In this new blog series, I ask my friends and family to talk a little about their current reads. I figured it would make a change to look at the reading habits of people who read a lot but don’t blog about it usually.
This week we’re hearing from Bruce, who I originally met through Tim – they were in university halls together and have been close friends ever since – and over the years we’ve become close too. Bruce is always good for a heartfelt all-night chat and if he would only remember my need to eat dinner I would rate his nights out as the best fun! He’s another fellow karaoke fan, though our musical taste is rather different, but we do have quite similar taste in books, which I always forget until the rare occasions when I actually ask. Which is why I started this blog series. Here’s what Bruce is reading.
The last book I finished was The Red House by Mark Haddon. I chose that because I was in the library looking for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which was on a list of the top 100 reads that I used to create my list of 30 for this year. I was also considering watching the stage production. However, the library didn’t have a copy so I thought I’d try a different book by the same author to see if I even liked him.
I am going to write my synopsis before reading an official one: I’d say it is a character study of modern families and dysfunctional people. A brother and sister with very little shared history bring their two families together for a week’s holiday in the countryside. We look into their petty differences and selfish natures, and really get a fascinating insight into how a person’s world view shapes their perspective on people and situations.
Aiight: Google Books says:
Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister and her family to join his family for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Against the backdrop of a strange family gathering, Haddon skillfully weaves together the stories of eight very different people forced into close quarters. The Red House is a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly guarded secrets and illicit desires, painting a portrait of contemporary family life that is at once bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt.
I tend to enjoy books, film or TV by associating myself with characters. That usually means empathy for the male character or desire for the female. The book is fantastically blunt about the simple fantasies of a small child, the sexual nature of a teenage boy and what I imagine are the very real concerns of a father. The mother is also apparently deteriorating into dementia, which affected my grandparents so also spoke strongly to me. The teenage girl acts as an object of desire, but is incomprehensibly damaged, which made her precisely what she is meant to be – partly alluring and partly disgusting. The remaining characters did not speak to me in the same way, so diminished into a supporting role despite that not being the author’s intention.
I loved the awkwardness of interactions and the complete failure to communicate. You hear the selfish inner thoughts behind every good action, and the well-meaning thoughts behind everything that upsets and divides relationships. I would say it is interesting from a psychoanalytical point of view and if you enjoy exploring human nature it would appeal, but the story itself doesn’t wrap any solutions or actions into a neat parcel. It didn’t need to in and of itself, but I feel that perhaps some people would want closure, which is not what real life offers. I was left wondering what would happen to the mother who seems to be losing her memory, which makes for quite a depressing, sad taste in the mouth.
I’ve just started Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov but not got far enough to get beyond thinking he writes in an annoying convoluted way and the whole subject is obviously distasteful. Yet despite that I am enjoying it.
After that I have Bedlam by Chris Brookmyre because I like to intersperse my forays into the true literary world with some easy reading I already know I’ll love. [Note from Kate: my first taste of Christopher Brookmyre was borrowed from Bruce, about 13 years ago.]
All that said, quite frankly I don’t find much time for reading. If I have a reason to travel outside of rush hour on the tube for more than a 20-minute commute home and I have my book with me, then I usually end up stuck in the book sitting up late. But that’s rare enough that I have only read about five books so far this year.
Thank you Bruce for sharing with us.