Monday, 9 August 2010

Books of love, loss, longing and economics.

For a girl who whinges, alot, about not having much "me" time. I still seem to be managing to get through quite a few books. I'm not sure when I manage to do any of this reading, and I certainly don't think I'm doing what I said I would, and really properly concentrating on the writing, but I am, mostly enjoying it.

So, since I last posted a book-related post, I have read:

After You'd Gone, by Maggie O'Farrell,
One Day, by David Nicholls,
Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (why do Americans always use their middle initials? Weird).

Erm, something else.  But I'm utterly b*ggered if I can remember what it was. Which should clearly tell me something about either my brain capacity, or the quality of the book.  If I remember (which I will, probably at 3 am) I'll let you know.

Start with the "serious" one:  Freakonomics

I think I've come to Freakonomics too late.  The writers go on, at some length, about challenging "conventional wisdom", but the problem is that so much of what they say seems to me to have been absorbed into the conventional wisdom that I found it had totally lost its power to "shock" and "provoke" (which I know it must have had - the blurb on the back tells me).  It seemed generally accepted to me that an estate agent's margin of profit isn't high enough to encourage him to get you an extra £10,000 for your house, or that baby names start off being perceived as high class (which, being American they refer to by income bracket, but I'm pretty certain over here they'd call it class) before moving down the social spectrum, only to be picked up again fifty or a hundred years later back at the top. I was particularly delighted to learn that apparently people with my surname are really high class.  Which is nice to know, because all three of my girls are called that...

That said, it was interesting - who knew that "incentivising" the girls to tidy up with promises of telly, or "negatively incentivising" them to eat their main course with threats of no pudding was "economics"? - and definitely worth the read if you haven' t already.  If only so you can feel clever when you drag out the same old tired threats...

It also gave me a bit of a break from my previous read, Maggie O'Farrell's After You'd Gone which Iota had recommended to me, for when I was feeling strong.  I'm not going to talk about this at length other than to say that I clearly wasn't feeling strong enough as it put my heart, lungs and tear ducts through a mangle, twice.  It's wonderful and amazing and not by any stretch of the imagination an easy read, despite being very easy to read.  I'd previously read Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which is equally affecting. Don't read either of them if you have a new baby or are feeling in any way over-wrought, over-stressed or over-emotional.  If you're in a good place, buy them both, now.  Get hankies too.  These are books that will stay with you forever.  I couldn't have forgotten this one.

Trish then sent me One Day by David Nicholls.  I was looking forward to this as I'd enjoyed Starter for Ten and was in the mood for a bit of light relief (the mystery fourth book was also a tear-jerker, although, as I say, I have no idea what it was called).  The problem? This one made me cry too, and not necessarily where it was meant to.  Nicholls is exceptional on the pain of unrequited love, on the difficulty of looking at someone whose face is your world and listening to them chat away about someone else, or indeed anything else.  He took me right back to that yearning, that need to say the unsayable.  Oh, and then he made me cry.  It's a goody though.  Just not the cheering-up-vehicle I was hoping for.

And now? I'm being bitterly disappointed and throroughly irritated by the new Audrey Niffenegger.  More to follow...


  1. I read the Maggie O Farrell book a few years ago and adored it. Have some recommendations for you too - I just read Kate Clanchy's Antigona and Me which was fab. Next up is the elegance of the Hedgehog and The Slap (all about a parent smacking someone elses child at an Aussie lunch party and the subsequent fallout... could be fascinating?).

  2. Maybe I should have given you prior warning about "One Day" and the tears - glad you enjoyed it, despite it being a weepy in places.

    Thanks for sending me The Undomestic Goddess: as you said, light and fluffy and just the thing for a hoiday read.

    I've just finished "Alone in Berlin" by Hans Fallada which was good but a poor choice for holiday reading. I also managed Mr Rosenblum's List which was ok but I became bored half way through.

    I've just started 'The Slap' that Pants with Names mentions. Got it from the Keycamp library! So far so good and I felt like slapping the child too which stopped me in my tracks!

  3. Pants with Names - thanks for the recommendations. I read a bit of the Elegance of the Hedgehog over someone's shoulder on the tube a while back and it rather appealed so maybe it should be that next (although I have a bad history with translated books, so we'll see (maybe I should try and dust off my french....or not)), although the Slap really appealed (in a bad way if you see what I mean) when I read about that too (although there's been a real backlash against it hasn't there? Anyway, think it's definitely one to read.

    Trish - Glad you enjoyed it! We've just booked a holiday (complete with childcare!) so I might manage to do some reading then too, although I'll avoid both those you mention! (I saw Mr Rosenblum's list advertised the other day and was tempted, so I'm glad I know to avoid it now). Let me know if you come up with something else suitably pro-beach and childfree!

  4. You read all the same stuff as me! Great.

  5. Oh! Oh! I LOVED the new Niffenegger. That said, I also adored Maggie O'Farrell's "After You'd Gone" and "One Day". Have you tried Chris Cleave's "The Other Hand"? I never, ever cry during books but this one had me.

    I have, however, recently become addicted to Jasper Fforde's Jane Eyes series, based entirely on YOUR recommendation. Thanks for that :)


  6. Mwa - Feels very odd to be replying to you when I know what's happening tomorrow! Good luck!!!

    And Shannon - That's so weird that you liked it, when I just can't imagine how anybody could! I finished it last night and I can't tell you how much I hated it, though am saving the vitriolic post for a while. I suspect a lot of it might be because of having identical twins (if my girls ever grow up to be at all like either of those pairs I will have utterly failed as a mother in every way...) anyway, rant to follow!

    As for the Chris Cleave, you're the second blogger to recommend it and I actually have it sitting by my bed, but I'm not sure I can face more harrowing stuff at the moment... have just been complaining to B that it's the only thing I have to read, and I just want something that's going to make me smile for a change! Maybe I should dig out a bit of Thursday Next to cheer me up - so glad you've enjoyed those too.

  7. Just to let you know that 'The Slap' may be worth you taking on your hols after all. It seems to look at the details of modern-day relationships and attitudes towards race etc but so far the main thing I've found is that there is an extraordinary amount of sex which might jolly things up if you have child-care on hand!!

  8. Wow. Lots of great recommendations - I have jotted them down. Was thinking of reading the MoF book but not sure I can do with lots of emotions right now! I read Hens Dancing by Raffaella Barker on holiday. It's not my normal thing but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and it has stayed with me in an interesting way. I am actually about to do a post about it! It just seemed to work well on holiday - it's great when a book "clicks", and I think timing of when you read it has a lot to do with it.


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