I only finished it because I’d picked it to take with me one weekend when I was doing a lot oftrain travel, and because I reasoned it had to get better. I was wrong. One to avoid.

A Medal for Murder and Murder in the Afternoon by Frances Brody. The second and third books in the Kate Shackleton series, these were quick, relaxing reads. Set in post-WWII England these evoke the classic crime era while being very much a modern product. Intriguing and fun, these books were a great choice to restore my enjoyment in reading (as well as helping to reinforce the habit) after a couple of disappointing choices.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. It was the use of ‘puny’ that caught my eye when checking out books at the library and I was intrigued to give this one a try. Early on it was revealed (to those – like me – who didn’t recognise it) that the title is taken from Coleridge poem, which was initially a disappointment, but actually I enjoyed Toews’ use of language so it was a disappointment that soon faded. This book should come with massive Trigger Warnings all over it; it makes no secret of the fact that this deals with suicide but I found it a surprisingly traumatic read (I read it over 3 evenings and the first night I had suicide-related nightmares). Not an easy read, and not without its issues, but a good one.

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope. Part of a project to modernise all of Austen’s novels, this was the first to be released. I know there’s some talk of how the series could introduce a new audience to Austen, but I actually think it’s best for people who have read the original. I found it an enjoyable read as it gives free rein to enjoy the story as a trashy romance novel rather than a great work of literature (much is made of Austen’s wit, but this highlighted her skills as a storyteller) and seeing how various scenes and characters would be updated. My sense is that this a pretty close adaptation (though it did demonstrate how much of the incidental scenes I didn’t  remember very well). Overall, the minor characters come out very well. Margaret Dashwood (the youngest, and often overlooked) Dashwood sister was a joy, and I liked Mrs Jennings, and in fact the whole Middleton family, in a way I hadn’t with the original.  But Elinor, Marianne and – especially – Edward Ferrars didn’t update very well here. Marianne was mainly incredibly annoying and rude, with insufficient charm to override it. Elinor just didn’t seem that sensible, and the choice of studying architecture just seemed odd (surely an engineer would have made more sense?). Edward was unappealing and weak. And I can’t help but feel that Trollope really should have renamed Fanny.

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