in England, but only just.
By the second week we were in Egypt and three
weeks later in
Thus for all but ten days of the first quarter we were in the Middle East.
Then April and almost all of May were spent in
(Is it in the Middle East?) From there it was a three day dip into
and a ten day dip into
then a much longer bathe in
for most of June.
The first half of July was spent in Poland; the
next week tail in
and the tail of July in
That's where we are now (September) and will be until about Oct 1.
there is much less time available for reading books as we are so busy reading
the New York Times, watching TV and visiting with friends and family.
to mention working on family trees, keeping up with Gerry's incessant photo-taking,
and writing a memoir or two.
Miguel Cervantes, 1600??
Translated by J.
We have to confess that it was a chore getting through this long, 950
But a chore that we recommend.
The book is really two books,
written about 15 years apart.
After the great success of his first volume
Cervantes wrote a second, which may as well have been called "Sancho Panza",
so much does it focus on Don Quixote's squire.
If Cervantes had changed
the name he would have anticipated Samuel Clemens, who followed "Tom Sawyer"
with a focus on a minor character, "Huckleberry Finn"
Volume I is an adventure, a slapstick story.
Over and over Don Quixote
tilts at windmills, mistakes inns for enchanted castles, and thinks that
sheep, herds of cattle, etc are attacking knights or dragons.
Some of this
happens in Volume II, but much of it is given to Sancho Panza's aphorisms
and to Don Quixote's (really Cervantes') spouting and moralizing.
pages turn one gets a good idea of the food, dress, and mores of people
in Spain in the early 1600s.
One even gets a whiff of the politics of the
day — was the inquisition a good idea? Should there be religious freedom?
What rights should women have and how should marriages be arranged? If
you are like Jan you'll like Volume I better and be bored with Volume II.
If like Gerry, it will be the opposite.
In either case, this is not a book
to read in one go; unlike a murder mystery, after 20-30 pages you'll want
to rest and come back later.
It's the Simpsons.
Four-Gated City by Doris Lessing
Having just read Lessing's
the novel's early plot was sometimes too repetitious of Lessing's real
life. And yet, the characters, although clearly based on Lessing's
own acquaintances and friends, were not believable (in particular the man
called Jack) and the descent at the end of the book into science fiction
didn't gel with the rest of the book— it almost seemed as if Lessing had
no good idea of how to end the book. It is set in post-war London
and covers the social, sexual, and political mores of the period as experienced
by a young woman immigrant from southern Africa.
From the South by Joanna Trollope
This is a favorite author of Jan's but the book is one of Trollope's
We started reading her about five years ago and really
liked A Village Affair and The Men and the Girls, both entirely
set in England.
This one is unusual as far as we know, as it jumps back
and forth between Charleston and London.
Having just visited Charleston
in December, 2001, we understood many of the references that we would have
The story concerns lovers in the 20-30 age range trying
to sort out who they are and who they want as a partner.
Station Zebra by Alistair Maclean, 1963
Another great 10p bargain from the Selby Abbey books table.
classic adventure story with only minimum holes in the yarn, it kept both
of us glued to its pages for the day or so it took to read it.
to Mouth by Michael Kimball
Jan picked this book up at an oddments table outside of a shop in Hampstead,
London, just after we attended Dinah and Mick's Wedding and Retirement
Bash. She was surprised to quite enjoy it as she doesn't usually
go for this kind of suspense thriller. It's a very light read and
took her only a couple of days to devour.
Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Not as good as Bleak House which we read last year, but a pleasant read
Gerry didn't manage to read it before the exigencies of baggage
weight forced us to abandon it.
Again not as interesting as other works of his we have read.
a very early novel and it shows, but it is interesting anyway because it
is more than a little autobiographical.
(The Dark Half) by Stephen King
Although definitely not a Stephen King fan, whose supernatural leanings
seem simply stupid, Jan picked up this German-language version of one of
his novels simply for the exercise of reading German again.
She was confirmed
in her dislike of King's subject matter, but persevered for the benefit
of her language skills.
Gerry tried it but didn't finish it; the German
is too hard for him.
Definitely not recommended.
For Short by Sara Paretsky
Gerry was desperate (not really) to get Jan a birthday gift so he was
pleased when he found this on sale at the Darlington Library.
us read much recent fiction and so without the low price incentive we may
not have tried it.
"V.I." is a woman detective working in Chicago.
The book is a collection of five fast-paced stories about
cases she solves.
The author herself has a PhD in History and MBA from Chicago; she says
that the stories are definitely not based on her life.
A big plus for her
(in the opinion of one of us) is that she is married to a physicist, also
Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, 1875
Jan found this on our Darlington shelf before we left for Egypt in January
2002. It obviously had been bought much earlier, before the book
was adapted for television, and neither of us had managed to catch any
of the TV series. Jan was happy about that as she much prefers to
read the book before the movie/TV version. The book was absolutely
brilliant. A masterpiece even by Trollope standards: The almost
evil, but nonetheless strangely sympathetic character of Melmotte; the
wonderfully deft handling of the almost-engagement of Lady Georgiana to
Brehgert, the Jewish banker; all demonstrate a clear understanding
of anti-semitism in British society.
Read on only if you aren't planning to read the book! Jan thinks
Hetty Carbury should have accepted her Uncle Roger's offer of marriage
instead of taking the weak Paul Montague and Montague should have known
when he was well off and married the American woman he jilted in favor
On the other hand, she was delighted when Lady Carbury finally
accepted the second offer of marriage from her friend Mr Brown(?).
deserved a companion for her later years. Such funny, insightful
writing from Trollope.
Ranks up there with Middlemarch and A House for Mr Biswas
in Jan's favorite books list.
Very highly recommended.
DC by Gore Vidal, 1987
The story takes place in Washington, DC from about 1937 to 1954 or 1955.
We get to see a fictional cast of characters, headed by Senator James Burden
Day, wanabee senator Clay Overbury, a high powered newspaper editor, and
a flighty — or is he — young playboy deal of the New Deal, Roosevelt, WWII,
and McCarthy and the hunt for communists.
In addition we get some views
on bombing Hiroshima, treatment of homosexuals, and whether politics makes
The story grabs you, it flows along, and you read it quickly.