Spectator by Seema Goswami: Prose and cons
As regular readers of this column will already know, the one thing that has kept me going through the Covid 19 pandemic has been reading. I have sought refuge in old favourites, books that are so familiar that sinking into them again feels akin to getting a warm hug from an old friend. I have expanded my horizons by trying out new authors, who came recommended by fellow book lovers, with somewhat mixed results. I have tried to lose myself in the alternate universes of fictional works in an attempt to escape from a reality that is hard to live with. I have attempted to improve myself by reading worthy non-fiction tomes, using the vast stretches of me-time now available to me.
But whatever the genre, whoever the author, however good or bad the book, it is reading that has sustained me through this difficult time. In case that works for you as well, here is a short list of recommendations based on what I have been reading these past few months.
The Margot Affair by Sanaë Lemoine
The protagonist of this novel is 17-year-old Margot Louve, the love child of an unconventional actress and the French culture minister. Her father has a wife and other children and has never publicly acknowledged Margot, though he comes by to visit her often. Frustrated by this lack of public recognition, Margot confides the secret of her parentage to a sympathetic journalist. And that small ripple in the pond of her life sets off ramifications that Margot could never have imagined, creating a storm that nearly destroys everything in its path.
The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante
This isn’t in the league of the Neapolitan Quartet with which Ferrante found international fame, though it is set in roughly the same world. The story is told from the perspective of the adolescent Giovanna, whose whole world comes crashing down when she overhears her father tell her mother that he is afraid his daughter is turning into his sister, Vittoria, whose vulgarity her father has long hated. This pushes Giovanna into making contact with the aunt she has never met, to figure out what they have in common, a decision that changes both her life and that of her parents.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
This is very much an English murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. But instead of being set in a bucolic English village or a stately home, it is set in a retirement community of those 65 and above. The Thursday Murder Club has four members who meet once a week to discuss old cases that the police have failed to solve. But then murder comes calling within their own circle, and they have a brand new case to focus on, if only they can inveigle their way into the official investigation – which, of course, they do.
Win by Harlan Coben
Fans of Coben will know Win – or, to use his full name, Windsor Horne Lockwood III – from the Myron Bolitar series. But here, the sidekick – if Win could ever be described as that – is the main protagonist. No, not so much the hero, as the anti-hero, whose flaws make him a more compelling character than a regular leading man could ever be. The book begins with the discovery of a body in a slightly creepy apartment in New York; a body that we soon discover has links with Win’s past. How far do those links go? Well, you will have to read to find out; I am posting no spoilers here.
One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown
Is there anything left to say about the Beatles? You would think not but Craig Brown, the celebrated British writer and humorist, manages to find new angles and tell parts of the story in anecdotes that may surprise even dedicated Beatles watchers. What was it like to be Ringo? Was Paul as shrewd as they say? Was George really so money minded? Was John an insensitive jerk? What about Jimmy Nicol, the short-lived Fifth Beatle, who temporarily replaced Ringo, only to see his life fall apart? It’s a fun read mixing the familiar with the surprising.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, May 30, 2021
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