Saturday 19 May 2007

A nasty taste in the mouth

Have you ever read a book that lurks unpleasantly at the back of your mind through the next day, so that you feel grubby? The book was Wideacre, by Philippa Gregory. She seems to be quite a varied author: I've read a post-modern, feminist-slanted Mills & Boonish one of hers called Perfectly Correct; a thriller that didn't grab me at all; and several historical novels that seemd very well researched. The first was The Other Boleyn Girl, then The Queen's Fool, then The Virgin's Lover and The Constant Princess -- they seem to be coming thicker and faster, which does make me wonder whether they're as carefully researched as they seem to be. Anyway, last night's was a great doorstop of a thing: 622 pages of rollocking eighteenth-century nastiness.

The heroine wanted to go on living in her childhood home, and was prepared to do pretty much anything to achieve that. It just went on getting nastier and nastier. I read it in a single sitting, which I think compounded the effect, and it was also a first-person narrative, which I think made me feel more implicated. But it really was horrid. Fairly well written, too, which made me wonder why, with that sort of talent, you'd want to do this kind of thing. Anyway, yuck. I finished it at about four this morning, delibeately not looking at the time so I wouldn't know exactly how silly I'd been. Sasha was suitable confused by being woken up by Mummy instead of the other way round.

I knew I'd do something daft while A was away: staying up all night reading was rather predictable....He's in the US for a week, and set off last Tuesday (I think) at an ungodly hour, and did the half-hour walk to the railway station as getting the car somewhere it could be left for a week was just too horribly complicated. Sasha and I went along to help with the luggage and have a nice walk. This is the kind of thing that it simply wouldn't have occurred to me to do a few years ago. In fact, it's exactly the kind of thing A does: he seems to be just naturally nice. It's even rubbed off a bit: I feel he has upped my game. This is a real cherry on top of the icing on top of the chocolate of the relationship...

The other book I've read in the last few days (I don't list re-reads, as sitting here typing all the names would cut down on valuable reading time) is March, by Geraldine Brooks. This is so clever -- it's the bit missing from Little Women: what happens to the father while he's away at the war. I thought she did a splendid job of making it provocative and dramatic without contradicting anything in Alcott. I remember some outcry on the mailing list I'm on for people keen on children's books, but I don't really think it was warranted. There aren't any cosy little references for real fans of Alcott, but on the other hand it's a lovely complement to the books.

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