Another burst of book reading in February. Nine books! Of course I have been busy on other things, but from now on I’ll be slowing down a lot.
My blog has been neglected for too long, so I’ll be writing more starting in March. It’s amazing how time flies by. It’s 4.5 months since I left Teamwork? Hard to believe that at times. It was a wonderful journey, but we move on!
I have restarted my book project, mainly drafting notes on some of the more difficult chapters I have yet to write. I have also got into the habit of recording my thoughts, which I find more useful than letting my pen hover over a laptop or notebook and waiting for nothing to happen! Whatever works, I suppose.
Anyway, here’s a look at what I have been reading this month.
1. The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
2. A Bit on the Side by William Trevor
3. The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg
4. Beneath the Earth by John Boyne
5. The Doll-Master and other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates
6. The Office of Innocence by Thomas Kenneally
7. All Over Ireland by Deirdre Madden
8. Soul at the White Heat by Joyce Carol Oates
9. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
As an aficionado of short stories I was disappointed and exhilarated by the four collections I delved into. Never having read any of her work before, I had never read Joyce Carol Oates before, but having browsed the ebook section of the library, I came across ‘The Doll-Master.’ From the opening chilling tale onwards this was really a great collection.
William Trevor’s ‘A Bit in the Side’ left me underwhelmed. I say this as a fan of Trevor’s – I think I have read all his work. However, while I was as usual impressed by his writing, it just didn’t grip me as I thought it would. Maybe being more exposed to more modern Irish writers has left me a little tired of Trevor.
Although I had read John Boyne’s ‘The Absolutist’ and was very taken by the story and writing, I found myself drawn to other Irish writers. I guess I had Boyne bracketed as more a children’s writer, but I decided to give his ‘Beneath the Earth’ a look, mainly because it’s yet another short story collection. What a surprise, it was really good. More on Boyne later.
‘All Over Ireland’ edited by Deirdre Madden brings together a mixed bag of short stories by Irish writers, from Colm Toibin to Mary Morrissy (I had the pleasure of working with Mary in the Examiner, and loved her contribution, Emergency).
‘Soul at the White Heat’ is a collections of essays, musing and reviews, the bulk of which reads like a literary odyssey, bookended by a couple of unexpected pieces on Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. More Joyce Carol Oates please!
‘The Glorious Heresies’ is a thrilling debut by Lisa McInerney, set in my favourite city, Cork, with a murderous cast, its funny, dark and enthralling. I bought this back in the summer. No surprise it has been highly lauded.
‘The Emperor of Lies’ is a tough read, because it’s set in the Jewish Ghetto of Lodz in Poland whose residents are led to their own destruction presided over by the hapless Chaim Rumkowski. Although this is a fictionalised account of events in the ghetto, its vivid dramatisation of the unfolding Holocaust and its effects on those around them makes this a fascinating read.
The travails of a young priest in Australia during World War 2 is the theme of Thomas Kenneally’s ‘The Office of Innocence’. I was lucky enough to read his more famous work, ‘Schindler s Ark’, before I saw its realisation on screen as ‘Schindler’s List’, so it was surprising I left it this long before exploring a second book. I’m looking forward to checking out some more because Kenneally is a superb writer.
Last but by no means least, ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ is Boyne’s best book to date and my favourite tome this year. From the startling first paragraph to the final page I was mesmerised. The story of adopted Cyril Avery, who reflects on his extraordinary life as a gay man growing up in Ireland. Boyne captures unchristian Ireland very well, and peoples his chapters with an interesting array of characters. Highly recommended.