Reading on a sunny afternoon

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Basking! Edinburgh has been basking in glorious sunshine! For me, a nice hideaway nook amidst the gorse in Holyrood Park is the perfect spot to soak the sun and a good story. Oh, and occasionally doze off! I do read at home too, but al fresco is so nice. From no reading at all for some while, I’ve read two books over five afternoons and am now on another.

First off was Chris Brookmyre’s offering from last year Fallen Angel. I do like Mr Brookmyre’s works but though I did enjoy Fallen Angel (it is a cracking read) it felt like overfamiliar territory, kind of like how I felt after reading a number of Iain Banks’ books. And I bet most Brookmyre fans guessed the big reveal that I spotted as early on as I did, but no I won’t spoil it here. Oh yeah, and the other big one was no big shocking reveal to me either, that was just standard fare that I’d figured out way earlier.

At least in this book there no ranting about religion or football. In fact, there’s no serious ranting at all, his attacks on conspiracy theorists and truth manipulators are well placed, insightful and not overly sermonising within the characters’ words and deeds. It would be a good holiday read, though if you were in a villa with a shared pool you may find yourself concocting your own conspiracy theories!

Next up, a book I was lent last year (I say lent, it may be one that my friend doesn’t want back, I’m just a dropoff for books charity bound) it’s been looking balefully at me each time I’ve passed it. Okay, so I didn’t think I’d like it that’s why it’s taken so long, it’s The tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. Two afternoons in the park is all it took. I say afternoons, the weather has been so lovely and the story so compelling that it was almost seven o’clock in the evening before I stopped myself from reading “just a bit more” on the first day.

The tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov. It’s a story about the horrors of the Holocaust, survival and love as experienced by one man, a Slovakian Jew who told his story after the death of his beloved wife, Gita. The author has woven a compelling, life-affirming story from Sokolov’s memories; and it doesn’t end there, after the end of the story there’s a postscript, additional info, an afterword from Sokolov’s son, extracts of records from Sokolov’s time in Auschwitz-Berginau, along with photos of Lale and Gita together (how the love shines through). Morris also tells of her trip to Sokolov’s home town which is quite moving. I’m very glad I read it, I must thank my friend when I enquire if it’s to be returned or passed on.

Now its on to Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There which though not brilliant is a good read. I have been lent a Bryson before but after a few attempts handed it back unfinished, probably why this has been sitting around since last year. Well, I’m just over halfway through it! This one caught my interest as it’s about a trip he made around Europe whilst all recounting his earlier backpacking round Europe in the early seventies (I get lost which decade he’s on about at times). I went Inter-railing around Europe in the eighties and can quite relate to some of his younger experiences. Bryson’s friend Katz puts me in mind that one of my older siblings advised me to travel alone as even the best friend is not necessarily a good travelling companion for a whole month (and I was going for two), I paid heed as he was a veteran Interrailer, four times I think. Reading this, yeah, I did right.

Inter-railing. Every new train carriage had the potential of new friends, new ideas; a couple of days seeing mutual must-see things before hugging good-bye and jumping on different trains – another train carriage another adventure! It was while Inter-railing that my love for all things antipodean began. See some of the best characters I met that summer were Kiwis and Aussies, that was what inspired me to go Down Under, that and the knowledge that I was capable of travelling alone.

Oo, I know what I should read next (Aussies, Australia, Tasmania, Errol Flynn, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, keep up!) Just got it down from the bookcase, ah, the cinema ticket bookmark still between pages 44 and 45 suggests I last tried to get into it in March 2016. Oops! Wonder if the lender has noticed it still gone? I fear a certain primate will not be impressed with my lack of returning skills, sorry!

It’s said that the charity shops will be overflowing with all the stuff everyone has been clearing out during Lockdown, my friends will have fuller bookcases after my Lockdown!

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That was quick!

Crikey, turn your back for a minute and January runs out on you! Mind it’s not a month that inspires me to do anything but soak in hot baths and read books, though not at the same time sadly. Maybe I should rig up some Heath Robinson type contraption to hold a book and turn the pages upon command, hmmm.

Early in the new year I finally finished Game of Thrones as so far written, so come on Mr Martin, stop sidelining it and finish the next book! Then after all that fighting, treachery, sex and dragons, I had a change and picked up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, yep, very different indeed, and rather absorbing. I did figure out the twisty bit sometime before it was revealed but that’s okay as it was her relationship with workmate Raymond that kept me reading.

Just one thing kept coming to mind, that readers would think, well with a traumatic back story like that, who’s surprised by how she became, she has our sympathy; even while I was laughing at her behaviour, it was with a slight sense of compassionate guilt. Now a character without a dramatic family history, without any sad sympathy vote, the character who is usually a side example of uselessness to show how well our heroine/hero is doing, tell me about them; show me a witty, exasperated, no-schmaltz story about that guy, make me root for them. There’s plenty of loneliness and isolation that just is.

Then from Ms Oliphant to Jack Parlabane, Chris Brookmyre’s crime reporter. I finally got round to reading Black Widow; its been sitting in my bookcase since I bought it at The Caves back in 2016, yes, I had him sign it for me! Mr Brookmyre is very entertaining to listen to, if you like his books then I would heartily recommend catching him at a book event if you can. It was a good read but I did find myself working out his twists (I have read plenty of his books). Mind, he is pretty good at putting in red herrings and side stories to muddy the waters. I was sure from before halfway I knew the “who” and partially “what” with a very slight “it may possibly be her instead”, then he takes another turning and makes the slight into “oo it’s her, the bitch!” Wrong! My first instinct was correct and how. Reckon I’d make a great side-kick to Parlabane! Rugged reporter and his crime-solving moose 😊

Toodle pip!