I've never done a round up of books monthly begore, but a couple of the blogs I follow have done one and it seems like a good thing to do as a way to record my life and living (as well as being an easy way to fill a blogpost every month). So here goes for January.
I started this year by picking up Claire Tomalin's biography of Hardy, The Kindle edition link is here; Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man and the hardback link; Thomas Hardy: The Time-torn Man. I've read a few Hardy novels and the title drew my attention (I think as I was watching Sherlock, actually, and browsing for a new read.) Hardy is interesting, a young man from Dorset who goes to London and makes money writing about Dorset (his fictional Wessex). He's an enigma, and I am glad to be reading his story.
But I never just take the easy path. As I was reading, and it got to the point when he published his first novel a strange challenge presented itself. How about if I broke off from the biography to read the novel? Under The Greenwood Tree is a Hardy I haven't read, and I don't like having a gap in my classics reading. So I figured out that, especially since the books are free on Kindle anyway, I might as well follow his life and his oeuvre at the same time.
So my second book in January was Under the Greenwood Tree, or, the Mellstock quire; a rural painting of the Dutch school. It was quaint, rather than classic, but it did have some comedy value. What struck me reading it was how little happened in the book. I'm used to Jude or Tess or any of the Hardy characters and storylines that would sit very nicely in Eastenders or Coronation Street. Under The Greenwood Tree was soft, and hardly raised my pulse. It was actually cutely romantic, where the biggest problem is which suitor the village school teacher will choose. I did, however, enjoy the domestic details of the choir and their buildings. As you can see from the rather rough picture above, there was a BBC version in 2005. I can't see we wouldn't have watched it, so that makes this seem doubly forgettable. I'm glad I read it, would recommend it as a good starter classic for a young romantic girl, but I won't bother reading it again.
Lest you think I don't like Hardy, let me move on. His second novel was Far from the Madding Crowd. I was convinced I'd read this at some time in the past. After all I know the characters' names, the farming background and the plot, with Bathsheba Everdene being wooed left right and centre.... I almost decided to leave it, and to move on but in the interests of reading the whole Hardy work cycle in order I decided to read EVERY NOVEL as I came to it. I settled down with a cup of tea, expecting to meet a familiar phrase soon, but as I started the novel it became clear that I have NEVER read it. Woe betide me!! Is this another case of a book I have bought/borrowed/stolen from the library and never read? Whatever.
I enjoyed this book a lot more. Perhaps in response to the slow plot (non existent plot) of Greenwood Tree, this one has a plot structure that twists and turns. I'm thinking this is because of the fact that FFTMC was published in serial form in 1874 so every chapter needs a cliff hanger. You can, now, hear the 'dum-dum-dum-tum-dummy' beat of the Eastenders music and a storyline that has it all, almost. Pregnant disgraced girl? Tick. Fire that wipes out a hopeful future? Check. Drowning to escape debt and a loveless marriage? Yip, that too. And a handsome, self-effacing hero with a headstrong, wilful heroine. And one of the best quotes from the Vicar of Dibley. I read it in my limited reading time before bed and, yes, it took mt the week, but that was the week with quizzes, WI and illness in, so that's not bad.
Two and a half books in a month is pretty slow going, but that is two classics. They do read slower, I find. And this is a long term challenge.
I could tell you my new Hardy, begun on Saturday, but I'm not halfway through so I think I'd be cheating to count it as a January read. Although, I'm sure I must have read more books this month.....
Yes! I knew it. I checked my Goodreads account. It says that this year I have also read Doctor Sleep: Shining Book 2 (The Shining) by Stephen King and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I think I was reading these during the Christmas holidays (and books read then are out of ordinary time, so don't count) I did enjoy them both, especially the Stephen King.
Well, that sounds better now then, doesn't it? I must go now. I'll blog about February's reads in about 4 weeks time!