Looking back over this past month has actually proved to be a very dispiriting experience. It’s not so much that I am discouraged by the amount I’ve read or the quality of what I’ve read but rather the quality of the way in which I’ve read it. At the beginning of lockdown I seemed to be able to engage with books in a far more thoughtful and detailed manner, but over these last few weeks I feel as if I have been reading with less attention and ending up with fewer worthwhile comments to make about books that I’m sure deserve better. I suppose that back in March there was novelty in having as much time to read as I wanted, but now that novelty has not only worn off, it has begun to drag. I am used to having long conversations about the books I’ve been reading and receiving stimulation from the other readers in the five groups I run during the course of any one month. Online conversations are great, and I wouldn’t want any of you for a single moment to think that I don’t appreciate my friends in the blogging world, but I think I’m missing having to be prepared to justify my opinions about what I read in the immediacy of face-to-face conversation. So, with that in mind, my apologies to M W Craven, Catherine Fisher, Roz Watkins, Kate Grenville, Noel Streatfeild, Michèle Roberts and Katherine Applegate, writers to whom I have done less than justice during the month of June.
I suppose I should also apologise to those writers who I am expecting to read in July, just in case the same thing happens! However, most of the posts going up next month have already been written, and one of the things I want to give some thought to is the number of books I’ve been taking for review. Because, having once accepted an ARC I really do feel obliged to write about it, and consequently, they have been dictating my reading to far too great an extent. I’ve always maintained a list of forthcoming publications that I know I’m going to want to read and I think in future that I shall have to limit myself where NetGalley is concerned simply to the books that are already on that list. With that in mind, where I do have spaces this month I’m going to try and write a series of combined shorter reviews to work my way through as many of the books that I have committed to as I can and then keep a tighter rein on my requests in future. Even so, I think it will be several months before I’ve finally caught up with myself.
One way of dealing with this would be simply to dedicate the whole of July to reading review copies, however I’ve very much enjoyed dipping back into the world of children’s literature and also to reading from earlier in the last century than I would normally have done. So, I’ve drawn up a preparatory list for the forthcoming weeks which I hope will allow me to mix-and-match across a number of genre and a number of periods while still working my way through my review commitments. Some of these, I know, were on my projected list for June so maybe I should prioritise Lucy M Boston’s, The Children of Green Knowe and Alison Croggon’s The Gift, both of which are excellent children’s novels. Some of you may remember as well a very good televised version of the former, which I think was made in the 1980s? Mark Billingham’s Cry Baby and GR Halliday’s Dark Water are both on my to-read list and so that’s two review copies easily dealt with and in addition I’ve added Kate Weinberg’s The Truants and Rhiannon Ward’s The Quickening from my ARC pile to try and make something of a real dent in it. Peter Lovesey’s The Finisher is there as well, so that makes five that with luck and perseverance I will have cleared. To complete the list I’ve added Anne Enright’s Actress, Excellent Women by Barbara Pym and the fifth Campion novel, Sweet Danger. There was a time when only reading ten novels in a month would have seemed paltry, at the moment I’m hoping I’m not being wildly over optimistic. Oh well, at least there are thirty-one days in July!