It’s a book sort of day today. I went to Readings and bought 4 books from their cheap book table. Then I went to the library and borrowed 3 more books. So it seems appropriate to tell you about some of the books I read in April.
Dennis Lehane: Mystic River
I loved the movie (Sean Penn acted in it, Clint Eastwood directed it); I loved the book too. It is worth reading for Lehane’s writing. He has an ability to take a metaphor that has become a cliche and give it a new twist, a new life.
Dave’s hand tightened around Michael’s, and his chest felt as if someone had dunked a knife in ice water and then placed the flat of the blade against his lungs.
Or images such as
….as if the twenty-five years in between had passed as fast as a TV commercial, feel that beaten, pissed off, begging aloneness that had lain in Jimmy Marcus like pulp hollowed from the core of a dying tree.
…Sean thinking if he were dead that’s one of the things he’d probably miss most, the colors, the way they could come out of nowhere and surprise you, even though they could make you feel slightly sad, too, small, like you didn’t belong here.
And the plot and characters are worth the read too!
David Hill: The Great Race
The subtitle of this book — The race between the English and the French to complete the map of Australia — sums up its premise. Most Australians are familiar with the explorer Matthew Flinders, especially his journey with George Bass through the strait between Tasmania and the mainland. However it is his later journey, his circumnavigation of Australia that is the focus of Hill’s book, because, while Flinders was on that journey a French expedition was also on the same task.
The French expedition was lead by Nicolas Baudin in Le Geographe and Le Naturaliste, and his brief was similar to Flinders’ — to survey the unknown part of the southern coast and to explore whether a river or a strait separated New Holland (the western half of the continent) from New South Wales. Baudin and Flinders had a chance meeting in the Southern Ocean, near what is now the Victorian/South Australian coast.
I have also been re-reading Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper (more of that later). One character, Adam, gives his ‘What is History?’ lecture and he makes this comment, a comment that made me realise what was missing from The Great Race:
“The chronological narrative might be the spine of the body of knowledge we call history but psychological insight and a vigorous imagination will help us get not merely the “what” of history but also the intensely satisfying “why”.”
There is a wealth of information in The Great Race, including early voyages that reached the shores of what would be Australia, and Flinders’ imprisonment on Mauritius. That information makes it a good read. However, the psychological insight is missing, and therefore the ‘intensely satisfying why‘. That’s what stops it from being a really good read.
Elliot Perlman: The Street Sweeper
As you know, I loved this book. If you didn’t know, you can read my thoughts of it here. I regarded it so highly that I selected it for my book in Book Club. We had a wonderful discussion about it and I came away with other aspects to ponder, especially all the different parent/child relationships there are, and what those relationships add to the sweep of the story.
Tony Hillerman: The Listening Woman
It is a while since I have read any of Hillerman’s books — I tend to go through phases of reading particular authors. So I was glad to become immersed in his world of the Navajo people again, to follow his characters through the deserts and up canyons, and to learn more about Navajo spiritualism, which I can only presume is accurate. The plot does have a Die Hard/Bruce Willis I-am-the-only-one-who-can-save-these-people ending, but it was a nice way to while away a few hours.
And my books next month may include some of the ones I picked up today….