I've been quietly reading my way through three non-fiction and one long fiction book since the beginning of December. It's always a slower reading month for me, for obvious reasons, but this year I feel quiet too, like I don't want to read anything that might test me too much, I just want slow, comfortable reading.
A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett collects together the essays he wrote, his articles for newspapers and speeches he gave. Some were new to me, others I had already read one way or another. I'm not quite sure why I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would as I absolutely adore Pratchett's fictional Discworld series. Possibly the fact that I had heard what he had to say on many subjects already did not help. All were very well written though.
Worst Journeys edited by Keath Fraser was what it says on the tin, an anthology of travel writing stories recounting the authors' worst travel experiences. I was very underwhelmed by this and I normaly love travel writing. A few stood out. One of Dirk Bogarde's wartime experiences from his book Backcloth made me think about reading one or two of his six autobiographical volumes next year. And Jan Morris and Paul Theroux never disappoint. Otherwise, one for the charity shop box.
The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift is a book I've been reading off and on all year. It's the story of the creation of a garden at Morville in Herefordshire. It's beautifully written, quite autobiographical in nature and very horticultural and historical. The site was a monastry centuries ago so the author uses the form of the medieval books of hours as she takes us through the gardening year. A beautiful book.
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss is the only fiction book I've read in December. Possibly because it's over 700 pages long...
The 'Monstrous Gentlewomen' are off on their travels to Budapest. Mary Jekyll has recieved a cry for help from Lucinda Van Helsing whom she's never met but presumes is similar to herself and her friends in that she's been changed somehow by her father: the subject of scientific experiments in other words. Mary, Justine and Diana travel on The Orient Express and soon run into trouble, meanwhile Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappacinni stay in London but not for long. Soon they're careering across Europe too, worried for Mary and her group who have disappeared somewhere in the mountains of Hungary. This is the second instalment of this fantasy/horror trilogy and is just as enjoyable as the first. It has exactly the same problems but I won't bang on about that again. Suffice to say it was rollicking good fun, I love the European locations, the ideas behind the characters, and the sheer zest of these books. Book three will be on my reading agenda for 2021.
I'm currently reading these two:
The Christmas Chronicles: Notes, Stories and 100 Recipes for Midwinter by TV cook, Nigel Slater, is the perfect slow read for Christmas week. He has a wonderfully gentle, descriptive, sumptious style of writing and you can wallow in it at the end of a long day. Loving it.
Weird Woods: Tales of the Haunted Forests of Britain, edited by John Miller, is one of the British library's 'Weird books' series. I've read several and they can be a bit patchy but this is, so far, rather good. And ghost stories naturally go well with Christmas don't they?