Best of the September Reading Crop

20140817_140126Well, it’s harvest time, with some of my favourite fruit now in season: grapes, apples, plums, peaches… I am full and replete with the joys of eating, but what about my reading this month?

It’s been a month of heavy English-language domination for some reason. Out of the 10 books I read (I’m not counting the re-reads for the moment), 6 have been written by English-speaking authors, of which 2 Americans, 2 Scottish and 2 English (I am nothing if not fair and neutral about the referendum on Scottish independence). Israel, Egypt, Switzerland and Swiss/China have been my other sources of books.  Unusually, only half (five) of the books I read this month were crime fiction.

1) Anne Fine: Taking the Devil’s Advice – who’d have thought that a writer I knew predominantly for her children’s books can write such dark and humorous fiction for adults too?

Kerry Hudson, photo from The Guardian.
Kerry Hudson, photo from The Guardian.

2) Kerry Hudson: Thirst – love moves in mysterious ways: a very clear-eyed picture of modern London, immigrants and hope in the midst of squalour – highly recommended

3) Derek B. Miller: Norwegian by Night – there is much to like in this book about an octogenarian and a little boy on the run from Kosovan criminals in a country where they don’t speak the language… but I didn’t quite love it as much as other readers

bratfarrar4) Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar – I reread all of Tey’s crime novels for this feature for Classics in September for Crime Fiction Lover (CFL). The Franchise Affair, The Daughter of Time and Miss Pym Disposes are the best known of her novels, but I had not previously read Brat Farrar, the story of a planned scam to defraud a family of an inheritance. Although (in my opinion) it has aged slightly less well than her other novels, it is still a delightful read, excellent characterisation – and, as always with Tey, with much deeper moral dilemmas than is obvious at first sight.

5) D. A. Mishani: A Possibility of Violence – I’ll also be writing a review and conducting an interview with the author for CFL

6) Joan Smith: What Men Say – a reminder that reading tastes change in 20 years: I previously enjoyed Loretta Lawson and her investigations coloured by feminism. I found this book too much ranting and not enough plotting, mystery or suspense.

7) Naguib Mahfouz: The Beginning and the End – essential for understanding a certain period of Egyptian history, this is also a very dramatic family saga

8) M.L. Longworth: Murder on the Ile Sordou – an island off the coast of France, near Marseilles, a newly opened hotel with a disparate group of guests and staff of varying levels of experience (and with the obligatory secrets). A murder occurs and the island is not quite sealed off, but certainly under investigation to find the murderer – a familiar set-up for crime fiction fans. I can never resist a French location and I’ll review this very soon on CFL.

9) Joseph Incardona: Banana Spleen – I’ll post a more detailed review of this perhaps as part of a theme ‘Men Without Their Women’. A downward spiral for the 30+ something male protagonist, showing that despair and aimlessness is possible even in such well-regulated cities as Geneva.

seaofink_0_220_33010) Richard Weihe: Sea of Ink – This is also written by a Swiss author (of German language, while Incardona is Franco-Italian Swiss) and also deserves a more detailed review. Based on the few details known about the life of one of China’s most prominent calligraphers and artists, this is a prose-poem about creativity, inspiration and discipline, mastering the Way of Tao, finding both reality and self in great art.

So what was my top read of the month? Overall, it was Kerry Hudson‘s poignant novel ‘Thirst’ – it really struck a chord with me. My crime fiction pick of the month would be Mishani’s A Possibility of Violence – my first experience of Israeli crime fiction and thus feeling rather fresh and unusual.

 

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13 thoughts on “Best of the September Reading Crop”

  1. Marina Sofia – Interesting that you had a different take on the Smith to the one you had when you first read it. I think our tastes do change over the years. Certainly our perspectives do. And I’m impressed with the variety of books you have here, even within the English-language field. Oh, and you’re not the first to recommend <i.Thirst. It’s been popping up on my proverbial radar for a bit; perhaps it’s time I tried it…

      1. I can think of nothing worse than re-reading Janet Neel and finding that I no longer like her! I think my heart would be broken.

  2. Liked your comment on the Scottish referendum (I voted no – amongst other, closer to home reasons, I felt I couldn’t abandon England to indefinite Tory rule! Scotland’s hatred of Tories provides a balance against Middle England’s Tory domination.) I recall a series of Brat Farrar years ago, with an impossibly handsome blonde Brat, but had no clue it was a Josephine Tey novel. Great mixture of choices this month!

    1. As someone who became a British citizen 10+ years ago and was therefore happy to be British rather than just English, it would have been a bit sad to no longer be able to claim some Scottish links… I thought that was just me being selfish, but then I saw a couple of articles on this theme.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. Many of my friends tease/criticize me when I tell them I write “British” rather than “Scottish” on forms asking for my nationality, but that’s the way I feel. I think all four countries, each with their distinct cultures, manage to get along rather well.

  3. Such a diverse selection. Sea of Ink is one of the few recent Peirene titles I haven’t read, but it sounds beautiful and delicate. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

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