As a serial poly-reader, I’ve reached a critical level of too-many-bits-of-paper-in-too-many-books, and so this week have been tackling some of the books in the daunting-yet-comforting stack by my bed. Some of these books I’ve mentioned before, and so to get the decks cleared and also to give a nod to the return of Game of Thrones, I’m going to limit myself to reviews that a raven could carry.
Ruth Scurr’s Fatal Purity – Some books about murderous historical revolutionaries are written by people who are probably just annoyed their heroes are dead because they’d love to write to them in prison. And, some publishers just want to put biographies that revel in the awfulness of humans, in the style of an eye-catching cover stories on Take A Break magazine *shudder*. This is neither. This is a valuable book for a balanced, honest, comprehensive view of Robespierre. It is the literary equivalent of a poached egg on rye toast. Substantial, wholesome, yet light.
Andreï Makine’s The Life of an Unknown Man – A review on the cover compares Makine to Proust. And yes, Makine does paint an effective, raw portrait of a middle-aged author with that same level of humanity. Our protagonist is a Russian writer with a floundering career who’s been dumped by his younger girlfriend. He travels from Paris back to Russia after an absence of many years, and yep, everyone and everything’s changed. Bummer. But the question is, how much time do you want to spend with this man? How interesting is someone else’s mid life crisis?
Conn Iuggleden’s Dunstan – I bloody loved this book. It took a bit to get into, the sparse, first person narrative initially felt bleak, but that made it more believable that it was Dunstan’s voice telling me what a cold, scheming, diligent and talented brute he was, full of those insane justifications of evil yet god-fearing people, and their ability to absolve themselves. One of the houses at my school was called Dunstan’s, as well as a huge blind home not too far away. Little did I know back then that already Charles Dickens had started to ask questions about the suspicious deaths around this dude. This book made me yearn for a time when the land was unpolluted, and nature went about her business unassaulted. However, it also made me grateful for anesthetic, antibiotics, and supermarkets. Dunstan get injured, a lot, and none of his dinners are appealing (one of which was his own, elderly horse).
Finally, while writing this I noticed it will be our 600th post! Thank you everyone who reads, especially those who stop by regularly. An event of this size warrants an animal-on-a-computer gif to usher in the next 600!