Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reading for Planes, Trains, and . . . Ferries

We're back from our vacances and almost adjusted to the time change, so it's time to catch up here. As I mentioned in my last post. oh so long ago, I tend to stick to light reading while travelling, mainly mysteries from series Pater likes as well so that we can share books and keep our packing light. (We did our whole month away with only a carry-on case each!)

Besides the Deaver I referred to in that last post, I also packed Lee Child's latest-in-paperback Nothing to Lose. While this wasn't my favourite Jack Reacher mystery, neither was it disappointing -- I think I just found the plot a bit too tightly focussed with notably fewer characters for Reacher to interact with. But the book achieves a decent sense of landscape, which I always like, there's a strong female character -- a consistent and pleasing feature of Child's mysteries, and some thought-provoking commentary about the state of the American military and its role in federal politics (seems to me a number of best-selling mystery writers have done some of this consciousness-raising over the past several years -- possible topic of an interesting article?).

Reading the same mysteries further intensified the closeness Pater and I experienced while we were away and provided additional fodder for mealtime conversations -- a worthwhile consideration when together 24/7, as the kids say, for 3 weeks solid. Noticing this, and seeing a paperback copy of Ghosh's Sea of Poppies at a WHSmith in London for a dirt cheap Buy One, Get One 1/2 Price (Oh, if I hadn't been worried about packing limits, I could have brought home so many great books from Britain!), I bought it even though I had left my hardcover copy behind in Vancouver. After the two mysteries, I was glad to turn back to a novel that provided a very different rhythm, different language, and, especially, a different landscape. I'm not done with writing about this book -- I want to think a bit about the kinds of metaphors Ghosh creates and how prepared today's young readers are for working through them -- but for now I'll just say that Pater was intrigued enough by my account of the claims Ghosh makes -- about England's role in creating a legacy of opium addiction and its disruption of Indian agriculture to profit from that addiction -- to want to read the book himself. He's paying it more attention than I've seen him give a literary novel for a long time, testifying to its compelling narrative, and we've had some conversations about Ghosh's ear for diction and about the role of Indian speakers in the development of the English language. Sadly, the paperback version is probably not going to be available here for a while, but the hardback has a beautiful cover and I know you'll enjoy reading this.

I might also mention that I've had fun this trip comparing the latest issues of VOGUE -- my favourite so far, as I found last summer, is the British version, but I've only just started the French one, so the verdict's still out.

And finally, right now I'm reading Fred Vargas' Un Lieu Incertain, having picked up a copy at the Bon Marché. I was so frustrated with my French this visit, not having made any time at all over the past year to refresh it, other than watching the occasional French movie (and even then, relying on the English subtitles -- if only I could find versions with French subtitles, that would really help!). So I resolved to get back to my earlier practice of reading a few French novels over the summer, possibly even through the year, although my workload is so heavy during term that that's unlikely. At any rate, Vargas makes this task a very pleasurable one -- I love these romans policiers, which are always unpredictable, always both puzzling and satisfying, and always with very quirky crimes, often pointing toward the supernatural yet not, finally, of it. And, having caught you up on my month's reading (pretty thin, wasn't it!) I'm heading back to my armchair to watch Adamsberg and Danglard tussle with the latest tueur. How about you? Any summer reading to share?


  1. What a fascinating bit of reading. Ghosh 's novel has been on my stack too long and perhaps it is time to pick it up now. Life has been rather chaotic and unsettled here so my reading has consisted of brief escapes into the mystery genre. I read Steig's, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, which I loved although it was at times quite uncomfortable reading. I was also intrigued by the author's statistics on violence against women and its role in the novel. Very discomfiting. I just finished Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 which I found fragmented both in character development and plot and difficult to get involved in. Ghosh sounds like a good next novel. (I wonder why blogger allows HTML for bold but not for underline?)

    I used to enjoy reading French novels as a way to keep up my French, and I subscribed to L'Officiel for a while as well, until it seemed to become more preoccupied with expensive jewelry than fashion.

    I am intrigued by your take on French v. British Vogue. I am completely bored with Am. Vogue and picked up a British Vogue last week and found it much more interesting, and I haven't looked at the French edition in years.

  2. Some titles here for me to check out -- thanks!
    (And yes, blogger does have its limitations -- I always use italics for book titles anyway, and luckily it lets me do that. The bold does stand out quite well.)
    I know you'd be fascinated by The Sea of Poppies and you might like some of Ghosh's earlier works as well. I'll be curious to see what you think if you get round to it.
    Yes, I'm getting pretty bored with the Am. Vogue and have really found the British ones fun this June and last (plus that seems to be the all-ages issue, which is always a bit more relevant to me). I'm thinking I might get into the habit of picking it up here, altho' it's awfully expensive that way.

  3. I have The Sea of Poppies sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me ... Now I am in more of a hurry to get to it!

    And I have to say that I love UK Vogue. I don't buy it often (same expense issue) but maybe once every few months I'll treat myself to a copy and pore over it happily for ages. I may just have to go and see what's on the stands today!

  4. Can't wait to hear what you think of the novel, Tiffany.
    And just think, picking up the Br. Vogue at a newstand near you is ever so cheap compared to having to go to London for it, right?