The Torrents of Spring by Ernest Hemingway **
I really like Ernest Hemingway’s work on the whole, and certainly tend to enjoy his fiction more than his non-fiction. (The Green Hills of Africa still makes me shudder a little when I think of it.) This novella sounded relatively interesting, so I added it to the pile of books which I checked out of Cambridge Central Library in early April. The book has been split into four sections – ‘Red and Black Laughter’, ‘The Struggle for Life’, ‘Men in War and the Death of Society’ and ‘The Passing of a Great Race and the Making and Marring of Americans’. There is also an introduction and an afterword, and the book still only comes in at 104 pages.
The entirety of The Torrents of Spring takes place in Michigan, and follows a couple of characters whilst outlining their historical and social surroundings. As tends to happen with Hemingway’s work, I did find his prose a little sparse at times, but too much here seems to have been baldly stated rather than inferred. Nothing at all was left to the imagination of the reader, which was a real shame. The novel was not a striking one either, something which much of his other work tends to be. Whilst The Torrents of Spring was interesting in terms of Hemingway’s interpretation of racial differences, it was ultimately flat. I am determined to keep reading his work nonetheless, and keep hoping that he has written something else which is on a par with the haunting The Old Man and The Sea.
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Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood ***
I had heard Infinite Sky mentioned in a couple of BookTube videos and spotted it by chance on display in the library. Its gorgeous cover and the fact that it is a ‘coming of age’ story were enough for me to pick it up, regardless of the way in which I knew little of what it was about. It is a YA book, and I think I enjoy reading the genre more now than I did when I was of the age to. The first few sentences are striking:
“You can’t tell that the coffin holds the body of a boy.
He wasn’t even sixteen, but his coffin’s the same size as a man’s would be.
It’s not just that he was young, but because it was so sudden. No one should die the way he did. That’s what the faces here say.”
Iris is the novel’s narrator, the child of a grumpy father and AWOL mother, who has run away to travel the world. Infinite Sky begins with a family of travellers going to live – without permission – on the farmland in Derbyshire which belongs to Iris’ family. She soon meets Trick, the son of the family, who is just a year older than she. Although they both know that they should stay away from one another, the pair soon forge a friendship. Flood makes good use of the different perspectives which the child and adult characters have of the travellers throughout the novel, and how these change along with the circumstances. I found the first half of the book a little flat, but as soon as the pivotal event occurs, the pace improves and one wants to read on to see what is going to happen. Flood captures uncertainty so well. The novel was not how I would have expected it to be, but it is a relatively interesting work which raises several rather topical issues. I will certainly be keeping my eye on Flood’s future work.
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Granta 87: Jubilee ****
Before checking this out of Cambridge Central Library, I was unaware that Granta magazines existed in the form of collaborative good quality paperback-sized books with jolly cover designs. Both my boyfriend and I thought that it looked great, and it featured a lot of different authors, so I added it to my checking out pile. The contributors to this volume – and, indeed, their contributions – are numerous and the book includes, amongst other things, Martin Amis’ screenplay adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a memoir-style essay by Graham Swift, and a ‘newly discovered’ story by V.S. Pritchett. As I often do with anthologies, I decided to read it alongside other books, something which works very well for me personally.
As suggested by the title of the issue, Granta 87: Jubilee celebrates the 25th anniversary of the publication of Granta magazine. It is a local one to me: ‘The Granta’, as it was originally known, first appeared in early 1899, ‘as a magazine published for and by the students of Cambridge University’. In its current status, it prides itself upon being a magazine of new writing. I will not make a list of my favourite entries in the volume, as it would be incredibly long, but the highlights for me were Martin Amis’ adaptation of Northanger Abbey and Ian Jack’s fantastic ‘Motley Notes’ introduction. Granta is a magazine of substance, and I am now contemplating purchasing a subscription so that I can enjoy it indefinitely.