Date Archives August 2011

“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

“You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” This book has simple sentences like this scattered through it. They’re things you know, but forget. Your loved ones will die, so make the most of the time you have. I suppose I don’t like to look at members of my family and think about them dying, so I push the thought away. Reading this book, I was unable to push anything away. I will die one day, and so will everyone I know. A simple thought, and… Read More

“The Generation Game” by Sophie Duffy

An interesting premise: the book starts with a woman in hospital talking to her newborn baby girl. She starts to tell the story of her life, beginning with her own birth in St Thomas’s Hospital in 1965 and going right up to the present day. “I’ll tell you my story. Our story. Because there’s nothing worse than wondering. Knowing is always better.” It works well to begin with the end, and to return to it regularly through the telling of everything that led up to that point. It builds anticipation… Read More

Why I like independent bookshops

You often hear people talking about supporting independent bookshops as if they’re some charity case. I don’t agree with this – they have real advantages. One of them really hit me recently when I was buying a book for my nephew’s birthday. Time was short, and I was worried about being able to buy it, write the inscription, wrap it and send it off to reach him on his birthday. I checked various online stores, and unless I wanted to pay a lot for express shipment, none could guarantee delivery… Read More

London rioting

I live in Haringay, the same borough as Tottenham, where the riots started that have since spread across London. If you take the 41 bus from the corner of my street, you’ll be in Tottenham in 15 minutes or so. But Crouch End, where I live, is a middle-class enclave, popular with families, full of cute little cafes and bakeries. It’s a world away from Tottenham. So it irked me when I went out to a pub in Crouch End today and heard everyone talking about the rioters with such… Read More

“Book of Clouds” by Chloe Aridjis

A very quiet, meditative book about a Mexican woman adrift in Berlin. Tatiana is alienated from her family and her friends, cut off from the rest of the city, uninterested in forming a relationship with anyone. She gets a part-time job doing transcription work for a historian, goes on a few lacklustre dates with a fairly nondescript meteorologist, becomes slightly obsessed with a mentally ill woman, avoids her neighbours, develops insomnia. The book meanders along like this for most of the 200 pages, as aimless as the passage of a… Read More

“Brenton Brown” by Alex Wheatle

Brenton Brown is a follow-up to Alex Wheatle’s famous debut Brixton Rock, which was set in the early 1980s. We catch up with the characters of that book about 25 years later in contemporary Britain, and those who read the first book will enjoy seeing how things turned out, especially with the title character Brenton, who fell in love with his half-sister Juliet. Things get a lot messier in this book, despite their best efforts to avoid it, as the child they had together is now grown-up and wants to… Read More