Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading Retrospective (October and November 2002)

Monday Salon? I had most of this typed up yesterday but then it got late and here it is now Monday. I think it's still technically Sunday somewhere though, or if not we'll just pretend. Anyway, I didn't get around to posting my reading retrospective last month, so I thought I'd combine them this month. Taking a look back at my reading journal for 2002, the year I started recording what books I read, it was an interesting mix of books I read over those 2 months. However, the highlight would definitely be reading two more books by Sarah Waters, including the fabulous Fingersmith. I read her Affinity earlier in 2002, so I think it's safe to say that 2002 was the year I discovered Sarah Waters. What I can't believe is that I haven't read anything by her since! I've had The Night Watch waiting on my shelves for ages so I really must rectify that next year.

So, what else was I reading 7 years ago? I started off October with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I wrote in my journal that I was so glad to have finally read these, to read the original text instead of the Disneyfied version. As I've never played chess and don't have a clue about the rules, I'm pretty sure I didn't quite get all the references in Through the Looking Glass, but it was still a fun read. And  I'm looking forward to the Tim Burton film of Alice in Wonderland coming out next year.

Next up was some Canadian lit, Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill. What I jotted down at the time: The characters, especially the absent Martin Sloane, linger long after the book is over. The story was perhaps a bit weak in places but emotional while remaining subtle, and in it's own way quite haunting. I do remember liking it, and as I still have my copy I should probably try to reread it someday. In mind I also associate Martin Sloane with Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved, another one I want to reread some time, or other literary fiction where art plays an important role.

Quite a few of the books I read during these two months were for online group reads. This was before I started blogging but back then I used to belong to several Yahoo Book groups, and I really have them to thank for getting me to read books I might not have otherwise. And it's thanks to those groups that I started compiling a wishlist and began collecting books at a faster rate than I read them. To look at my massive TBR (To-Be-Read) mountain of unread books now, all I can do is sigh.  I don't regret it though.

The next book I read, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, was also a group read. I don't remember the discussion anymore and although I know there are fans of Russo, I wasn't particularly enamoured by this book. I have to admit that I don't even remember the story at all now either, but in my journal I wrote that I thought that other than the main character, the other characters weren't fleshed out enough. That the story had possibilities that just weren't realized. If I were to try another book by Richard Russo, which one would you recommend?

Then it was to Victorian England with Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.  This is probably my least favourite of Waters' three Victorian novels but that's not to say that it wasn't also very good. It was definitely a very fun romp! Sarah Waters does such a great job at setting the atmosphere, and describing the characters, you can't help but become engrossed in her stories, at least I can't.

I ended October with Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. As it's a collection of loosely connected stories rather than a single narrative, perhaps unsurprisingly I liked some more than others. I've had Vreeland's The Forest Lover on my TBR stack for ages and really should try to read it sometime. I'm sensing a trend here.  Looking back at these titles, I don't think I've read any of the authors since, and for most it's not out of not wanting to.  My how the time flies!

I started November with some light reading, Bookends by Jane Green. I wrote in my journal, "not bad for chicklit although the main character's storyline was so very predictable."  Well, it was chicklit after all. 

Next up was the wonderful Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. A completely engaging, well-written, atmospheric, twisty story. My favourite of these two months and it even made my Top 5 List for 2002. If you haven't read it yet, you really must!

My next read was a play, A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, which I read before going to see it performed at the National Theatre in London. Glenn Close played Blanche and it was a truly fabulous performance. Ah, I really miss going to the theatre. Some of the big musicals do play in Japan but they're performed in Japanese by a Japanese cast! Besides the language comprehension issues, I just can't imagine watching something like Les Misérables, or Cats, in Japanese!  Oh well, I'm glad I did get to see some great plays and musicals while we lived in England.

In reading, I ended November with another chicklit, Pastures Nouveaux by Wendy Holden, but it was one that I quite enjoyed. In my journal I called it "delightful British chicklit" that reminded me of a modern version of a Jane Austen story, and I'm a big fan of Jane. 

