WWW Wednesday: 15/7/20

It’s July and we must be roughly mid-way through the time allotted to the 20/15/10 Books of Summer.  Those weeks seemed endless at the beginning, where have they gone already?  Not that I haven’t been reading; I’m enjoying an unexpectedly rich period of reading at the moment.  There will be no problem in reading my 10 books.  As usual, the challenge lies in writing about them, particularly as most of them seem to demand a post to themselves.  But picking up this weekly meme again is a way of ticking off a couple of books at least, and keeping tabs on my reading in general.

WWW Wednesday is currently hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.  Each week there are three questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

I did have three books on the go which were all so engrossing that I’ve decided to leave one, focus on two and return to the third separately.  I’ve learned that there is such a thing as having too many great reads on the go at once.  It’s fine if they require different things from me but I can’t get the full experience from juggling this trio, so one will wait a couple more weeks.  Then there’s the additional book which I had no intention of reading but came along on Pigeonhole and it seemed a possible balance to the others.  So I’m back to three but this time it works!

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr is mesmerising.  I loved his Pulitzer winning All the Light We Cannot See so I approached this short story collection with high expectations and also some concern.  This book was his debut: a collection of (longish) short stories, a genre which I often struggle to appreciate. I worried also that after the delight of his prize-winner, I might have set myself up for disappointment with this one. Quite the reverse:  these stories are exquisite.  More on this one in due course.

I’m also reading Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.  This too, came with high expectations, in part because of the many glowing reviews it’s received and also because I knew Dara’s writing from when he was still blogging.  (He stopped blogging to focus on this book.)  To begin with I floundered a little.  But by the summer solstice – the diary begins at the spring equinox – I was enthralled.  Another wonderful read which has several themes in common with Doerr’s stories: the natural world, aloneness, richness of language. 

The bonus read is rich in a different way.  Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome is one of those classics which I’ve known about for ever but never been particularly interested in reading.  But there it was, available for free and for no effort on my part beyond a review which I shall happily provide when the river trip draws to its close.  It’s a joy!  With more diversions than the most meandering of rivers, it’s a delight to read.  Light and easy, perceptive and chock full of humour; I’ve chortled to myself many times.  Hard to believe it was written in 1889 and easy to see why it remains a much-loved classic.  So glad that I’ve finally tumbled into reading it.

What did you recently finish reading?

I’ll include two here.

Novel Houses: Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings by Christina Hardyment was a spontaneous grab from the returns trolley in the days when we could still go inside libraries rather than now, when we have to order online and collect from the door by pre-arranged appointment, which is at least an improvement on nothing at all.  As the title suggests, twenty houses are discussed, chosen for their prominence in particular books.  The chapters are in chronological order of publication of the books but the author makes additional connections between fictional house, real house, book, author and so on. There are themes connecting one book to another and I enjoyed the way these disparate chapters formed a coherent whole.  The selection of houses is wide-ranging across time and genre but not so oblique that I hadn’t heard of them.  From Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Mansfield Park, from Gormenghast to Cold Comfort Farm, each chapter is a mini essay of ideal length covering the fictional house, the book in which it features, the life of the author and where relevant, the real house upon which the fictional one is based.   As someone who enjoys knowing the wider context in which a book came into being, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would like to have my own copy.  It’s only available in hardback at present but perhaps by Christmas… 

(The most disappointing chapter was on Menabilly/Manderley.  Perhaps that was because it’s the house and book I know most about but it seemed to contain nothing but the most perfunctory information.) 

Although not on the original list, this has become the first of my 10 Books of Summer.

