October turned out to be a month complicated by illness. I started it laid low by the after effects of just three antibiotic tablets and finished it in a similar state as the result of a feverish cold. Normally when I’m ill I eschew anything new and instead return to old favourites, usually series books, where I can spend time with old friends who will appreciate my predicament and not demand anything too taxing of me. At the beginning of the month, too ill even to read, I took advantage of the fact that I had the audio version of The Lord of the Rings downloaded onto my iPad and turned that on to play through what I knew was going to be a long and difficult night. I reasoned that if I did manage to sleep at any point it wouldn’t matter because I know the books so well I would just be able to pick up wherever in the story I resurfaced. And, that’s precisely what happened, although predictably what sleep I did get coincided neatly with my favourite parts of the tale. The epilogue to this story is that two days later I discovered Audible had awarded me my Nightowl Badge. How they know at what time of the day I am listening, given that the book had been downloaded not streamed, I have no idea, but I have to say that I am inordinately proud to be acknowledged a Nightowl.
At the other end of the month I did, in fact, read something new in the midst of my cold, or at least a new episode of an old favourite. The arrival of the sniffles coincided with the delivery of my copy of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage and there are some books which simply can’t be put off. It was the perfect read for the situation, especially as it is nowhere near as intellectually demanding as His Dark Materials. I shall probably return to it over the Christmas period to be sure that I’m not underselling it, but I really don’t think so. I enjoyed it very much, but I hope the other two volumes give me a bit more to chew on.
In between I had two re-reads for books groups, Linda Grant’s The Dark Circle and Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. As I said in my post about the Grant novel, the group was split. Two thirds of us had very much enjoyed it, while the others had severe reservations. Not so the Barry. Everyone of us had been knocked sideways by it. As one of our most critical members said, she had been waiting and waiting for him to let the voice slip just once, not believing that anything could be so perfect. She waited in vain. Once more, the Booker judges left us dumbfounded.
I’ve also read a number of crime novels, some of which I have reviewed here and some not. These comprise: Louise Penny’s Glass Houses, Quintin Jardine’s State Secrets, Sarah Ward’s A Patient Fury and Beneath the Surface by Jo Spain. Plus, in preparation for the 1968 project, I’ve re-read two of the marvellous children’s novels published that year, Joan Aiken’s The Whispering Mountain and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.
Looking forward to November, both my book group selections will again be re-reads, this time Helen Dunmore’s spy novel, Exposure and A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. The first is my choice and I will almost certainly write after the meeting about how the discussion went and why I chose this particular book. The second was a last minute change of heart on the part of the person leading the group this month. We were supposed to be reading Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked into Doors, which would have been new to me, but the person who had selected it suddenly got cold feet about the bad language it apparently contains and so I have, as I say, another re-read.
I also have Frances Brody’s latest Kate Shackleton novel, Death Among the Stars, waiting for me, as well as Laura Wilson’s latest standalone mystery, The Other Woman. I’m not a great fan of standalone mysteries, but I make an exception for Wilson, who is an excellent writer and this has come very well recommended. In addition I’ve picked up the first novel by crime writer Angela Marsons, Silent Scream. I don’t know how I’ll get on with this. It is set almost within walking distance of where I live and the last local crime fiction I tried got so much wrong about the locale that halfway through I tossed the book away in disgust. Still, nothing ventured and all that. Then I want to read at least one book for the Years Of My Life project. I’ve managed to get hold of Blyton’s Rockingdown Mystery, which will probably wile away a rainy afternoon at some point and I’d like to also get round to The Third Man. I’m putting off choosing between Laski and Mitford until December. If there isn’t much new around over Christmas, I might even treat myself to both of them. But that’s for next month.