30 April 2011

Holiday Reading (by various authors)

When in Rome
For about two weeks before I left home, I was too busy racing against a deadline to make a blog entry, and the growing pile of books I had read waited, but stopped growing. I haven’t read much since I’ve been away. When I left for Paris, I picked up Perfume by Patrick Suskind and found it quite fascinating. Set in the years before the French Revolution, it’s the story of a murderer and moves fast, elegantly describing for the reader a city redolent with the pungent odours of unwashed bodies, choked gutters, tanning leather and rotting substance of every kind. This was of course quite different to the Paris I spent two brief but joyous days in earlier this week, commemorating a visit there with the same friends 29 years ago!
It was too short a time to finish the book – as I’ve grown older it has dawned on me that occasionally there are better things to do than lie about reading.

Back in London I picked up Brick Lane by Monica Ali. This is an engrossing story that moves the reader between Bangladesh and the London of the Bangaldeshi immigrant. It’s a powerful story – and made a celebrity of Monica Ali when it was released in 2003. She has now written Untold Story, a fictional exploration of what might have happened if Princess Diana had only faked her death, and perfectly timed to coincide with the wedding of Diana's elder son Prince William (to the "commoner" Kate Middleton) which, apparently, the whole world has been watching. You can read here an interview where Monica Ali explains that anyone can write about anything they like so please stop accusing her of stooping to tabloid fodder

I’ve now just completed Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and enjoyed it very much.
I’ve been curious about Pippi since I posed with her last May in Stockholm – and subsequently came across references to other characters by this author in Stieg Larsson’s cult books.
I don't think I'm the first to have loved Pippi - or to have noticed the resemblance between her and Larsson’s heroine Lisbeth Salander. This slender child is extremely strong, lives life on her own terms, is loved dearly by the few who know her well but generally avoided and considered with wariness by most, and would doubtless be willing, like Salander, to defend her independence with her life. Pippi books are very much for children – but that’s no reason why adults can’t enjoy them too.

I’m now looking forward to reading The perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, also a book for younger readers, and won’t have much time for more – perhaps just a quick re-reading of Mrs Harris goes to New York by Paul Gallico, an old favourite, before I head back home.