My second book of summer also wasn’t on the list.  Another Pigeonhole read – I’ve not read anything with them for quite some while and like buses, a run of books has come along together.  (There’s a another in the wings.)  I wanted something undemanding and Fern Britton’s Daughters of Cornwall was an immediate choice.  As the title suggests, it’s a multi-generational tale of three women, set mostly in Cornwall.  It covers the first half of the twentieth century at quite a pace. I’ve not read anything else by Fern Britton, who I know is extremely popular and I understand this is different to her usual fayre.  I enjoyed it; it was exactly what I expected it to be.  I found no real sense of Cornwall though and a great deal of history was covered without my gaining any idea of how it might have been to live through such times.  Some characters appeared to be in the book as no more than devices which enabled the inclusion of a particular piece of social history.  The unmarried sister whose fiancé was killed shortly before the story begins is summarily bundled off to a convent after a few chapters.  She too, was a daughter of Cornwall; there was plenty of scope to develop her further, instead she seemed to be a token representative of the surplus women and was frankly, surplus to the story too.  But, as I’ve said, I did enjoy this book.  Sometimes what’s needed is something distracting and undemanding in which to get lost and back in early June when I read this one, it was exactly what I needed.

What do you think you’ll read next?

After the two main books mentioned above are finished, I’ll return to the one I’ve set aside: Cane River by Lalita Tademy.  This one has been waiting for so long, a few more weeks won’t matter, plus I have the added incentive to return to it having read the first few chapters.  This is another generational saga, but this time based on four generations of women in the author’s family who fought their way to freedom from slavery on a Creole planation in Louisiana. 

A female equivalent to Alex Haley’s Roots, Lalita Tademy left a high-powered corporate job to research and write this book and the few pages that I’ve read already have me invested.  I’m looking forward to getting lost in this one and also to learning from it.

There are several more waiting in the wings too but I’m not sure what will come next. The two I’ve just acquired from the library will probably be strong contenders.   A Month in the Country by J L Carr must be read and reviewed by 31st August for the review-along with Fiction Fan and I’ve just collected Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher which I’ve wanted to read since it was published. 

Plenty to look forward to and 2 out of 10 reviewed!

56 thoughts on “WWW Wednesday: 15/7/20”

  1. Some great reading there, Sandra! I’m a huge fan of Three Men – it mixes humour with some really lovely passages. And Novel Houses is a title I’ve been keen to read. A Month in the Country is superb too – slim but powerful. Hope you like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m confident that I’ll enjoy the Carr, Karen, and I can see why you’re a fan of Three Men. After avoiding it for so long, I’m having a ball with it! Novel Houses is an easy read, especially for someone as well-read as I believe you to be! There are plenty of good things in it though and I’m sure you would find at least a few little nuggets that are new to you 😊

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  2. I’ll be adding some of these to my own tottering TBR pile. I’ve read “A Month in the Country” and I thought it was an absolute marvel, a gem of book. In a very short novel, maybe even a novella, he packed a lot in and yet the story never felt rushed. I’ll be anxious to read what you think about it.

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  3. I love Three Men in a Boat, I always imagine I would have loved to be in those times and all parts of the Thames I know. My dad had a copy inscribed by his dad, so I feel it is a family book. It is time I read it again.

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    1. It’s taken me years to get around to reading it and even now it’s purely by luck. But I’m delighted that I’ve finally got there; it’s wonderful! I know the stretch of river too, which adds to the enjoyment. How lovely to have that very personal copy of it, Janet. A real family treasure. Now might be a good time to read it again 😊

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  4. Novel Houses sounds really interesting, hopefully it is released in an accessible format eventually. I’m looking forward to reading A Month in the Country soon, as it will be great to compare thoughts with you and FF. I’m sure we are all in for a treat, as I’ve read many glowing reviews of it.

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    1. Yes, I’m looking forward to comparing our responses too! I suspect the main difference might be in just how much we each love it! But it will also be very interesting to see what stands out for each of us. Responses to any book are so individual 😊

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  5. I planned to use Cane River for my book club’s selection a few years back and a friend “stole” it for when she hosted our group. I loved this book.

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    1. Deb, it is you who led me to this book; I remember when you read it and have planned to read it for myself ever since. Now, is finally the time. I am looking forward to it very much 😊

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  6. So happy you’re enjoying Three Men in a Boat – one of my Desert Island books, for sure! The problem is I’ve read it so often I can practically quote it from memory now… and frequently do! 😀 Looking forward to A Month in the Country…

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  7. I love Anthony Doerr’s writing, so will add The Shell Collector to the (sigh) growing list. I think you’ll love A Month in the Country, so get stuck in! I’ve just finished the excellent Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – thoughtful and immersive. In general though, this particular inveterate reader is struggling with reading for the first time in her life. Covid? I just don’t know.

