Sunday reading

Books I’ve been reading recently or am intending to read:

Karma Suture, Rosie Kendal
Mothers and Sons, Colm Toibin
Essays on Love, Alain de Botton
Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje
Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks
With Chatwin, Susannah Clapp
Through the Darkness, Judith Garfield Todd

The Sacks one is great for dipping into and being inspired to listen to more music, to play more and just be aware of how extraordinary our brains are. The Rosie Kendal is easy reading (chick-lit) and is set in part in the same hospital where I did my internship. It was fascinating to read her descriptions of a place I know well and to get the personal perspective of an ordinary but dedicated doctor in the overstretched and underfunded South African public health system.

I read about “Mothers and Sons” on Litlove’s blog and thought that it was fitting for my present situation (since I’m temporarily back home with the parents). Patrick Ness writes that Toibin has “an eye for the chasms in one of life’s key relationships”. Jeff Turrentine says that in the wrong hands the relationship between Irish mothers and sons would be “a recipe for mawkishness that can end only with the pipes calling Danny boy from glen to glen while his beloved Ma waits patiently in sunshine or in shadow”. Far from it. These stories are about the silent, awkward distance between family members rather than any mystical connection.

The family dramas played out in the nine stories here are understated and as revealing for what they don’t say as what they do. There’s a lot of not knowing and not saying and much of the drama gets played out inside the minds of observers.

I was a bit reluctant to start “Essays on Love” even though I really like Alain de Botton’s writing (his book on Proust for beginner’s for a start). I wasn’t in the mood to think about love or read about love since I just didn’t feel like the pain that I knew was in store. Luckily De Botton book wasn’t gloating or preachy or smugly self-satisfied. And the inevitable break-up was painful but also done with just the right amount of humour. He also brings a lot of psychological insights to his practical philosophy.

Had to force myself to sit down with the Ondaatje but once I’d done so I started loving it. (Another recommended read so maybe that’s the reluctance). I love the sparse lyricism of his writing, as in the part where Anna is talking about her mother: “For Claire and me she was a rumour, a ghost barely mentioned by our father, someone interviewed for a few paragraphs in this book, and shown in a washed-out black-and-white photograph”. There’s a sense that life is elsewhere and the early pages are full of melancholy, longing, beauty and then terrible violence. I’ll have to read some reviews to clarify what it is I’m thinking about this.

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3 Responses to Sunday reading

  1. litlove says:

    That is a fabulous list of books you are working your way through there. And I love your new blog, bluepete – I’ll be subscribing right away. I’m ashamed to say I’ve still to finish the Toibin (I read the first story and then it got overtaken by other books) and you remind me of all the reasons I must get back to it.

  2. bluepete says:

    Hi Litlove, thanks for the vote of confidence. I finally got round to launching my blog. Nothing like starting a reading blog to spur me on to keep up with the books. As for the Toibin, I found it a bit gloomy in parts but he writes so well that it wasn’t that heavy a read. Good luck with all your reading (and writing).

  3. adevotedreader says:

    It’s always good to find a new bookish blog to read, so welcome!

    I haven’t read Mothers and Sons yet, but have it on my TBR shelf. I’m planning to read a few books of short stories soon so this might have to be one of them.

    I loved Ondaatjee’s In the skin of the lion and The English Patient, but somehow Divisadero didn’t grab me when reviewed. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on it when you’ve finished it.

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