WWWednesday ~ January 30th 2019

WWWednesday is hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words and is a great way of taking stock of where you are in your reading journey.

What are you currently reading?

My Monday Book Group meets next week and so I am rationing out Margaret Atwood’s Hagseed so that I will finish it on Sunday and still have it fresh in my mind for the group discussion. A re-imagining of The Tempest, it is part of the Hogarth Press series for which they have asked established writers to each take a Shakespeare play and write an updated prose version. As a student of Shakespeare’s plays I don’t really approve of this idea. The plays stand in their own right and don’t need to be messed around in any way.  Add to that the fact that I’m no great Margaret Atwood fan either, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark if you thought I wasn’t really looking forward to this book. Well, the great thing about book groups is that they encourage you to read works that you would never otherwise have picked up and I have to admit that I am very much enjoying Hagseed.  So far, at least, there is none of the magic realism that I associate with Atwood and find very hard to come to terms with in any writer, and I have to say that I think she has found a setting which allows her both to re-explore the story behind The Tempest and the theory that in writing it Shakespeare was dramatising his own farewell to the stage.  The only works that post date this are co-authored with John Fletcher, who took over as the company playwright, and who was probably glad of a bit of support when following in such illustrious footsteps.

The main character is one Felix Phillips, a man who like Lear would see himself as more sinned against than sinning, and who, in the production he is staging at the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, believes that he has an opportunity to take his revenge on the two people who ousted him from his job as director of a local theatre festival.  The way in which he persuades the hardened offenders who form his cast to vie for the role of Ariel, who they initially see as a fairy, is little short of brilliant and a perfect reimagining of the role in twenty-first century terms.  I’m really looking forward to next Monday’s discussion.

What did you recently finish reading?

I’ve just finished the most recent book in James Oswald’s Tony McLean series, Cold as the Grave. These are slightly unusual police procedural novels: unusual in as much as although there is always a crime at the heart of the story and, as would be expected, at the conclusion the actual perpetrator is brought to book, the force behind crime still remains at large.  Oswald seems to me to be more interested in the idea that the crime that we can see and punish is actually a manifestation of a power of evil that is as old as the world itself and almost impossible to apprehend.  In this instance the human representations of such evil are exploiting the fear of refugees from war-torn countries who have made their way illegally to the U.K. by threatening their children.  In many ways it is not an easy read, but unfortunately feels all too real.

I am suddenly aware of a contradiction here having just said that I don’t appreciate magic realism and yet I think if I had to try and describe what Oswald is doing in this series it is probably something very akin to that. Nevertheless I think these books are first rate and I shall offer a longer discussion of this particular novel nearer its publication date.

What do you think you will read next?

I shall probably pick up Elly Griffiths’ latest book in her series about Ruth Galloway, the Norfolk based forensic archaeologist whose work with the local police brings her  with uncomfortable frequently into the orbit of DCI Harry Nelson, the father of her seven year old daughter, Kate.  The Stone Circle is the eleventh book in this sequence and I’m hoping it will be better than the last one, The Dark Angel, which I felt concentrated too much on the relationship between Ruth and Nelson at the expense of the crime element in the story.  I shall go on reading these, however, partly because the quirky narrative voice that Griffiths uses always makes me smile and partly because in Kate, now seven, she has captured perfectly the potential for children to quite inadvertently show their parents up on every possible occasion.  This is another novel that is due out in a couple of weeks time and as with the Oswald, I’ll post about it in detail then.


9 thoughts on “WWWednesday ~ January 30th 2019

  1. BookerTalk January 30, 2019 / 9:41 pm

    Our reactions to Hagseed were in perfect alignment. I don’t care for magical realism either nor for re-imagining of already established works. So I opened this book with a big question mark. But I thought it was wonderfully creative…


    • Café Society February 4, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      I’ve just come from a really interesting discussion about the book. All but one agreed with your assessment. The other thought it was too ‘clever’. I’ll try and get a lengthier post up during the week.


      • BookerTalk February 4, 2019 / 9:49 pm

        My husband didn’t enjoy it as much as I did – he thought the scene where the cast have to pick swear words was silly where I thought it was very funny


      • Café Society February 5, 2019 / 4:36 pm

        I thought it was a brilliant piece of teaching. What a magnificent way of getting the men to do a close reading of the text!


      • BookerTalk February 9, 2019 / 6:40 am

        Maybe they should adopt that approach in schools – rather than the dry way the plays were taught when I was a pupil


  2. mlegan January 30, 2019 / 10:59 pm

    Hagseed is on my list. I don’t mind magical realism at all. I am reminded of a friend that I loaned “A Winter’s Tale” by Helprin. It’s a large volume, and he gave it a back after a couple of days. “Thinking talking horse in the first chapter is a no-go


    • Café Society February 4, 2019 / 4:25 pm

      I can cope with fantasy. It is the blend of fantasy and realism that floors me.


  3. Kat January 31, 2019 / 3:55 pm

    I never seem to get around to those retold “Shakespeare/Jane Austen/myth” series. Glad to hear Hagseed is better than you expected!


    • Café Society February 4, 2019 / 4:25 pm

      I wouldn’t bother with any of the others, Kat, but this is worth a look.


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