Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Time for some good books.

Back in January I recall making some rather extravagant promises relating to my distressing tendency to buy books by the hundred and read them only by the dozen.
To my shame I must report that not one of the waiting "work" books has yet been read - perhaps sorting them into some sort of sensible order would be a useful task for the week. However, once the drug-induced dappyness of early days with The Arm had passed, I did rather better in the "just for fun" category, enjoying all the Phil Rickmans I had amassed, plus a clutch of mindless who-dunnits and, at long last, Gilead (which the puppy are as soon as I'd finished it!).
There was also The Shack, of course - though I remain ambivalent about this, at least it was a very quick read!
I loved Alexander Frater's tale of India "Chasing the Monsoon". which is every bit as exciting in its portraits of people along the way as evocative of the great weather system Frater sets out to follow, but I was much less excited by Jasmine & Arnica
I wanted rather more of India and (heartlessly, I know) less of the author's own struggles to work out her new identity as a blind woman. I really wanted to love this book - such mad courage travelling India as a blind white woman alone - but I couldn't get past the character of the author.

The great excitement, though, has been Michael Arditti's Easter.
I began it as Passiontide approached and finished it, exhausted but delighted, just before Palm Sunday...It contains some of the best writing I've encountered in a modern novel, and its setting in an Anglo-Catholic parish in North London was always going to please me...but it challenged too. The vicar who wonders if liturgy has become, for him, a substitute for faith, the gay curate who confronts the an HIV positive diagnosis at the beginning of a turbulent Holy Week, and the beautifully drawn cast that journeys with them through the week present a re-worked passion narrative, complete, praise be, with both death and resurrection. There are some disturbingly graphic accounts of gay sex on Hampstead Heath, which made for very uncomfortable reading (it was the clarity of writing and not the gay context I struggled with) so that, having initially recommended the book to my clergy reading group I lost my nerve and back pedalled wildly, but despite this it's a wonderful read, if not for the faint-hearted.

Having barely opened anything but Common Worship and the NRSV last week, I'm now back in India with Shantaram. Love it so far, with its vivid writing about Bombay, warts and all...it's a huge book, but this week is holiday. I'll try to keep you posted.

1 comment:

David Cooke said...

Enjoyed the post on books and exploring the blog. Loved reading Shantaram. David