Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 23 October 2008

I blame the weather.

Recently, I just haven't been to any special events or places to write about. Just catching up on the stuff that's accumulated on my TV recorder (that "series link!" facility has a lot to answer for), and the reading matter that piles up on my kitchen table. I need to clear a bit soon (because I've had another offer of a house swap to Paris in early November - the other side of the city this time), but first I've been wading through Martin Amis's "House of Meetings", which someone at our book club brought along but couldn't persuade the rest to select.

I say "wade through" advisedly. Somehow I just cannot get along with his style. The subject matter - the love and rivalry of two brothers standing as a metaphor for different responses to the experience of Stalinist repression - interests me, and the writing style is great deal less florid than in other novels of his I couldn't finish: but something in the voice of the narrator (the ruthless, shameless survivor of the two) just didn't take life. It's not that it's overwhelmed by the detail of the research - it's a short book - but I was just too conscious of the author describing, to the point that the characters seemed merely schematic.

On the other hand, I am enjoying "The Clothes On Their Backs", one of the Booker Prize finalists. For this month, the book club agreed to choose whatever we liked from the shortlist, and to be honest, it was the shortest and cheapest that I could see in the shop. As good a principle as any (I remember a bookstall in North End Road market in Fulham with the sign "Thick books £1, thin books 50p"). This is a tale of family secrets, and how refugees responded to life in Britain. I don't know yet what the secret is, though I can guess there might be a plot element in common with "House of Meetings".

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