Wednesday, 17 December 2008

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover
by John Buchan

"In Greenmantle, Richard Hannay, hero of The Thirty-Nine Steps, travels across war-torn Europe in search of a German plot and an Islamic Messiah. He and his three colleagues move in disguise through Germany to Constantinople and the Russian border to face their enemies: the grotesque Stumm and the evil beauty of Hilda von Einem."
These books are so evocative of their time, written in the early years of WWI. He writes about hiring a car as if it were an everyday event, even though cars have been around for only about 20 years, and then the next minute they're riding horses. It wasn't so much the story as the atmosphere of the book that kept me reading - the plot is very strategic and tied up with the war, and nowhere near as accessible as The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Image of the book cover
by Robert Harris

"March 1943, the war hangs in the balance, and at Bletchley Park a brilliant young codebreaker is facing a double nightmare. The Germans have unaccountably changed their U-boar Enigma code, threatening a massive Allied defeat. And as suspicion grows that there may be a spy inside Bletchley, Jericho's former girlfriend disappears."
Another book chosen following my visit to Bletchley Park. Some of the real facts are woven in with a fairly decent crime story. This is the first Robert Harris I've read, but I have another two waiting, and on the basis of this one I'm looking forward to them.

Image of the book cover
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

"The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs..."
This was faintly disturbing to read. Well written, no doubt about that, but not a comfortable story by any means. Sitting here wondering what I want from a book, I come to the conclusion that I don't mind a bit of unpleasantness or the worst facets of the human experience, but I don't want the whole book to be like that, with no goodness or kindness or redemption. It doesn't have to be a happy ending, but when there's virtually no happiness throughout, it's not what I want to relax with on the sofa in the evening.

1 comment:

Brett said...

Mr Harris is a very good writer i've enjoyed all of his that i have read, he seems to get the facts right without compromising the story.