Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reading roundup

Margaret Drabble's The Millstone (1965) is one of those perfectly understated little novels that it seems only the English can write. Touching, funny, a little sad, it is exquisitely written in its pacing, set pieces, and use of language. Given its time and setting, it is also robustly feminist, the story of a young single woman who discovers that she needs only herself... and, well, her unexpected baby. Her life– and indeed the novel– balance on a knife-edge between chance and will. The final scene, featuring a meeting of old friends on Christmas Eve, is thrilling in its range of possibilities. The ending is absolutely right. Superb.

Henry Green was considered "a writer's writer's writer," and I gave Loving (1945) a try. It is an upstairs-downstairs story taking place in Ireland during WWII. Most of the action is downstairs, among the English servants. The book is written almost entirely in dialogue– an impressive exercise, but I struggled to get through it. I'm not a writer, let alone a writer's writer, so there's no reason to expect I would appreciate a writer's writer's writer. I didn't.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama has been pitched as a Japanese crime thriller, but it is really a bureaucratic procedural, which sounds worse than it is. The plot revolves around power struggles between different branches of the police force, as well as the journalists who cover them. It's a long book, and rather little actually happens. Somehow it kept my interest. I can't promise it will keep yours.

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