January – the read pile

A belated post but here’s what I read in January.

Bill Bryson – The Road to Little Dribbling

I once had dinner with Bill Bryson. I worked for Waterstone’s events team, he was on a book promotion tour and we had a two-performance night at Newark Theatre. We had a tight turnaround for food between appearances and his publicist (the lovely Alison Barrow) phoned a local restaurant, gave them our orders and asked that the food be served as soon as we arrived at a set time. We turned up, the restaurant had no knowledge of our order and we waited to be served until the food arrived leaving me about 5 minutes to eat before heading back to sell more books. At the end of the evening Bill B turned to me, shook my hand and said “I never saw anyone eat salmon risotto that fast before.”

I mention this sad tale because I never thought Bill Bryson was rude. He’s known for being a bit grumpy but all out rude, no. Until I read this. There really is no excuse for being so rude to people who work in McDonald’s – everyone knows they have to ask about fries and drinks and the like. There is no excuse being rude to serving staff or retail staff at all – but he does it. I was sadly disappointed. Very few laughs, some interesting facts (none of which I can remember now) and lots of grumping.

L.P.Hartley – The Go Between

A reading group choice for this month, I didn’t make the group due to illness so I’ve no idea what they thought of it. I thought it was… okay. I didn’t really like the protagonist, and more importantly, he didn’t seem to learn or grow as a result of the events in the book. While I appreciate the sultry build up and the tension rising with the weather, I didn’t really enjoy any of it and I’ve read so any stories that concentrate on rich people sleeping with the oiks that I wasn’t really interested. I feel like I ought to have something more to say about an English classic but I really don’t. It didn’t work for me.

Matt Haig – Reasons to Stay Alive

I devoured this in one sitting, shedding a few tears as I did so and rejoicing that it appears to be so well publicised and so well respected. It’s so incredibly important to know more about depression and how normal it is – if you are interested in finding out more this is a great place to start. Not only does it cover the facts but you get a brief glimpse inside the eloquent head of a man who has struggled with it as a condition.

Dodie Smith – The Town in Bloom

Some of Dodie Smith’s back catalogue are now being re-published in paperback and I picked this up on a recent browsing exercise in Waterstone’s. Essentially, it’s the same story as I Capture the Castle, with similar characters though perhaps they are slightly lacking in the charm that permeates I Capture the Castle. But this was entertaining and sweet, and set in theatre-land of the 1920s so of interest to me.

Excellent Women – Barbara Pym

People have been telling me to read Barbara Pym for ages and I finally got round to it. If you’ve heard that she’s a bit like Jane Austen, this is indeed true. It’s the way she covers the minutiae of women’s everyday lives. And funny. And bitchy, in a terribly polite way. If this sounds dull, it’s not.

My to be read pile this month includes two dystopian classics – pity me. Report to follow at the end of the month.

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