I don’t know what happened. I don’t normally binge on books. Usually I get a book, begin to read it, abandon it if I’m not enjoying it or finish it before moving onto the next one. I think it began when I decided to listen and read my way around the Mediterranean last summer. (UPDATE on that – I overdosed on Bosnia and Herzegovina – music and literature – and am now stuck in Greece, not sure where to begin.) I was ordering more and more books and rediscovering I liked the look and feel and weight and determining how much I had left by the place of the bookmark (usually a train ticket) rather than Kindle’s page count. E-Books are at times heaven sent, but lining books up on a shelf is a greater joy than dismissing them to the “cloud”.
Today I find that I am reading five books – or about to extend my reading to five – almost simultaneously.
Here they are and why.
The Woman in the Woods John Connolly
Did I come to John Connolly’s book by accident? I think I heard that James Naughtie liked the Charlie Parker series – but I could be mistaken. Is it more likely that he enjoyed Michael Connolly’s work? However, it happened, it was meant to be. Id this the 15th Charlie Parker? It is the 5th in what appears to be an alliteratively titled loosely connected stories; The Woman in Winter is preceded by The Wolf in Winter, A Song of Shadows, A Time of Torment and A Game of Ghosts. Connolly is an Irish author who make Belfast a destination on his promotional tours. I have seen him twice and look forward to the next time. The Parker books are violent and gory and intense. Less so as the character matures and situations are more intellectually complex. But they are still tough reading. The author and some of the characters – especially his side-kicks (really not the right word) are witty, sometimes darkly, and they even make
the darker situations funny. Parker is somewhere between this world and another. He has a dead
daughter who visits him and has made friends with his living daughter. The stories are filled with other gods, and people with demented beliefs. They have twisted logic and are often inward looking and have cherished their otherness through generations since the arrival of the
first Europeans in America.
If you want to read Parker’s stories, start from the beginning to really understand all of the characters. My only regret is I started to read on e-book and miss having a little library on my shelf. I plan to address that soon.
My other advice is to buy from No Alibis bookshop in Belfast if you can.
Three Daughters of Eve – Elif Shafak
I first heard of Elif Shafak in Desert Island Discs and loved her music choice. As I was reading my way around the Med. at this stage and at some point, going to reach Turkey, I went looking for a book. I love Istanbul and The Bastard of Istanbul seemed like a good choice. It was. I was converted to Shafak by page 2. I have left Nazperi Nalbantoğlu at a moment when I want to know what happens next, but Charlie Parker came along. But I know I will want something to look forward to in 150 odd paged when the Parker story is done (and I suspect even at this stage I will need something uplifting).
Elif Shafak is a wonderful teller of complex stories who draws on strong female characters and difficult decisions. I’m looking forward to returning to this story and soon, listening to Turkish music while I read the words.
Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
A Christmas present, Yes – that Tom Hanks. Short stories, typewriter motif (interestingly), highly varied (but somehow most recall a childhood experience) Excellent. Easy to abandon and return to.
The Anonymous Venetian – Donna Leon
Ah, Commissario Brunetti. I have missed you. How are you, your family and all those wonderful meals you eat at home for lunch? Detective, police work and police politics, class, family, Venice, tourists, canals, footwork and high art. I think this is the 20th Brunetti book. I have read, if not all, all but two or three. Leon, Shafak and Connolly are my top three authors, but there are more. For some other time.
The Bridge over the Drina – Ivo Andrić
This was an unexpected buy. I mentioned earlier that I got stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina on my imaginary listening and reading trip around the Med. One of the books I read was Lodgers by Nenad Veličković. This Nobel winning writer and this book are mentioned in passing. One of the characters is reading it. Before I finished reading the page, on impulse I ordered it. I’ll be taking it slowly, dipping in a few pages at a time while I deal with all the other books I’m reading. But so far it is beautiful.