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    1. The Shell Collector has knocked me sideways. (I hate the phrase ‘blown away’ but yes, that about describes it.) It’s clearly not for everyone but I will be singing its praises from the rooftops. AMitC is one of those books which I’ve never got around to and I have no idea why. I’m sure I’ll love it. Hamnet I have on my Kindle – one day I’ll get to it. As for reading and Covid, after an initial stall, I have picked up again but I know that my reading remains very much impacted and in a variety of ways. I read less; I read at different times to before; there are some books which I just don’t want to touch…. All we can do is go with it.

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    1. I don’t know when I started reading more than one at a time but now it seems that I can’t just read one book. Whatever works! 😄 And yes, all three that you mention were great reads. I’m in a purple patch right now – some amazing books!

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        1. That was very circumspect of you, Derrick. Of course I wanted to follow the link! 😊 And now I see that I admired your copy and your responses to the book when you wrote about it last year. An added treat being able to enjoy those illustrations once again. My library copy is of course, a bog-standard paperback but I don’t think it will detract too much from what I fully expect to be “a many faceted gem” 😊

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  8. Three Men is such a good summer read isn’t it? I like the sound of Diary Of A Young Naturalist too and you’ve got A Month in the Country, that’s just lucky!

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    1. Isn’t it just! I can see Three Men becoming a perennial favourite 😊 And yes – very lucky. I think it each time I pick up whichever of the current reads I’m reaching for. It’s rare to have so many excellent books on the go. There will be plenty of 10 out of 10s on my personal reading list this summer!

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  9. You seem to be on a roll at the moment with your reading! You make a good case for Three Men in a Boat! If I had a TBR, I might be tempted to add it (but normally I use the summer to get through some of my more serious reading). As I just wrote to FictionFan, I look forward to your reviews of A Month in the Country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Summer and serious reading – I’m impressed! It’s taken me more years than I care to admit to to finally give Three Men a go and even then it was by luck not design. Hopefully I’ll be writing more about it later so I’ll have another crack at convincing you that it’s worth slotting in among the more serious tomes! 😉

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      1. Haha, yes there is still time to convince me! After Kafka and Camus, which I am reading at the moment, I predict there will come a time, where I yearn for something more lighthearted.

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  10. As often happens with my English friends, I knew of none of these books, though I do know the author Doerr. On your(?) recommendation I am reading Elizabeth Bowen’s “House in Paris.” Excellent. I can certainly see why, when I was 16 and tried to read Bowen, I got nowhere! My brain is big enough finally!

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    1. I don’t think Bowen was my recommendation – she is an author that I want to explore myself so it’s good to hear you’re appreciating her now, Elizabeth. You’re recommending her to me! I love the idea that our brains are finally big enough to appreciate certain books/authors. Mostly I think of my rusty memory and my brain going in quite the opposite direction. But you’re right – my brain is now big enough to tackle books which were beyond me not that long ago! My brain is definitely growing! 😆

      (I haven’t forgotten I said I would make some suggestions, by the way, it will be a little while but I’ll do it.)

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  11. The Shell Collectors sounds like something I will add to my TBR! I haven’t read All The Light yet, either. HA! I just finished Heidi’s Alps by Hardyment and I LOVED it. Now I started Writing the Thames! I’m so glad you reviewed Novel Houses because I may be stalking her backlist.

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  12. I’m curious about The Shell Collectors. I’ve not read anything by Anthony Doer, and unlike you, I’m more drawn to short fiction. I hope you will get a chance to post a review, though you’ve clearly got a lot of reading ahead. Hope it’s still going well.

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    1. I very much hope to write properly about The Shell Collector, Cath, but life is throwing a few curve balls at the moment. A mini review: the writing is wonderful although as to be expected, not all stories were equal. Certainly one of my books of the year so far. If you can get it from the library (or download a sample on Kindle if you use that) you will know quickly whether it’s for you. There is a common theme running through the collection – displacement, aloneness, the natural world – but each story is discrete in itself and all with a similar use of language. Hope that helps! 😊

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