I haven’t been reading much lately, or it’s been taking me much longer to get through books than usual. There are all sorts of reasons for this, to do with family life, too much time on social media or playing silly computer games, but also to do with mental space and increasing anxiety around the impending national suicide and other indications that we do indeed live in interesting times.
I was trying to read Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, which I’d been very much looking forward to after enjoying Life After Life. But this time, her dicking about with time just annoyed me, and the wartime and dysfunctional relationships issues got too much into my head. So I gave that up. It turned out that re-reading Lord of the Rings suited my mood much better. Tolkien may have been thinking of World War I when he wrote, but the world is apparently similarly going to hell in a handcart right now.
Then the referendum disaster struck, and concentration went out of the window altogether. I found myself hugely in sympathy with Lucy Mangan, writing in the Guardian about comfort reading, especially this part:
I am looking at my beloved Wodehouses at the moment and want to burn them. You unthinking fool, Wooster! You lucky, prewar, club-dwelling bastard! Where’s my Jeeves? Where’s the omniscient valet the nation needs to clean up a proliferating set of potentially disastrous consequences set in motion by the idiocies of a group of pea-brained Old Etonians like yourself? Where do you get off, being fictional when the rest of us are stuck in the real world? Wodehouse will not serve today.
Georgette Heyer didn’t work either, for similar reasons, but I did enjoy Jane Austen at her most acerbic in Northanger Abbey.
I tried some of the Amazon Crossing freebies from London Book Fair, but found them schlocky, or jarringly American. I looked at long and/or literary things translated by friends: the books looked back reprovingly, but I knew I didn’t have the staying power for them.
While Mangan headed for post-apocalyptic fiction, my mind eventually settled on Agatha Christie – I found the writing better than I remembered and even though these books still offer unnaturally neat resolutions there is satisfaction in that, and at least some comeuppances are dished out.
So, finally getting round to the point of this post, I was in the library while the boys stocked up for this year’s summer reading challenge, and saw a striking book cover:
This was just the right thing to get me finally out of my reading slump. Shelley Harris plays on the chick lit cliché of the bored, frustrated “wife and mother”, while tackling issues of body image, misogyny and everyday sexism, all wrapped up in a feminist thriller. It was entertaining enough to draw me in, gripping enough to keep me going, and thought-provoking enough to still be rattling around my mind a few days on.
Now August has been declared Women in Translation Month, so here’s hoping I can keep this momentum going, and share some more of what I discover.