Sadly, at the start of the month I read two rather disappointing books one after the other. I was so looking forward to both of them, and was a little disgruntled that I didn’t enjoy either.
Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick **
Attracted as I am to lovely green Viragos, I spotted this in a Brighton bookshop. It isn’t a novel which I’ve come across on my many book shopping jaunts before, and so I had to purchase it. From the start, I found Hardwick’s prose rather beautiful:
“So, from Kentucky to New York, to Boston, to Maine, to Europe, carried along on a river of paragraphs and chapters, of blank verse, of little books translated from the Polish, large books from the Russian – all consumed in a sedentary sleeplessness.”
The entirety of Sleepless Nights is made up of fragmented memories, some true and some fabricated, but there is nothing whatsoever to distinguish between the two. Whilst interesting, the structure of the book made the entirety feel a little too disjointed, and I found that it did not flow at all. Characters were introduced at whim and disappeared just as quickly, and it was therefore rather sifficult to identify or sympathise with any of them. I am not sure how I feel about reading more of Hardwick’s novels. I think that they will all be stylistically intriguing, but I am not sure whether I will enjoy them. On further thought since finishing this volume, I have decided not to read any more of her books on the lack of strength of Sleepless Nights.
Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway **
I do really enjoy Hemingway’s fiction, particularly the way in which he uses language so sparingly. This was the first volume of his non-fiction which I had come across. I should perhaps have studied the blurb a little when I came across it in Fopp, as I am fascinated with Africa and African society, but not with the hunting of innocent animals. I found some of the passages rather difficult to read. The entirety was rather gory, and I found Hemingway’s flippancy about such horrible things rather unsettling at times. His writing does not seem so startling or interesting when he is writing non-fiction, and in consequence, it seemed a little dull and too matter-of-fact.