I’ve been reading lots – mostly brand new books. I find that I don’t feel much like writing about them. I whizz through these bestsellers and, curiously, don’t have much to say. Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life after Life’ – yes, loved it. Boring bit in the middle, but then perks up with the Blitz and the bits in Berlin. Love the family stuff at the start. The whole reincarnation thing is well done.
What about Robert Galbraith’s ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’? Pretty good. Slick whodunnit about the kind of people you might see in Hello! Magazine. Little bit old-fashioned, little bit guessable. Excellent detective duo – the one-legged army vet and the over-keen secretary. I’ll be glad to read about them again in sequels.
‘The Shock of the New’ by Nathan Filer. Again, pretty good. Some good stuff about the psychiatric ward. A bit jumbled in places and I can do without experimental messing with fonts and all the writerly stuff… maybe a bit too self-consciously literary and MA course-ish? But I loved the stuff about the memorial for the brother in the Scout hut towards the end. It’s the quieter moments of character-filled bathos that impressed me more than anything, such as the gran going round to help him in his flat when he’s going off the rails.
The book that’s stood out in the past fortnight has been Jenny Colgan’s ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’, which was fun and life-affirming and featured a puffin called Neil. It’s a terrific read – though living where I do forces me hesitate to accept gentrifying hipsters with their own businesses as the heroes of the piece. Nevertheless, it has a great sense of place, and some wonderfully dramatic and romantic moments. All the characters are vividly real to me – also, the sense of the sea’s dangers, the art of baking, and the whole business of putting your life back together and relearning how to enjoy things again. Plus, a ludicrous Star Wars-themed wedding near the end.
Now I’m stuck in the middle of Rachel Joyce’s ‘Perfect’ in which none of the characters are quite coming to life for me. This is strange, as I found her previous book to be teeming with characters so well-observed it made me wince with joy. I’m not getting the hang of this one yet, clearly. Does it have fans out there?