My Week in Books: 6th April 2015

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THE DAYDREAMER by IAN McEWAN

Where I finished it: In the bath (I do all my best reading in the bath).

How long: Three days.

Quote: There were adventures ahead of him after all.

Would I read it again: Again, I’d like to read it to my (as yet entirely improbable) children.

This is something I don’t say often, if ever, about books, but I wish The Daydreamer had been longer.

Each chapter is almost a short story in itself – a trip with eleven year old Peter into his imagination.

There was something so easy to read yet still engrossing about these bite size insights into Peter’s daydreams. And with each new chapter you never knew what you were going to get. The Vanishing Cream had me frightened (I scare easily), The Bully made me well up and The Grown-Up was almost too accurate a description of everything I’m feeling at this point in my life. The book as a whole had me questioning the line between fantasy and reality.

And it also made me wonder why there aren’t more books pitched to this audience – that grey area between children’s fiction and adult fiction. As Ian McEwan says in the prologue, ‘it might be better to forget our mighty tradition of children’s literature… simple prose need not deter the sophisticated reader.’

THE LONDON TRAIN by TESSA HADLEY

How long: A week

Where I finished it: Far too late at night

Favourite quote: The night ahead was a brimming dish she had to carry without spilling it

Would I read it again: No, it was good but not that good

I picked up this book completely on a whim with no idea what it was about which is very unlike me. I’d expected it to languish unread on my bookshelf for years before I actually found the motivation to read it. But no, last week I decided I fancied reading something completely unknown.

The book is broken into two stories which appear to be completely separate but when it’s explained how they’re linked I couldn’t believe I hadn’t worked it out earlier. The first is about a father on the hunt for his missing daughter in London and ends up sucked into a completely different life. The second is about a recently separated woman setting up her new life in Wales and mostly reminiscing about her past.

It reads so much like an Ian McEwan novel that I found it a little eerie. But I supposed my experience of ‘literary fiction’ about middle-aged characters and their everyday lives is pretty limited to McEwan so maybe it all overlaps in the same ways. And anyway, I love Ian McEwan so that was no bad thing.

To be honest I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. In the first story it was the plot that kept me reading; the character of Paul didn’t inspired much sympathy in me but I was really interested to better understand the motivations of the characters he meets in London. The second story took a little more getting into (mostly because there isn’t much of a plot) but I really did like Cora and the way the author described heartbreak was quite moving.

However, the ending was a little unsatisfactory for me. It just didn’t seem to ring true to have this happy ending after the rest of the book was so bleak and mundane. But I’d rather have an unsatisfactory happy ending than an unsatisfactory sad ending.

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