Jessica Benhar: Woman Reading (Image from here)
I read four novels whilst on holiday recently. I started with The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. I very much enjoy Tremain's storytelling. Without effort I am wafted to place and time, immediately engaged with character. This was no exception, and I loved the quiet melancholy through which Gustav gently progresses. Beautiful.
Two novels were both by Margaret Drabble. I had not read her for some time, and having just bought her latest The Dark Flood Rises, I decided to read The Pure Gold Baby first. To say that Drabble delivers a slice of life, cut across characters and class is an over-simplification. She examines subjects such as disability in The Pure Gold Baby, and old age and death in The Dark Flood Rises, but treats those threads within contexts which we recognise and believe - as well as the slightly off-piste, and with which she has this reader fully engaged. Drabble created a group of people with whose lives I was so wrapped that before going on to the second novel I decided to read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon which came to my attention in a Guardian review.
This is very much in the same vein: wrapped in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone's business - or so they think. Everyone has dark(ish) secrets, and two girls set out to solve a murder in their summer holiday. Amusing and profound as children can be, there was a smile on my face as I read this novel in almost one go.
Then on to old age and dying. Sounds depressing - especially with me in my seventieth year and feeling the creaks of time. But not at all: Margaret Drabble deals with so many aspects of the end of life with a light touch, amusing characters, thoughtfulness, ... I very much enjoyed The Dark Flood Rises.
William Patrick Roberts: A Reading of Poetry (Woman Reading) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (image from here)
And now for something different: Quite Ugly One Morning by Christoher Brookmyre. I heard about this on the BBC Radio 4 programme A good read just after we returned from holiday. It is a whodunnit, written by a Scot, and set in Edinburgh - it contains lots of bodily fluids right from the first page - but was just right as the punctuation mark I needed to get back to reading my pile of non-fiction.