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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week? | Books

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.

Let’s start with the great Barbara Pym. MachenBach recommends The Sweet Dove Died:

This is a bit of an outlier in Pym’s oeuvre, I think. There are no anthropologists, vicars or church hall bazaars, and it’s considerably less comic than most of her novels. But, despite that (and at the risk of incurring the wrath of her aficionados), I think it may actually be one of her very best.

It centres on Leonora Eyre, an attractive, beautifully-dressed single woman in (latish?) middle age, who is also a pretty undilutedly horrible individual: she looks down on almost everyone, is a terrific snob and racist, and incredibly vain … Leonora is a fantastic portrait of ageing and self-deluding vanity, caught in the position of needing to be wanted, whilst also, impossibly, priding herself on her independence from others. The book’s concern is to bring this slowly, painfully and tragic-comically to her attention and ours. And it does this very well.

And Pym’s Excellent Women, says interwar, is – wait for it – “excellent”:

Deft sketches of a multitude of characters who may appear only in one scene, or sporadically as minor voices in others – the outspoken Sister Blatt, the manipulative widow Allegra Gray, the vicar’s naïve sister Winifred, the crazy Mrs Bone – Pym’s mastery of the defining voice is up there with Dickens – keep the pace moving and the smiles coming. But there is also something more serious going on in its revelation of what it is to be an intelligent and capable, but also conventional, unmarried woman, with all the fuss of that era about what hat or lipstick to be seen in, and the pressure to be selfless – as literally as possible – in an increasingly selfish social environment. Mildred is a superb anthropologist of her own tight little world.

HG Wells’ Kipps has helped bring back BobHammond2’s reading mojo:

Like many, I’ve been struggling to read over the last month. I went from racing through a book a week earlier in the year to taking four weeks to get through Kipps by HG Wells. That’s no reflection on Wells’ rags-to-riches story – when I finally got going with it I found it very enjoyable, packed full of themes such as social class and the desire for self improvement, an engaging central character in Kipps and the underlying twists and turns of his romance with first love Ann. The only thing I found slightly strange was that in my mind the story should have finished about three quarters of the way through – it would have been a tidy conclusion at that stage. But then it throws up another set of challenges for Kipps to overcome, before there’s a final – and very appropriate – ending. A great book, though, and I’m looking forward to checking out some of Wells’ other social novels. Kipps, and The History of Mr Polly (which I also enjoyed), shows there’s more to him than the famous science fiction novels.

bindithecat makes Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series sound like the tonic we all need :

Anyone who enjoys thrillers and is in need of some escapism from the dreaded virus, should try Hurwitz’s Orphan X series of books. I just finished Hellbent and it was a thriller from start to finish. Of course it’s all very high tech weaponry and tracking the bad guys but somehow the good guy comes out on top. Of course it’s a little implausible that one man can do so much damage but that’s the beauty of it. I really recommend them.

Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up has brought solace to booklooker:

I suppose my idea of what constitutes a “comforting reread” might seem a tad strange, but I am off with Jonathan Coe’s What a Carve Up!. I am very happy to be with a nasty cast and surreal events that, to me, no longer hold surprises. Makes quite a change to the news.

“I’m reading The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng,” says jaya06:

It’s almost like someone is forcing me to calm down and meditate. I love the Penang setting and the leisurely pace. War is on the horizon and ominousness is in the air, at odds with the self-control Philip Hutton is learning, and the tension is gripping.

The Allure Of The Archives by Arlette Farge has fascinated AbsoluteBeginner76:

It is a beautiful slim work on the art of archival research, translated in a very readable flowing style as she consults records of pre-court hearings in the Arsenal Library, Paris. She laments that these people, whose short criminal interactions have been recorded, remain anonymous at the end of the research…. She describes the act of copying these sources by hand, in long sessions, chilled by the cold air of the archives. Not sure if this is still done but can you imagine, writing by hand, 25 dry pre-court hearing documents, inventory lists etc. Fascinating.

FreethoughtRules finished The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton over the weekend:

I really loved it. I was pleasantly surprised because I’m not a fan of the 1993 film adaptation so it was quite a risk reading it in the first place! It made me laugh a lot but it also made me sad and frustrated at how many of us live a half-life, never really being who we are or doing what we truly want with our lives through fear of social disapproval or rejection. I thought the ending was perfect.

Finally, SDiviani recommends (almost) the entire oeuvre of the mighty Iris Murdoch:

I wanted to read a writer whose novels create a convincing and habitable world, with a cast of vivid, fascinating characters engaged in compelling goings-on, so that however stressed and down I might be at times I can forget everything and wallow in their lives. Hello Iris Murdoch. Her novels satisfy all of the above and the big plus is that she wrote 25 of them.

That is most certainly a big plus.

Interesting links about books and reading

If you’re on Instagram, now you can share your reads with us: simply tag your posts with the hashtag #GuardianBooks, and we’ll include a selection in this blog. Happy reading!

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