Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.
Lucky Alex42 has just discovered PG Wodehouse and The Inimitable Jeeves:
My first Wodehouse, but certainly not my last. It’s pretty much what I thought it would be, only much better. Where has he been all my life? Wodehouse’s writing style was clearly a major influence on Terry Pratchett, but it’s one of those rare occasions when you can accuse one author of being similar to another, while meaning nothing but praise for both of them. Fantastic stuff.
The Day of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith has enthralled safereturndoubtful:
The narrative centres on 29-year-old Robert Forester who has recently moved to a small town in Pennsylvania to escape his former partner, Nickie, a woman who continues to give him a hard time on the phone, out of what seems sheer malice. Battling loneliness and depression, he has picked up the odd habit of watching an unknown young woman as she goes about her life at home. He isn’t a conventional Peeping Tom, there is nothing sexual about his behaviour, rather the tranquility he gets from her daily routine.
But rather like a Simenon romans durs, which I was often reminded of, we know Highsmith, and despite Forester’s apparent innocence, there is bleakness here, and it isn’t long until the story becomes much darker. Again like Simenon, there is that enthralling sense of destruction and despair as the story edges closer to its denouement. It’s a wonderful piece of dark and twisted fiction.
James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk has shocked greenmill:
My, this is an angry novel, which portrays the injustices and humiliations heaped upon black Americans in the pre-civil rights era, wrapped up in a love story that is carried on in the worst imaginable circumstances. The writing is superb, the plot and characters all too believable, and the polemical style and frequently obscene language are wholly justified by the social context. Shocking and highly recommended.
JoannieLuvsBocce has been enjoying a reread of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy:
I had read these all at once when home from college on Christmas break back in 1973, so my memory of the story pretty much runs together in my mind, but I am pleasantly surprised at how much I remember. The thing that stands out in my reread is the rich atmosphere created by the slow, ponderous pace of the storytelling – blatantly out of step with my 21st-century sensibility. But Mervyn Peake sure does know how to tell a story – an old-fashioned master craftsman at work.
The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin) has proved “utterly convincing” for ZorbaHeather:
The novel demonstrates how women suffered during 20th-century Russia. It is taking a while, but each time I pick the book up, I am back with characters in whom I am deeply invested. What a writer Ms Haratischvili is ... There was an article a while back about toxic masculinity in literature, as if there were no grey. Well here you’ve got it black, white, grey, both sexes and you’ve got the context of time (Siberia, purges, mass exterminations, neighbour reporting neighbour) and yet the humanity is what stands out. Human beings striving to survive. But I’m preaching. The stories are connected, and it is like joining old friends when I pick up the book. And I love that.
Lost Time – Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp by Józef Czapski (translated by Eric Karpeles) has similarly impressed vermontlogger:
This beautiful little book, with its horrible origins, is an inspiring addition to the shelf of prison literature.
Finally, CCCubbon recommends Echoes of the City by Lars Saabye Christensen (translated by Don Bartlett):
I am delighted. It’s a tale about Oslo emerging from the constraints of the second world war. I have bought the book in print form for I wish to savour it slowly, armed with my magnifying glass, which has a built-in light, to help. I read the first pages and there was a description of Frogner Park with its regiment of statues gleaming white … We spent time there last year, wandering among those cool figures, marvelling at the feel of them and gazing at their sightless eyes looking into the distance. I loved Oslo. Recently I read a phrase something like, “Is this all I am, can I not transform myself into something else? I am limited only by myself.” Something like that. Could I transform myself into a citizen of that wonderful city? Maybe not, but I may lose myself in the book.
Sounds like a good place to get lost.
Interesting links about books and reading
The New York Public Library has released the titles of the 10 most checked-out books in its 125-year history.
It turns out that being kind might not be a problem after all.
Celebrating the 200th birthday of Anne Brontë.
The Atlantic has re-committed to publishing short fiction.
The best 18th-century toilets were designed to look like books says Jessica Leigh Hester.
If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #GuardianBooks, and we’ll include a selection in this blog. Happy reading!