By the time I worked my way through last month’s list I felt like I was drowning in testosterone, so I’ve kept this month’s list short and gentler.
‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee (1959): is a memoir of the author’s childhood growing up in a village in the English Cotswolds in the years following World War One. These are no misery memoirs but neither does the golden glow of nostalgia entirely obscure the reality of a life in which it was perfectly acceptable for a house to flood every time there was a storm, education to consist of a rudimentary Three R’s delivered as well as they would ever be by the age of 14, and for a child to have eleven siblings, of which four were deceased. And that’s before we’ve even reached the superstition, murder, and suicides. Lee shares his memories with a warmth and humour which is irresistible even when his recollections are decidedly unsettling.
‘Mrs Dalloway’, by Virginia Woolf (1925): Much like ‘The Years’, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ focusses on the minutiae of upper-middle-class life, but here the attention is on a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, the middle-aged wife of a Member of Parliament preparing to host an important party. Although a potential source of tension, in the form of an old flame, has already made its appearance, so far the story has a calm, dreamy quality which is very restful.
‘The Bone People’, by Keri Hulme (1983): An award-winning New Zealand classic, this is the story of artist Kerewin, who lives in a literal tower by a windswept beach. When she finds a mute boy wandering one day her life is set on a new course. The book is well known for its indirect, symbolic style which incorporates both traditional Maori and Christian elements.
‘The Bible’: Next up is book of ‘Ruth’, a short story of womanly solidarity in the face of tragedy which contrasts starkly with the violence of the preceding book of Judges with its refrain that ‘in those days there was no king in Israel: everyone did exactly as he pleased.’ With 40 books down I have 26 to go to finish my annual read.
What’s on your reading list this month?