2015 Ends, 2016 Begins – Reading

As promised, some reading thoughts from last year (2015).

Highlights, sort of. More impressions than book reviews. I hope I don’t give anyone the wrong impression about any of the following.

Certain Admissions by Gideon Haigh is a kind of true crime/journalistic investigation/work of history about the murder of a young woman in Melbourne in 1949 and the man who was gaoled for her murder. It’s about what happened and whether he did it. An excellent book which wears its research lightly, with a well-told story conveying insights about life in Australia and specifically Melbourne in the 1950s and later. One of the best works of non-fiction I have read. Is it a coincidence that Gideon Haigh and Malcolm Knox, the novelist and writer of non-fiction, are both very fine cricket journalists and authors? I like to think not.

The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland is a novel with themes including World War I, Ned Kelly and the intrigues of village life. These are some of my favourite things. I read this book because I know the author, very slightly, through her writing blog (jennyackland.com), and because she has been friendly and kind to me on a couple of occasions – and I’m recommending it because it is a good read.

A Passage To India by EM Forster. All of his novels are worth it. A joy to read one of the greats, and proof that an important and great book does not need to be a chore to get through.

Voss by Patrick White is the first Patrick White book I had read, and it seemed like I had put it off for too long. Not sure if I’ll be going back. Struck me as similar to some examples of modern visual art where you can be deeply impressed but not immersed in it. I didn’t love it and wasn’t absorbed.

The feeling was somewhat similar with To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Perhaps modernist fiction doesn’t appeal to me as much as novels from other eras or movements. Perhaps I’m a philistine. It’s possible. Quality output from a first-rank author I found it too easy to put down. And, it must be said, that one of my abiding thoughts, while reading it was, “In the final draft, this will be quite good” – which could just settle the philistine question. Maybe I’ll try another one soon. Will probably give her another go before I can muster the energy for more White (and Voss is said to be one of his more ‘accessible’ works, which frankly scares me).

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is a book I’ve been meaning to read for some time and it didn’t disappoint. Except it was a tad too long, and I already knew the big secret about Thornfield Hall (having watched the BBC series with Timothy Dalton in the 1980s), which could hardly be said to be a fair criticism, or a criticism at all, in fact. There’s a bit of melodrama, I suppose, but the subject matter does lend itself to this sort of thing, on occasion, and that’s not even the right word. In fact, this novel met my expectations. It seems natural, in my mind to compare it with Wuthering Heights, by Charlotte’s sister Emily, and, again in my mind, Wuthering Heights is better, a truly great book, but this book too is well worth a read and deserves to be on the kind of best ever lists I’ve seen it on lately.

Lastly The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, about the experiences of a noble Sicilian family as the modern Italian state begins to form, is one of the best books I’ve read. Top two or three. A work of art.

Published in: on January 4, 2016 at 9:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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