what I read between April and August 2011 (2)

I though I’d start the second instalment of my blog catch-up by telling you about my current misadventure with the washing machine and launderette, or the difficulties associated with the finer points of child-rearing (the essentials are tough enough: feed, clothe, provide sufficient sleep time and 100% attention per child during waking hours, so just think what the finer points we impose on ourselves, such as healthy eating or a bilingual/bicultural upbringing, entail). But no, the proper place for that is Facebook. More on social media in a separate post, or possibly even on a page. Hold your breath everyone.
St Peter’s, Rome – Photo: Richard Wilkinson

The photo was taken during our fantastic three week holiday in lovely Italy. But for now, more books, lovely books.

Maths à mort, de Margot Bruyère – Livre publié initialement sous le titre Dis moi qui tu hais (je te dirai qui tu aimes…) A mon avis, ce livre ne présenterait pratiquement aucun intérêt pour quiconque n’aurait pas travaillé à l’IHÉS. D’ailleurs, il est assez difficile à trouver. Mais c’est amusant de lire l’Institut à travers le regard très personnel, et donc sans doute très biaisé, d’une personne qui y a travaillé longtemps.
The fall of giants by Ken Follett. I was in Rotterdam station one day, didn’t have my Kindle, didn’t want to pay ridiculous roaming charges on my iPhone, so I did the un-green thing and bought a paper version of a book I knew I’d only read once (it has since found what I hope is a good home in the housing estate where visiting professors at my work live). The impression I retain was that it was a sort of Downton Abbey (TV series) Gosford Park (film) Remains of the Day (book by Kazuo Ishiguro) combo. In fact there were elements of Remains of the Day plot, with the informal dinner at some Lord’s pad in Wales, bringing together his various relatives and acquaintances, who conveniently combine into a neat representation of the political situation in the 1910s. I liked the miner, Dai-with-Jesus, to whom you are introduced first, but couldn’t sustain that level of interest for the other characters in various countries. Good read, but won’t be rushing out to buy the next two volumes.
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. Ken Follett leads to Pillars of the Earth, reviewed elsewhere on this blog, and from there in one easy hop, to Cathedral of the Sea. A very similar book to Pillars of the Earth, probably lighter on technical cathedral building aspects, but even heavier on social issues. Set in Barcelona in the 14th Century. Nice Christians, Jews and Muslims. Nasty Christians, Jews and Muslims. Plenty of plucky women. Slightly idiotic but heroic and strong men.  Plenty of action, treason and lurve. What’s not to like?
The purple valley and Three towers in Tuscany by Malcolm Saville. At last, I’m enjoying the treat I had saved for myself for so long (bought the books in October, they sat on my shelves till June, such self restraint!) and discovered another series, Marston Baines, by my favourite ever children’s author. There are no real surprises, the books are hugely enjoyable. The key Saville hallmarks are there: the main characters are incorruptibly good, the main baddies largely foreign, but hey; locations for the action are as accurately and feeling presented as in other books by this largely neglected classic author. This particular series, Marston Baines, represents an attempt by Saville to reach out to older readers, by dealing with such contemporary issues in the seventies as drugs. Every word he writes about that particular topic still ring true (see also When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh or Murder must advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers, yes I know, my references are hopelessly old-fashioned). Can’t wait to read the third one I bought at the Malcolm Saville Society event in Church Stretton last October, but I have to wait till my mother’s finished reading it.

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