Book Reviews

Book Reviews by Hilary Stockwell

Like a lot of girls growing up in the 1960’s my early reading began with the delights of Enid Blyton, Pat Smythe, Malcolm Saville and Mary O’Hara of ‘My Friend Flicker’ fame (I did wonder what would appear when I googled that book title!).  I couldn’t get enough of them and spent hours in DAYLIGHT reading.

For a while in my teens books took a back seat and magazines such as Jackie and Cosmopolitan were the only reading material I laid my hands on other than the odd copy of Reader’s Digest that my parents subscribed to.   Of course there was a scattering of required reading books at school and later at college and maybe it was there that the true appreciation of the deeper delight of books was taught to me.  HG Wells, Iris Murdoch, DH Lawrence even the dreaded Shakespeare – all of these taught me to dig a bit deeper and look beyond.  Result – I read copious Danielle Steele and left all that higher brow stuff behind!

Thirty years on and I am reading as often as I can.  Part of my bedtime ritual and as essential as teeth brushing, my husband and I ‘resume the position’ books in hands, propped up on pillows and transport ourselves to other places – he to a murder scene, me to what I like to think of, as slightly more esoteric setting!

Anne Tyler, John Irving, Anita Shreve,  Pam Houston, Sarah Hall, Curtis Sittenfeld, David Nichols, Paullina Simons,  just a few of the authors on my ever growing list that I’m discovering and loving.  There is no doubt that I will never get to read enough and possibly not even those books that I continue to add to the unread selection that accumulates at home.

Two books have recently become my bedtime reading – one at a time as I’m not very good at juggling.  The first was Sebastian Faulks – an author that everybody else seems to have experienced and loved judging by his popularity – On Green Dolphin Street a story that begins in 1959 in America  as the Eisenhower years are ending and through the time of the election between Nixon and Kennedy.  The story is told from the point of view of a wife of a British Ambassador in Washington.  Mary, an only child, removed from parents back in London,  who is both raising a family and dealing with the demons experienced by her husband following his time in Vietnam as well as supporting him in his working role.  Her life takes a twist, naturally, along the way which challenges her feelings of loyalty, filial duty and need for self fulfilment.    The author has created a story with great characterization showing empathy to each of the characters involved.   It was a book that will lead me to read more Sebastian Faulks without a doubt.

On a slightly different note I FAILED to complete One Hundred Years of Solitude, a book that won the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature.  There is no doubt that it is an amazing story of realism and fantasty.  It tells the story of an eccentric family who travel for months, enduring incredible hardship, in the quest  to create a settlement in an untouched and remote area of South America.  It follows the expanding family and the evolution and expansion of the settlement until, the dream takes a turn for the worst.  Written by Garcia Marquez, a man with an imagination that literally knows no bounds, it is intriguing and at times both funny and horrifying.  However, it was, for me, more demanding than I wished for and, like an over-rich meal, I made  the choice to leave the rest.  However, despite that, I can recommend it as worth a try.  ‘Dazzling’ was the New York Times Review.  The Guardian reported ‘As an experience it is enormously, kaleidoscopically, mysteriously alive’.

Hilary

1 Comments
  1. Brian Quinn

    Interesting. I could (and sometimes do) debate the merits of writers for hours at a time. DH Lawrence I’ve always found unreadable. Marquez I’ve never dared try but I’ve always found that magical realism, like science fiction, places too many demands on us to keep up with the author’s sometimes capricious and sometimes self-indulgent imagination. Iris Murdoch’s books are odd and often claustrophobic (The Bell and The Unicorn particularly). Sebastian Faulks I don’t like one little bit, I’m afraid. Apart from John Irving, I don’t know the authors in your para 4. I’d add Nigel Balchin and Muriel Spark. I’m reading ‘The Ghost’ by Robert Harris at the moment which I think is excellent and which reminds me of Ian McEwan. In the photo you are reading one of the best-written books ever in my opinion (the best two being Brideshead Revisited and The Great Gatsby – but then I have a strong taste for nostalgia, grand settings and doomed love). Others may disagree…

Leave a comment