Reading Books in 2021

Next up for sofa reading:

Sparkly

I really enjoyed Strangers on a Train. I think I must be one of the only people who has read the book but not seen the Hitchcock movie (yet)

I’m a teacher and most of the kids / teenagers are on winter break here so I’ve managed to plough through ‘The Rotters Club’ by Jonathan Coe. I don’t know if Coe is regarded as a trendy person to read or not, but I’ve mostly enjoyed his books, and I like how he employs relatively complex literary devices in accessible ways. This is the first in a trilogy that finishes(?) with Middle England, which won the Costa prize a couple of years ago. I liked this enough to check out the other two at some point in the year.

I’m now reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I’m aware of its reputation as ‘the first detective novel’ and how it was one of the first books to use a lot of the common tropes of this kind of crime story (IE the big English country house, the multiple suspects and the guy that comes in a solves it all) and I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerskill (which inpired the story) ages ago when I worked in Borders. So far, so good. If this books turns out to be what I expect (multiple narrators each giving their own version of events from multiple perspectives about the same case) then I know I’m going to love it. But it’s too early to tell. Love the fact the first narrator false-starts three times by going about himself and how much he loves Robinson Crusoe, before course-correcting and actually telling the story he’s supposed to. Wilkie Collins doing Shane Black scriptwriting ticks in… checks …1868.

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I liked The Moonstone when I read it years ago.

I’ve just reread The Rotters Club and The Closed Circle (the second one). I like them both a lot. I haven’t read the third one yet, but I’m a little dubious about it. There are loads of dangling threads and set ups in the first book that are resolved and paid off in the next one, and I strongly suspect Coe had a lot of the family-level stuff in the second book planned when he was writing the first, but there’s barely anything left hanging from the end of the second book that needs a third to sort out. To my mind they’re a great diptych, not parts of a trilogy. Even the title The Closed Circle indicates finality and resolution. I suspect he wanted to write a Brexit book and pressganged these characters into it, either willingly or at the behest of his publisher. Like I say, I haven’t read it so it might turn out be great. I expect I’ll find out in a month or so.

read What a Carve Up last year and really enjoyed it, slightly of its time but not really because novels about horrible rich tories getting murdered are timeless

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The paperback edition of The Rotters Club that I just finished has a ‘to be continued…’ authors note at the end saying there is a sequel, and yeah, there are a lot of threads not entirely concluded. I guess I’ll have to read the other two but on paper it sounds like your theory checks out.

Not sure how some literary prizes are decided, but from looking at the Booker Prize and The Pulitzer - second (Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - Booker) third (The Ghost Road by Pat Parker - Booker) and third and fourth (Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest by John Updike) it’s not unusual for sequels to in win prizes, so I wonder if the judges have read the whole series or not.

I loved reading What a Carve Up. I think it’s a testament to Coe that usually when I open a book and see a list of characters, or a family tree, I think "Oh god, how much do I have to pay attention here?’ and with that book, it did it all seamlessly.

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Enjoyed this line from The Waves by V Woolf

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New Sally Rooney book this autumn

What a Carve Up/The Rotters Club/The Closed Circle are all terrific, though the latter is pretty depressing with the character arcs

Book 3 of the year: a (requested) birthday gift. I’d read a travel and history book co-written by the same author, where he touched on his complicated relationship with Iceland and I wanted to know more, so I read this memoir. The author’s mother had grown up in the UK and Australia, and after a divorce in the early 70s was working in Iceland. She started a relationship with an Icelandic man, who when she became pregnant, turned out to be married and already have five children. Kári’s existence and father’s identity was a secret in his childhood in Reykjavik, with his father framing revealing it as a terrible thing to do to him and his wife.

The book follows the authors childhood in Reykjavik, teenage years in Brisbane (with a strange two year period at an If style boarding school in Northern England where his mother was an employee), and his attempts to connect with his estranged father, siblings who aren’t aware of his existence and Iceland itself as an adult. A really good read.

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The 3rd one is total and utter shit. I couldn’t even finish it. I was so disappointed because I love the Rotters Club and What a Carve Up

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This is my fear. Think I’l wait for the library to reopen and try to get it from there instead of buying it.

I’ve been reading a book (A Song For A New Day) that’s a pretty meh cardboard dystopia (released in 2019) where ten years after a combo of pandemic/terrorist attacks live music and social events are still illegal, and big tech corporations have got pretty much every economic angle sewn up to make people stay at home.

The thing about fictional dystopias, especially if they’re not top drawer quality, is that they’re not nearly fucking stupid enough.