Monday, June 4, 2012


I’m trying to keep track of what I am reading while on renewal leave. It is such an indulgence to have time to read – to just read whatever I want. I love having several books going at the same time – a couple of “serious” books here by my reading chair, and another couple of lighter works upstairs by the bed and next to the TV, one on my ipad and, of course, the recorded books in the car.
I’ve mentioned a couple of books in previous posts, so here are a few disconnected thoughts on some of the other books I’ve recently finished:
Just before we went to California, I hurriedly loaded Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James onto the ipad. James is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read most of her other books over and over. Having read nothing about this new work, I assumed it to be another in the Adam Dalgleish series. As the plane took off and we reached the altitude where electronic devices are permitted, I opened the ipad and was astounded. James has written a follow up to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” (Pemberly, I had forgotten, is the estate in Derbyshire of Fitzwiliam Dacry, whom Elizabeth Bennet marries at the end of Austen’s novel). James does a wonderful job of recreating the setting and the ambiance and of bringing Austen’s characters once more to life. The mystery itself was not, for me, the highlight, but what a wonderful way to begin our trip.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Barnes won the 2011 Booker Prize for this novel. To me, it’s a book about memory – the way our memories shape our current lives as well as the tricks our memories play on us. We tend to think of our memories as factual recordings of events as they happened, but that’s far from true. When my sister, Beth , and I get together, we enjoy comparing our memories of growing up – of events and people. Sometimes our memories coincide, sometimes we have different but complementary memories of the thing, and sometimes we can hardly believe we are talking about the same event. Barnes’ novel is short, but exquisite.
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon: I didn’t watch the PBS series, but I did enjoy the sort of voyeuristic glimpse into the life of the great house. In the United States, we take pride in our delusion of a classless society. This book is a trip back to a time and place where rigid class divisions were accepted without much question. I’m looking forward to reading another book or two about Downton Abbey written by people who are not so deeply invested in presenting a rosy, uncritical picture. To read this book, you would think that Lady Almina was practically a saint!
The Brutal Telling and A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny: delightfully traditional murder mysteries, set in the tiny Canadian village of Three Pines, somewhere outside of Quebec City. Chief Inspector Armande Gamache is all you could want in a fictional detective – insightful, compassionate, patient. I love to read these formulaic stories, I think because it is so reassuring to know it will all be tidied up by the end.