Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Another catching up post

Well, I have been reading - seven books so far this month - just not talking all that much about said books, so time for a bit of a catch up.

Since my last post three books have gone unremarked, starting with A Death in Calabria by Michele Giuttari. This was basically a 'bring down a local Mafia ring' sort of book. It wasn't bad but lacked any kind of real depth and read a bit like a series of reports, starting in New York and finishing in Calabria in Italy. It kept my interest but is not a series I plan to read more of, although I did learn a fair bit about how the Mafia operates. 

A non-fiction travel memoir, Four Cheeks to the Wind by Mary Bryant was more enjoyable.

Mary Bryant and her husband Warren make the decision to cycle around the world (as you do). They travel across Europe via France, Italy, Greece and Turkey and then fly to India, the intervening countries such as Iran and Afghanistan, being far too dangerous to cycle through. From India and Sri Lanka they fly to Australia. That might seem an odd route but they were doing it this way to try and avoid brutal summer heat and humidity in the Indo-China countries. Huge amount of detail in this 400 page book - I read it on my Kindle Fire and it took me ages. For me that was both good and bad. Good in that I learnt a lot about every country they visited, especially its people and the various cuisines. Bad in that I felt a bit bogged down by it all at times. But goodness me some of the images described are still with me, this book gives a real flavour of every country, I would say anyone thinking of cycling around the world should read this book but it is about 15 years old and some things will have changed. My favourite sections were Europe, especially Italy and Turkey, and Australia... Mary and Warren were taken by surprise by how much they loved areas like Tasmania. Overall what sticks with me was how friendly the couple found nearly everyone they came across... which gladdens the heart rather. 

After that I was ready for a light read so I settled on Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman which was a free Amazon 'Prime Reading' book.

Fern is married to Aiden and their married life is pretty much mapped out, jobs, their home, eventually children, and she is very happy with that. Then they have a lottery win. What to do with the money? Aiden wants to go off backpacking in Australia but knows that Fern is afraid of flying and sea voyages so suggests a sort of marriage gap-year. He will go and do his thing and she hers. Which is how Fern ends up in Provence volunteering at a retreat for people to unwind and learn new skills. Relaxing, gentle stuff and Fern is hoping to pick up her painting where she left off before she got married. But she reckons without the moody artist running the place, Nico, who sees something in Fern that she never knew she had. I thought this was delightful. I fell in love with the retreat, a chateau in Provence, which sounded wonderful. Lots of good characterisation and a good list of interesting people added to the enjoyment. My one small niggle was that sometimes Fern's dialogue sounded a bit textbook, rehearsed little speeches kind of thing, I found myself thinking that people don't really speak like that. Otherwise this was a thoroughly good wallow, my second book by this author.

I'm currently reading this:

 

The Aberdyll Onion and other mysteries by Victor Canning is a book of short stories, some of them crime based other just quirky with a twist. I recently read his Mr. Finchley Discovers His England and enjoyed its quirkiness and this anthology is pretty much the same, beautifully written too.

To be honest, I'm treading water a bit until the 20 Books of Summer challenge starts on the 1st. June.


10 comments:

Sam Sattler said...

Somewhere deep inside me, I would love to take - or by this point in my life, to have taken - one of those road trips around the world that those braver than me write about every so often. But then I read their books or watch their films about the trips, and I remember why it never happened. The world has become such a dangerous place in the last twenty years that I can't even imagine trips like these happening anymore...and that's sad.

Cath said...

Sam: I know 'exactly' how you feel. I read these books and I feel like I should've done something like it. I have enough wander lust inside, I know that. But, but... after reading their travelogues I realise I could not put up with everything that they have, filthy rooms, questionable food, the representatives of authority who love to wield their power against anyone who just needs help or a favour and so on. And to be honest we have taken half a dozen good road trips around the USA and France which is a heck of a lot more than some people have a chance to do. So I am not complaining, just perhaps a little wistful. I think people are still taking trips like this but even in the 15 years since the events in this book took place the world has become *so* much more dangerous that I would be very scared for anyone embarking on such a trip.

Lark said...

Four Cheeks to the Wind is the kind of travel memoir I usually enjoy, but at 400 pages long I can see where you bogged down a bit in it. I can't imagine taking that kind of trip now, which is sad. Makes me glad I can at least read about people who have done it.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Summer in Provence seems like a really nice summer story. As for traveling around the world, I never was all that adventurous and don't feel like I've missed out. Outside of the US the only places I've visited were France, Switzerland, Mexico, The Bahamas (2x) and Aruba (10X). Armchair travel is underrated IMO.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...


The title and cover of The Aberdyll Onion and other mysteries really attracts me, even though I'm not really a fan of short stories.

Cath said...

Lark: It was not so much the length of the book but it was borderline 'too much detail', as in every day was described. *But* I find myself now with an excellent 'feel' for the countries they visited, which I did not have before.

Diane: Yep, Summer in Provence was a good summer type read and suited my mood perfectly. I think you've done some pretty serious travelling with all the countries you've visited! But yes, armchair travel is the way forward for me I think.

Margaret: I'm not hugely into short stories either (though more than I used to be) but these were very short and when I had ten minutes to spare one of these fitted in nicely.

Susan said...

A marriage "gap-year" is an interesting concept! I do love the cover of SUMMER IN PROVENCE and it sounds like the story is decent. I might have to check it out when I'm in the mood for a lighter read. Glad you enjoyed!

TracyK said...

I admire people who do that kind of traveling (in Four Cheeks to the Wind) but I wouldn't ever do it. All the countries you mentioned sound interesting though. Kind of reminds me of the Michael Palin trips, without all the cameras following them around of course.

I will have to get a copy of The Aberdyll Onion by Canning. But I have another book of his short stories; I should try that first.

CLM said...

I went through a Susan Howatch obsession back when she was writing her Church of England series, and although I disliked most of her characters and found her plots completely unbelievable, I could not stop reading them. However, it drove me crazy that her characters spoke in endless paragraphs that went on for pages. I think that sort of stilted language means the author never read the text aloud. Or, I suppose, just doesn't care about being realistic.

Cath said...

Susan: A marriage gap-year is an interesting concept isn't it. And all their relatives and friends are pretty shocked by the idea too!

Tracy: Noooo, I couldn't ever do that kind of travelling either. We do road-trips in the car and sleep in rooms with a comfy bed and shower, I'm not great at roughing it. LOL

Canning's short story book was a fun read, some nicely observed little stories, not unlike Roald Dahl would write.

Constance: You did make me laugh at your description of Susan Howatch's books! I don't know what causes a writer to write dialogue that doesn't ring true, possibly they don't really listen to people talking? And people are just not as 'worthy' as that in their conversations.