Here's what I've read this month:
- The Miniaturist, Jesse Burton
Extremely well written, with a masterclass in world-building. Clearly a lot of research has been done, but is lightly deployed. I felt the use of the miniaturist just kind of faded out though, where I'd expected it to all come together in the end as a brilliant hook for the theme. Did I miss something?
- Mercury Pictures Presents, Anthony Marra
This was superb. It's going on my list of all-time favourites, where I'll write a little more about it. Buy this book right now.
- A Question of Upbringing, Anthony Powell
This is the first novel in his enormous A Dance to the Music of Time series. I love sweeping epics, so thought I'd love this. But it's a frustration of mine that so many 'whole life' stories start off with the main character at a public school with his chums who all have affected mannerisms and nicknames, plus a few odd characters for masters. Plus, nothing actually happens in this first book at all. It's just about his last year at school, a summer trip to France and his first year at college. The character didn't develop during this time, didn't really do anything, and stayed pretty beige and un-engaging. Then it just stopped. Not sure whether to give it more of a chance and read further in the series. At the moment I'm inclined to leave it there as I have so much I'm longing to get to in my To Be Read pile.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
I'm dripping a few 20th century classics in amongst my reading list this year. This, as you'd expect, was a tale brilliantly told.
- The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. I'm a heathen. I didn't click with this by about a quarter of the way in and have put it down for now. I was expecting to love it, but the period, the setting, the self-absorbed characters and their conversations just didn't do it for me. I got the same feeling a year or so ago when I read a Graham Greene and a Hemmingway which were both about over-privileged people who are utterly self-absorbed, and I abandoned those too. With all of them, I think it's perhaps that it just wasn't what I wanted to read at the time, and maybe I'll enjoy them later, so I've put them to one side. In the meantime, I won't pass Go and won't collect my properly-cultured-reader badge. Sorry.
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Believe it or not I'd never read this, or seen the movie, so I came to it fresh. Resally enjoyed it. Coincidentally, there was a lot in common in the writing of Brekfast at Tiffany's and this. It was very interesting to see how effective a sense of distance from a key character can be, and how the choices about who is to tell the story can change its telling dramatically.
- Founder Brand, Dave Gerhardt
- Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller
February 2023 reads
A superb read about wartime emigres making new lives and the pervasiveness of authoritarianism, plus a lot of posh people being self-absorbed.