Happy Easter from The Bears and myself. It’s a beautiful day here and The Bears are toasting their toes in the sunshine and trying very hard not to get chocolate all over their paws. I am allergic to chocolate and so they are kindly eating my share for me. That’s what friends are for.
I have had a really barren period this last week where reading has been concerned. It happens sometimes, doesn’t it? I started a new crime series which had a reasonable first instalment, but the second book, so often the crunch point, was a definite let down and after about a hundred pages I gave up on it. However, I’ve just begun Tessa Hadley’s latest novel, Late in the Day and I am getting on much better with that. I’ve only read one novel by Hadley before, The Past, which, to be honest, I didn’t quite know what to make of, although I could tell it was very well written. This latest book, while I’m not quite certain where it is going, is engaging me much more, perhaps because the main characters are involved in the worlds of books and art and so I feel comfortable in their company. One of them, Christine, as a student, starts a PhD on Christina Rossetti and reading about it, as is so often the case, made me realise just how little I know about the poet, either her life or her work. I do seem to remember that there was a flurry of interest in her sometime during the last decade. Was there an exhibition of her drawings? I don’t know; I am dredging the dregs of my mind here. Anyway, a quick whip round the book sites shows that there has been a relatively recent biography and a reprint of an older volume. So, if fiction continues to be something of a let down I might turn to her life history and poetry as a palate refresher. The only one of her poems that I know is In the Bleak Midwinter, although I do know that there is some controversy about the subtext of another – Goblin Market.
The other nudge to my book list this week has come from the Great Courses Plus site. Have you come across this? I know a number of you have used the Great Courses as a study resource because it was a blogger who originally suggested their materials to me when I was looking for something to provide historical background to the novels set in Roma which I was then reading. I have bought several of their courses since that time, latterly as downloads because of space considerations. They now offer a subscription service, Great Courses Plus, which for a reasonable price gives you on-line access to their more recent output as well as additional material not available elsewhere. Often this will be in response to something currently in the news. So, for example, this week they have put out responses to the fire in Notre Dame alongside the lecture on the Cathedral from one of their existing offerings. Anyway, I have begun watching their lecture series on Irish Identity. I used to teach part of a module on Irish Drama and I read a lot of novels set in Ireland so I thought it would be interesting to get a more in-depth background to the country/countries (depending on which part of the history you are dealing with). It’s fascinating coming at this from the American perspective of the lecturer, rather than from a British perspective. I’m only four lectures in, but so far it is definitely a case of everything Irish = good, everything British = bad, which as someone who had an Irish student severely injured in the Omagh bombing, presumably by another Irish person, and who was in Birmingham city centre when the pub bombs went off, is a bit hard to take. Nevertheless, it is throwing up a lot of detail which I can relate to the novels I’ve read, especially those by Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín, and reminding me about works by earlier writers such as Swift and Goldsmith, that I wouldn’t mind revisiting.