Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fiction Therapy

Sometimes I just want my reading to be entertaining and well-written, not necessarily light, but defnnitely lighter than Karl Ove Knaussgard's struggles....

After this last weekend, all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head. Instead, I headed off to see the grandkids, always cheering, and when I got back home I cuddled up with Stephanie Clifford's Everybody Rise. Now that I'm retired, I've finally found time to get a Public Library membership again, having relied only on the university library for the past few decades. I was pleasantly surprised, that first visit, to find three recently published books, still in shiny new covers. I'd read about Everybody Rise, but probably wouldn't have ended up reading it except for this serendipity, yet it was just what the doctor would have ordered for me, if the doctor knew how healing an afternoon with a book can be.
Here's what I said about it on Instagram

I kept my reading quite light during our recent travels as well. The book shelves of the house we rent in Bordeaux are full of weighty reading (that's where I found copies of Sebald's After Nature and Austerlitz), but I found myself more in the mood for Joanna Trollope. Yes, her endings are generally a bit too satisfying, but she writes well and with keen insight into character. The novel I picked up was The Other Family and I suspect some of you might enjoy it as well.

But I didn't completely eschew the chewier stuff on those shelves. I also picked up the recent translation (by Carol Janeway) of a mid-20th century Hungarian novel by Sándor Márai, published with the English title Embers. Quick to read, this novel provokes much thought about memory, the past, the long consequences of our actions, class, and so much more. ti or Fischer reviewed it a decade ago in The Guardian.
Definitely in the light reading category, but again, satisfyingly well written and offering me greater understanding of Italy, is Donna Leon's Dressed for Death, another in the fabulous Guido Brunetti series set in Venice.
And to round off the end of my vacation reading, I read Caryl Ferey's mystery Plutôt Crever on the plane home. Mystery novels en Français are a favourite way to practise my French...
Lest you think it's all light reading all the time here, I've just finished Knausgaard's second volume in the My Struggle series, which is anything but. Happily, I balanced it with the latest Simon Serailler mystery by Susan Hill and then read Camilla Gibb's very moving memoir, This Is Happy. But those are all for another post. I hope... Meanwhile, what about you? I see that BuffaloGal has a recommendation for us all in her comment on my Mitford post. Have any of you read that book by Anthony Marra? Or have any comments on the titles I've summed up here? Or on light reading or fiction therapy in general? comments always welcome, as you should know by now.


  1. I just finished My Brilliant Friend and I am reading a novel called The Muralist. I had a great browse in Village Books in Fairhaven but resisted purchasing. It's time to get the library card out as well. I will be in the mood for a mystery soon and will check the bookshelves at "The Core" our neighbourhood centre. I saw a few book boxes on Whidbey Island and I think book sharing is a growing trend. Don't you love to find literary gems in rental apartments? I still have not addressed my French boxes but one day..

  2. I always want(or tend to) my books to be well written,no matter how entertaining ( as in this moment,life can be so hard that good books-happy endings are the icing on the cake- can make us submerge in a better world. I may seem shallow but I had my share of bad moments, as well as good and serious readings. I strongly believe in book healing.)or not they are. I will say once more,it takes great mastery to write light.
    I finished yesterday Tuesday Gone by Nicci French in a horrible translation,but like their characters and London as a part of story. I will start Victoria Hislop's The Return (I have read C.J.Sansom's Winter in Madrid about Spanish war,too) I bookmarked all your readings for later.
    I have read The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon by your recommendation. Thank you,it is simple,sad and funny in the same time.
    Children books are something I like very much,from my early childhood until today. The books from croatian author(twice nominated for Nobel price) Ivana Brlic Mazuranic are an example for re-reading, as an adult and mother I realized how brilliant they are and think a lot about some quotes from time to time. When I was a child, they were just interesting and entertaining. They are translated in English,too:Croatian Tales from Long Ago and The marvelleus Adventures and Misadventurea of Apprentice Hlapitc
    I am waiting until Christmas for second Knausgaard translation or I'm going to read it in English. I finished Ferrante books,did we get your final verdict :-)?

  3. Madame: Did you love MBF? I'm just getting ready to enter that world again with Book 4.
    I'm following what you say about The Muralist on your blog -- I know you've been exposed to quite a bit of mural art in your recent travels, so I'm betting that book really engages you.
    Dottoressa: Yes, I find poor writing too distracting when I'm looking for an escape/light reading, and you're right, it takes great mastery to write light.
    I was really mesmerised by my changing relationship to the narrator of the Mark Haddon book -- 1st-person narrative can be so manipulative!
    I have a colleague whose research specialty is children's literature and who is also very interested in World (mainly European, mainly Polish) Literature in translation. I'll have to see if she knows these books. And I'll check our local library. I have loved rereading favourite children's books through the years.
    As for the Ferrante, I'm not quite ready to plunge into the last one. . . we'll have to compare notes later.

  4. I am trying again with Karl Ove and 'A Man in Love'. Argh. Best in small doses, so I'm alternating with Donna Leon and Commissario Brunetti.

    I bought 'The Story of a New Name' but am saving it. I might reread MBF first. I was reading on the plane and napping in between and want to be sure I absorbed everything.

    Our apartment rental in Rome was charming but rather mysterious...full of books (several shelves floor to ceiling), art (that is, painted by the 'owner'), VHS tapes...as though someone had walked out the door in 1992 and never came back. We developed quite a few theories about what became of him or her. In any case, lots to read!

  5. Defniitely small doses, for Volume 2 -- he/his narrator gets on my nerves regularly in A Man in Love, although I was also mesmerized by the way one moment led to another, that whole Proustian thing. . . Donna Leon writes the perfect palate cleansers!

    I love that description of your apartment rental in Rome. Perhaps you'd be interested in writing a guest post about some aspect of your recent travels with your daughter. . .

  6. Thank you! I have consulted my travel partner for assistance and I'll let you know what ideas we come up with.

  7. Georgia: great! I do realize we're moving into busy days, but email me if/when you think of a topic you might guest post on...fsproutATgmailDOTcom