March 2017 reading round-up

(Bill Nye’s History of England, 1900)

I feel like I’ve barely looked at a book this month, though actually the list below isn’t especially short. I have watched a lot of films, including Logan, which isn’t my favourite X-Men film (that would be Days of Future Past), but is my favourite standalone Wolverine film.

My favourite film of the month was probably Freeheld, the 2015 film based on the true story of a dying policewoman fighting to have her pension assigned to her domestic partner. It made me cry a lot, but also includes a very funny turn from Steve Carrell as a gay rights activist who takes on the case.

On 10 March, for British Science Week, I ran a 10k virtual race. I was so proud of myself! Now I have to make sure I keep the effort up ahead of the Bristol 10k at the start of May, which I’m running for charity (more on that soon).

Now I need to wrench myself away from all the films we have on DVD, Netflix and Amazon Prime and get some reading done!

Books

Harvest by Jim Crace
This is a historical novel without a clear time or place in history, which adds to the otherworldliness to the modern reader of a small village bringing in the harvest with oxen, and of their life being threatened by the arrival of sheep farming. That makes it sound potentially dull, but it’s really not. It’s a beautifully written account of social inequality, and of the educated rich using superstition and suspicion to their advantage.

Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend
Another book that isn’t quite about what it seems to be about. Coventry is a housewife who kills her neighbour and runs away to London – in fact she’s done those things before page one. What we get, in Sue Townsend’s usual gentle satirical and observational humour, is an examination of marriage, the place of women in society, and relative poverty.

All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan
A romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man is inevitably fraught with difficulty. Rabinyan tells their tale, set largely in New York, with plenty of compassion and no judgement. Politics is far from ignored, but handled deftly and kept just about second fiddle to love itself. A really enjoyable, beautiful read.

Burmese Days by George Orwell
I really like Orwell, and his novel loosely based on his own time spent as a military policeman in Burma doesn’t disappoint. The main character Flory doesn’t share his fellow Europeans’ racism and disdain for the people they have colonised, but he’s not too keen to make a stand on the matter either. When his friend, an Indian doctor, is in trouble, Flory must make the tough decision of what to do to help.

The Comet Sweeper: Caroline Herschel’s Astronomical Ambition by Claire Brock
This is a thorough biography of Caroline Herschel – the first woman to make her living from astronomy. Despite Brock’s best efforts, Herschel doesn’t come across especially well. She was a prickly woman and didn’t have great enthusiasm for science itself. But she did have ambition to prove herself worthy of anything to put her hand to, and that she certainly achieved. I reviewed this for work.

 

Short stories

“Quarantine” by Alix Ohlin (New Yorker The Author’s Voice podcast)

“The prairie wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld (New Yorker The Author’s Voice podcast)

“Ladies lunch” by Lore Segal (New Yorker The Author’s Voice podcast)

 

Happy April!

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