March 2016 reading round-up

Wheeler & Wilson trade card, 1784.
Wheeler & Wilson trade card, 1784.

This month I managed to read a lot, but I’ve reviewed less than half of it as I realised I just didn’t have something to say about every book. I’m happy about this decision, and hopefully it will let me do a better job of the reviews that I do write. Here’s hoping!

I also went to the launch of a friend’s debut poetry collection, spent a long weekend in London during which I finally saw Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, and went to see the new film High-Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston. I’ve not read the book by JG Ballard, but I suspect the film is a pretty faithful adaptation – by which I mean it’s completely bonkers in an intelligent and politically astute kind of way.

In TV land, we watched all of season two of Daredevil in less than a week. (It’s based on comics so it’s totally literary, right? Well it’s good, anyway!) And we’ve started (though not yet finished) watching the excellent BBC TV series of John le Carré’s The Night Manager. Because there’s no such thing as too much Tom Hiddleston.

How was your March?


Books read

Here by Wisława Szymborska
Poems in original Polish and in translation from the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. Intriguing abstract meditations on daily life. Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanisław Barańczak.

The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A gothic old-fashioned adventure with modern sensibility written for older children. Great fun and very readable but not as stunning as The Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Graves.

Hawkeye, Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction et al.
A suitably action-packed yet thoughtful ending to the Matt Fraction run on Hawkeye’s story.

The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami
An epic tale of love, war, bitter feuds and complex politics. Translated by Anthea Bell.

The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
The funny and tragic study of a club house for single women in London in 1945.

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
The first sequel to My Brilliant Friend, this continues the story of best friends Elena and Lila from the age of 16 to 23. Their worlds begin to expand beyond their neighbourhood, but this also reveals their limits. Translated by Ann Goldstein.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007, this novella studies in minute detail the 1962 wedding night of Edward and Florence, virgins who have very different anticipations of sex. It’s an interesting idea but I found it a bit staid and frustrating.

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
The classic Fleet Street satire, which I was surprised to discover is largely set in a fictional African republic and that opens up the humour to some…issues. Very funny, but I think I need to consider it more before I write a proper review. (UPDATE: here’s my review.)


Poetry pamphlets read

Antinopolis by Elizabeth Parker

Black Knight by Paul Deaton

Split Ends by Claire Williamson


Short stories read

“You Can Find Love Now” by Ramona Ausubel (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The Alaska of Giants and Gods” by Dave Eggers (Selected Shorts podcast)

“Loser” by Aimee Bender (Selected Shorts podcast)

“The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God” by Etgar Keret (This American Life podcast)

“Escape from New York” by Zadie Smith (New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2015)

“Love is Blind and Deaf” by Jonathan Safran Foer (New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2015)

“Quaestio de Centauris” by Primo Levi (New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2015)

“Above and below” by Lauren Groff (New Yorker, June 13 & 20, 2011)