Friday, September 7, 2007

The World According to Bertie

What can I say? I love Alexander McCall's Smith writing. I started this on Tuesday when I had a day off work, sick. I was trying to read Martha Grime's I Am the Only Running Footman for my Cosy September Mystery Challenge, but was struggling. AMS was light and readable - just what I needed.

The World According to Bertie is the latest 44 Scotland Street novel. I don't want to provide any spoilers because I think it is such fun to find out what each of the characters is up to as you read. You never know what will happen next in these stories; there are unexpected turns and events.

Still, a quote I thought worth of a post here comes from chapter 51 - So Many Books Unread and Bikes Uncycled:

And then, she thought, there were those books bought and not read. Somewhere there might be those who read each and every book they acquired - read them with attention and gravity and then put them carefully on a shelf, alongside other books that had received the same treatment. But for many books, being placed on the shelf was the full extent of their encounter with their owner. She smiled at the thought, remembering the anecdote about the late King George VI - she thought, or V perhaps, or even Edward VII - who was presented with a book by its author and said: "Thank you, Mr So-and-So, I shall put it on the shelf with all the other books." This was not meant to be a put-down to the author - it was, by contrast, a polite and entirely honest account of what would be done.

I must confess that this is what happens to a lot of my books. Though, I will not actually put a book on my shelves until it is read. The result: I have a built-in in the spare room which is piled with books! Does anyone else have a similar problem?

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

I am not sure of my overall reaction to The Sound of One Hand Clapping. On the one hand I did not really like Richard Flanagan's style of writing, on the other I felt compelled to finish the book as I was driven along by his characterisations and plot. The story is set in Tasmania in the early 1950s. Sonja is the daughter of two Slovenian refugees who have come out to Australia as part of the "populate or perish" schemes. Sonja's father and mother have clearly been very damaged psychologically by their wartime experiences. One night when Sonja is three her mother walks out into the snow and kills herself. The rest of the story is about how this act affects Sonja's relationship with her father and, later, other men. Her father turns to alcohol to bury his grief and the result is a violent man who physically abuses Sonja. The end of the story, however, offers hope as Sonja seeks reconciliation with her father. This reconciliation provides the impetus he needs to finally move on, and confront his alcohol dependency.