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1001 Books Round-Up August 2020



The months winners and losers:

Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West – BOTM July – What GR says: The soldier returns from the front to the three women who love him.

His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald.

Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone.

But the soldier is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper’s daughter.

His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all.

The women have a choice – to leave him where he wishes to be, or to ‘cure’ him.

My Thoughts: A short book (138 pages) that packs a powerful punch with its examination of the impact of war on mental health.

I loved watching the evolution of the relationships between the 3 women as well as their relationship to Chris and their different takes on what the best thing for him would be.

The ending I have to say is perfect and shows the different levels of meaning in the book title.

4 Stars – Definitely worth a read go for it.

Austerlitz by W.G Sebald – June BOTM. What GR says: Austerlitz, the internationally acclaimed masterpiece by “one of the most gripping writers imaginable” (The New York Review of Books), is the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle. A small child when he comes to England on a Kindertransport in the summer of 1939, one Jacques Austerlitz is told nothing of his real family by the Welsh Methodist minister and his wife who raise him. When he is a much older man, the fleeting memories return to him, and obeying an instinct he only dimly understands, he follows their trail back to the world he left behind a half century before. There, faced with the void at the heart of twentieth-century Europe, he struggles to rescue his heritage from oblivion. Masterpiece? Gripping? I don’t get it…

My Thoughts: I just didn’t get this book I read the group discussion afterwards and there was so much I missed. The writing is stream of consciousness with no natural spacing on the page and rather than finding this edgy and unique I find it irritating and tiring to read.

The author includes photos in with the narrative which did make it more interesting and added to the feeling that this was a biographical novel rather than fiction. He also messes with the reader by adding photos that don’t actually relate to what the text is saying which it has to be said is a unique take on the unreliable narrator trope.

3 Stars – Don’t listen to me the rest of the group loved it.

The Book of Disquietude by Fernando Pessoa – BOTM – What GR says: First published in 1982, this is the “factless autobiography” of Bernardo Soares, one of the 72 literary personae or “heteronyms” with which Fernando Pessoa created the theatre of his absence. The circular text returns again and again to a protagonist desperate to find out who he is.  Circular or repetitive?

My Thoughts: Ugh I did not enjoy this book at all. I would still keep it on the list because it does add some diversity however my personal feeling is that books on the list should be books written how the author wanted them written and not pieced together by others posthumously as I have no idea if this is how the author wanted to tell his story. Maybe I am being a book snob, what do you think?

For me this was a mess. It is a collection of random ramblings pieced together in the most logical order the translator could think of and that is still fairly random. The musings on dreaming and reality and not dreaming and non reality quite frankly sent me to dreamland. If the author had a message in amongst this I am not sure what it was and the best part was getting to the end so I could knock another book of the list.

3 Stars (a very low 3) if rambling musings are you thing spend an afternoon with my husband or alternatively read this book.

He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope – TBR – What GR Says: Widely regarded as one of Trollope’s most successful later novels, He Knew He Was Right is a study of marriage and of sexual relationships cast against a background of agitation for women’s rights. Nothing to argue with in that description.

My Thoughts: This was my first Trollope and I wasn’t actually looking forward to it indeed when I saw the length I was more dismayed than enthusiastic however when I started reading I realised this was actually a story I could get lost in.

At its heart I would class this as a family saga initially we start with Louis and Emily Trevelyan and from there it sprawls out to encompass their friends and family as everyone becomes embroiled in their domestic disagreement.

While at points in the book I wanted to slap both Louis and Emily and to tell them just to speak to each other it was the other relationships that spring up around them that provided the real reward in reading.

Louis (he who “knew he was right”) was a complex and sad character who more than anyone else on the whole book destroyed his own happiness. Yes the “other man” helped in this mission but not more so than Louis himself.

Reading this reminded me of reading Dickens. Trollope uses the same play on words when naming his characters and also explores the society of the time. In this case Trollope is more concerned with the well to do than with the poor and it did make for interesting reading particularly the situation with the French sisters.

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“Nora Rowley has been properly brought up, having been made to understand by the best and most cautious of mothers, that in the matter of falling in love it was absolutely necessary that bread and cheese should be considered”

“The unpleasantness of this world consists, chiefly in the fact that when a man wants wages, he must earn them.”

“had she ever heard that any guest in her house was reading in bed, she would have made an instant personal attack upon that guest” Remind me never to visit

“Trevelyan shook his head and became cross. His old friend would not at all do as old friends are expected to do when called upon for advice.”

“Men whose business it is to detect hidden and secret things, are very apt to detect things which have never been done.”

“The news about the bank arrangements, though kept of course as a great secret, soon became common in Exeter”

“Do none confess but the guilty? What is all that we have read about the Inquisition and the old tortures?”

3 Stars – don’t let the length put you off!

Have you read any of these? Let us know what you thought of them.

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