So not a bad couple of months worth of reading.  As for my reading this month here in 2009, it's not going as well I'm sad to say.  I've really been struggling to read and blog this fall, a combination of a lack of time, and to be honest a little bit of burn out.  I am hoping to get back in the swing of things soon though.  And I am reading, just not as much or as quickly as I would like.  Right now I'm in the middle of In the Wake of the Boatman by Jonathan Scott Fuqua and am quite enjoying it so far.  I'm planning to start The Old Capital very soon, for the Japanese Literature Book Group, as the discussion date is fast approaching.   The discussion will begin on Monday, the 30th so that leaves me a week.  Plus I'm also still reading Northanger Abbey on my iPhone whenever I'm stuck in a train commuting, and am about half way through it as well.  So some fun books on the go, if only I could find more time to spend actually reading them.  I also posted my review of Big in Japan: A Ghost Story this week, which was another interesting release from Chin Music Press that reminded me a little bit of Ryu Murakami.

What are you reading this week?  What were you reading in years past? 

Have a good week everyone!

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  1. You were reading some awesome books 7 years ago. There are quite a few that I would love to check out. I wish I had started keeping track of books so long ago. I just started a few months ago, actually. This week, I'm reading A Note from an Old Acquaintance, and I'm going to try to read Dan Brown's the Lost Symbol. I figure it's sort of necessary.
    I haven't decided what will be after that.

  2. I just last night finished "Juliet, Naked," Nick Hornby's latest novel and I really, really liked it. Not sure what I was reading this time circa 2002, but it might very well have been his "How to be Good," which is my favorite novel by him.

  3. A month in which one reads Sarah Waters is a very good reading month indeed :D

  4. Nymeth - Yes, yes it is! :)

    Teresa - Glad to hear you liked 'Juliet, Naked'. I really must put 'How to Be Good' on my mental list for next year.

    Audrey - I certainly can't complain, it was a pretty good couple of months.
    I figure I'll most likely read Dan Brown's latest too at some point but I'm not rushing out to do so. Think I'll wait for the paperback. :)

  5. I love your reading retrospectives! Where to begin?? I've only read The Night Watch, but have Fingersmith and Affinity on my nightstand. One of these days...

    I was one who enjoyed Empire Falls, but then I really like Russo. I've read Straight Man and and Nobody's Fools and have Bridge of Sighs in my stacks. Straight Man is very fun, especially if you know anyone in academia. I liked Nobody's Fool, but when I tried to watch the movie (with Paul Newman), it was too much like the book and I got bored.

    You and Andi have raved about What I Loved for as long as I can remember. I really need to get a copy of that book and see what all the fuss is about. :)

    Ah, those Yahoo groups. They were great, weren't they? Weren't you in TheBookspot with Cathleen (from Canada, too) and Linda S.? I wonder what ever happened to Cathleen. I lost touch a few years ago.

    I think my reading has picked up now that summer is over. I'm trying to find a balance between reading and blogging. Like you, I think I was getting a bit burned out on the whole blog thing, but I'm not going to quit. Just need to find my comfort zone.

    Here's to a great final month of reading in 2009!

  6. Les - Wow, I love your long comment. :)

    Yes, you really should read Fingersmith, and What I Loved. I probably should read What I Loved again sometime as it's been a while now. It's the kind of book that makes you think and I would probably get something different out of it now.

    Those Yahoo groups really were great at the time. It is thanks to them that I started reading more diversely, and because of them that I ended up starting my own blog. Yes, I was in TheBookSpot. Sadly I lost touch with Cathleen too a while back, after she had a second child. I wonder how she's doing.

    Sometimes I get frustrated because I don't have time to do everything I'd like to do with the blog, or offline so I'm trying to get better about being flexible, and just accepting that I can't fit it all in. Trying to prioritize. That balance is hard to find but I'll keep trying.

    I hope you have a great December too! Happy reading!


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