Thursday, 30 August 2012

Light Books and Heavier Books

After my quick dash to Wales and back last week, I barely stopped at home before I was off again - visiting Edinburgh. It was a stay with friends - and a reunion with new friends and some old ones, too. It was about book shopping and revisiting old haunts like the Blue Moon Cafe - and then sitting up late with pals to watch old TV and films like, 'Tales that Witness Madness.' (Joan Collins and Michael Jayston's weird erotic hankering for a spooky tree. I've been haunted by that film for years and delighted to actually see it again!)

Moving around so much, all my reading was from the Kindle. I spent the first half of the week with Guy Fraser-Sampson's second Mapp and Lucia sequel, 'Lucia on Holiday.' It reminded me a little of 'Auntie Mame Around the World' - in which Patrick Dennis sets his monstrously funny heroine loose upon the continent and the wider world.

This is a fabulous book. Beautifully put together, plotted and characterised, doing full justice to the originals. More than justice, I think. Everyone is on top form as they converge upon the shores of Lake Como. Georgie gets a particularly splendid role to play in this sequel - seduced from all sides, it seems, and deservingly so. I  really hope there'll be more Benson sequels to come.

The second half of the week I spent with Jonathan Harvey's debut novel, 'All She Wants.' I was on the platform at Piccadilly, waiting for the train to Scotland, and I fell for the big push that WH Smith was giving it. (And it's fun, isn't it? To see a book on the shelves in the shop and then go sit in a cafe and dial it up on your machine? It feels futuristic and retro at the same time.) It's a novel about Liverpudlian soap stars and a heroine whose rise and fall and rise and fall again we are held enthralled by. It's slangy and slaggy and silly and fun, all the way to the end. I've liked Harvey's work for years - especially his TV drama from years ago (ten years ago?) 'Birthday Girl' - and mostly I can skim by his tendency to put archly funny lines that sound too composed and knowing into the mouths of his characters. This book's done with a great deal of affection for the characters and their world, though. The world of Soap seems absolutely ferocious.

And now - I'm home and right in the middle of 'Ravenscliffe', Jane Sanderson's sequel to her marvellous, 'Netherwood', which I read earlier this year. It's a sprawling period epic about pit disasters, royal visits and the making of pies and pastries. I'm enjoying it enormously (even though the proof feels massively unwieldy after reading Ebooks for a week...)


  1. Harvey seems to have lifted a trick from Tony Warren! Have you read 'The Lights of Manchester'?

    All loosely based on a certain Pat Phoenix! I loved it when I picked it up a good 20 years ago!

  2. I read it twenty years ago, too, Chris - and loved it. I read the three books afterwards, too. I wish he'd written more of them.