Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Feeling the heat, a Bones review and a symphonic novel

It’s going to be a scorcher today, I fear. Here’s this morning’s meditation before we reach for our Pimm’s and ice:

Meditation 160

In early sunlight
the slats of the gate
glitter, pulsate
with shining cobwebs,
the day’s harbingers.

Beyond, the field
and distant mountains
shimmer with a promise
you can’t yet taste:
tantalising, dangerous.

Keeping to books, I am utterly thrilled with my first (five-star) review of The Bones of Summer which can be found at Amazon US (scroll down to the review section to read). Thanks so much to Amos Lassen for such kind words - I particularly liked "Brooke is a terrific writer and if you have not read her, you are really missing something." I think I might even put that in my Christmas cards if you're very unlucky!...

At work, I am considering the year’s Steering Group meetings and seeing how we can improve them. Yes, well, rather too much of a managerial task for me (I really only wanted to do the typing, you know …) but I’ll have to try to think of something. A blank page response doesn’t look good. At the same time, the office is drumming up more enthusiasm for our plans for Freshers’ Week – all very worthwhile and necessary of course, but as the whole concept is as usual filling me with dread and existential terror, my smile is, I admit, a little on the fixed side …

I decided against my lunchtime walk round campus today as it’s way too hot, but I did sit by the lake for a while and read. While I was there, in the heat and anger of the day, I finished Rose Tremain’s The Road Home – which I’ve been reading for the University Book Group meeting in July. What a novel. It’s the literary equivalent of listening to a great symphony. Possibly Beethoven but I’m not a musical expert. The characters are rich and vibrant with colour, and some of the turns of phrase are gripping. What puzzled me is that the review quote on the front of the book calls it “wild and beautiful.” Actually it’s anything but wild. It’s the most measured piece of writing I’ve read for a long time. “Measured and beautiful” would be far more accurate. That said, the symphony isn’t perfect. Some of the protagonist’s (Lev) actions are, I think, out of character. I don’t think he’s a man who succumbs to bouts of rage, but he does so in the novel a couple of times. This doesn’t work. I was also worried about two characters, our main man Lev and his short-term girlfriend Sophie, who seemed happy to take money from people in an old people’s home now and again without so much as sparing a thought for the morality of such actions. And I speak as one who used to work in an old people’s home, if on a voluntary basis. They’re always offering money – it’s part of dementia or the general vulnerability of old age. You either laugh it off or take any cheques to the home manager who can dispose of them as he/she thinks fit. So I did find that part of the book rather shocking and it felt as if Tremain hadn’t done her research properly here. Although of course I can’t judge a novelist for that – I’m Mrs Research Light after all. On a more serious note, however, I also think the novel is a good fifty pages or so too long. Maybe more. Reading the end of The Road Home felt like listening to a piece of music where the composer didn’t quite know how to end it and then it eventually fizzled out somewhat. Also the ending doesn’t work – it’s too neat and too happy, on a surface level. I think the power of the book required more angst at the end. That would have been better. However it’s nice that Sophie comes from Godalming – I of course did appreciate that! So, negative points aside, this is a novel well worth reading, if you haven’t already.

Meanwhile, I’ve written a poem about clocks. As you do. And I've got the second part of my advance cheque from Dreamspinner Press, so that's put a spring in my step, thank you, Elizabeth!

Oh and I forgot to say yesterday that I tried to convince the boss that I may have a prickly exterior but that inside I am as soft and malleable as marshmallows melted in the sun. Or words to that effect. His response was actually he thought it was really the other way round, and I was pricklier on the inside than out. Well, harrumph, we say. That’s him off my Christmas card list then …!

Tonight, I’ll continue with my read through of The Gifting whilst sticking as closely as possible to our one and one fan. There’s still more ironing to do too, but I don’t really know if I can face it. The good thing though is that Lord H brought home loads of salad things, plus choc ices, from the shops yesterday which should keep us going for another few days, so we don’t have to turn the oven on at all, hurrah!

Today’s nice things:

1. Poetry
2. Reading
3. Being lazy
4. Books
5. Royalty cheques
6. The continuing pre-edit
7. Not having to turn the oven on.

Anne Brooke - wondering if she's reached the day's prickle quota yet

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