As with the first instalment of this little series, each of the books I write about will, of course, have a corresponding star rating, and will be reviewed in the order in which I read them.
11. Hyde Park Gate News by Virginia, Vanessa and Thoby Stephen ****
Plot: The childhood newspaper of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and Thoby Stephen.
Thoughts: Utterly charming and acerbic in equal measure, but the footnotes tend to be rather confusing at times.
12. My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn ****
Plot: An extended essay in which a writer goes back to her native New Zealand town, where Katherine Mansfield was also from, and discusses her impact.
Thoughts: Exquisite writing, and a tribute that Mansfield herself would probably have been thrilled with.
13. The Bear by Claire Cameron ***
Plot: The parents of two very young children are mauled by a bear on a camping trip; said children then have to commandeer a boat to reach the mainland, without understanding a whit of what has happened.
Thoughts: Clever and interesting, with a well-developed narrative voice, but overall it was too drawn out, repetitive, and far-fetched.
14. Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks ***
Plot: A collection of essays about deafness by an incredibly revered physician.
Thoughts: The second essay was fascinating, but I did not gel well with Sacks’ writing, and I was familiar with a lot of the ideas already, from Lennard J. Davis’ Enforcing Normalcy (which, incidentally, seems to be a complete rehash of Sacks’ book).
15. Gertrude by Herman Hesse ***
Plot: Translated German novel about a composer who tragically falls in love.
Thoughts: Not immediately captivating, and it did take rather a while to go anywhere; a lack of substance, perhaps?
16. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy ****
Plot: Non-fiction following a woman who is diagnosed as a child with cancer of the jaw, and who charts her various – and often brutal – surgeries to rebuild her face.
Thoughts: Compulsively readable, and very honest, but after studying it in class, there are quite a few problems with it from a moralist perspective.
17. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh ***
Plot: The protagonist is kicked out of University in his final year, and finds a decent teaching position in a boarding school.
Thoughts: A little too farcical for my liking, so much so that it was difficult to empathise with any of the characters.
18. Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin ****
Plot: A cathedral organist is murdered in Oxford, and it is up to academic sleuth Gervase Fen to solve the mystery.
Thoughts: An entertaining romp of a murder mystery, which does not quite reach the heady heights of The Moving Toyshop.
19. A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman ****
Plot: Beauman, the founder of Persephone Books, presents portraits of a wealth of forgotten twentieth-century women writers.
Thoughts: So inspiring that I based a whole month’s worth of blog posts around it in April!
20. On Sight and Insight by John M. Hull **
Plot: A blind man’s often peculiar insights into his life and work.
Thoughts: Quite difficult to read, and to get on board with Hull’s beliefs, many of which I found incredibly odd.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any which you are intrigued enough about to pick up? What do you think about the two-line format of these reviews?
Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the series!