A recent bout with viral fever made bed rest compulsory and, since I had a full quota of books from the Library, this turned out to be a not so bad thing.
‘Gilead’ – a Pulitzer Prize Winner by Marilynne Robinson – came strongly recommended by review and expressed opinion. So I opened the cover with eager anticipation. It is a letter from a father to a son – to the young man that the present little boy will become. The father is a pastor, from a long line of pastors, and the letter meanders slowly – even ponderously – between the past, the present and musings on what the future could probably hold. There are insights which beg re-reading for the philosophy they express, but I was left wondering how the young man would receive this communication. Youth is always urgent, needing the immediate solution, living in the moment. The reading would necessarily – as was my own – have to be intermittent. Quiet pauses in the activity of the day. And at the end of it all, would he understand that it was time well spent? That he had shared the memories of one who had passed on but was still present through his words? What kind of a reader would he be? For readers bring their own perspective to an author’s work – their own colouring, interpretation and reaction. There have been books that left me untouched and yet other readers could wax lyrical on the riches to be plucked, showing me nuances that had somehow passed me by.
The jacket on my next book says ‘winner of the Somerset Maugham award’. I am not too sure whether this refers to the author or this specific book of his – First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan. It is a collection of short stories each one dealing with sexual obsessions, the ‘private fantasy and nightmare’ of each and every protagonist from the paedophile to the coming of age teenager. Each story speaks from ‘inside the head’ and raises the uncomfortable question – ‘how real?’ We encounter strangers every day. What is really going on in their minds? Or for that matter, in the minds of those whom we claim to know?
The last book was reassuringly familiar. Caroline Graham’s ‘A Place of Safety’ brought back DCI Barnaby of ‘Midsomer Murders’ fame. How I enjoyed that TV Series in all the seasons we were privileged to receive. Here was simple reading: meet the characters, look at what they did, watch events unfold and the murders pile up till they are solved either by detection or by natural resolution. At every stage we are, with the ‘criminal’, one step ahead of the hapless Barnaby and in the process, we meet the interesting personalities and private lives of village folk who are never ever dull.
Three books, one that demanded reflection, the other disturbing and the third pure entertainment. As I look forward to breaking open the cover of my next read – Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘What the Dog Saw’ – I wonder what awaits me.
Reading is such an adventure!