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Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel

So I’m a fan of this series, but I guess Wolf Hall was my favourite. Of course, I enjoyed this. In fact, I kept reading other things, saving this one up.

But when I finally got to it, I found myself a little bored drifting. It is very long, and while one’s love of (Mantel’s) Cromwell (which is a weird pronouncement as well as a tribute to Mantel’s skill as a novelist) can take one quite far, perhaps the foreknowledge of the end, or just how everything seemed to around in circles or the reigning queen(s) (Jane Seymour/Anne of Cleves) don’t quite captivate (although I am fascinated by both these women as I am fascinated by all Henry’s wives – except perhaps Katherine Howard).

Also, the ending. I don’t know why I had a sense of deja vu. I no longer have my copy of Bringing Up Bodies at hand, but did it end with a similar perspective of the beheaded Anne?

Department of Speculation, Jenny Offil

One more book written by a creative writing teacher (or is that the case with all authors now? That they have all have creative writing degrees and then go on to teach the subject and so mine that territory when it comes to their own fiction?).

I don’t mean this as a slur, but it was quite like reading a (literary and fairly profound) blog. In fact, it charts the course of a marriage through fragments.

Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

My initial impression was that it was written for the movie – The Grand Budapest Hotel came to mind. Also it had a bit of the Western person writing about the east –  the commies are the bad guys/plebs (well, they were, but is that the only perspective we can have?) and the aristocracy the good cultured one.

I have lost patience with the big bad commie point of view that Americans cleave to. In the count’s dinner with a senior Party functionary, the latter comments on Hollywood as the perfect propaganda device (but later undercuts that by citing noir). Here the novel performs this function by showing up how the well-intentioned system becomes a hierarchy of hierarchies. So the novel functions as anti-communist propoganda.

Weirdly or not so weirdly, it reads like the Russian novelists read in English, which may or may not have been the point

Anyway, it grew on me and stayed with me, so that’s something. Also, I realise that I now tend to read mostly women authors, and perhaps it was the ecriture masculin that I couldn’t quite get into?

Paper Moon, Rehana Munir

Read my thoughts here.

The Girl Who Lived, Christopher Greyson 

Another of those novels you read because you want to know what happened, not because you particularly care. Another male novelist I couldn’t quite get into, although it had a quite interesting female lead character.

Lab Girl, Hope Jahren

The memoir version of Overstory.  How to become a scientist. Do I need to say more?

Okay, it’s about a very successful paleobiologist – both her journey as a woman in science and the wonder of plants. The objects she studies become a metaphor for their own trajectory

The mushroom As a penis

Surrender, Dorothy – Meg Wolitzer 

Why do some books make it and some not? This is a lovely book, but doesn’t seem to have made it onto any lists.

Wolitzer’s thing is to do friendship and the keen observations that interesting people make. She does this conversation with friends so much better than Rooney

Or at least I think so perhaps because I’m Not (properly) a millennial

The Eighth Guest and other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, Madhulika Liddle

A series of finely crafted short stories starring Mughal-era detective Muzaffar Jang. The actual mysteries are not amazing, but they’re enjoyable anyway.