Reading in the Waiting Room

37788084343093605_97fq9uva_fQuite a lot of last week (and I predict equally large swathes of next week) were spent in doctors’ and hospital waiting rooms.  The e-reader has revolutionised such experiences.  No longer do I have to wonder if I have enough left in the book I’m reading to last for however long the delay is between the time I was supposed to see the doctor/consultant/osteopath (delete as applicable) and the time I actually get into the consulting room.  These days I can have as many books with me as I think I’m going to need and even a couple of spares in case I feel an urge for something different halfway through the wait.

I don’t know about you but I find I can’t concentrate on anything too demanding under these circumstances, where you always have to have at least half an ear cocked for fear you might miss the magical moment when your name is actually called and, as a consequence, find yourself still waiting to be seen two days and half a dozen clinics later.  Thus, I have got through quite a lot of crime fiction this week as well as one book that I wanted to ask advice about.

Kashgar1For my Wednesday morning group I found myself reading Suzanne Joinson’s A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, a novel that has attracted a fair amount of praise and which has been long listed for a number of awards. To say that I couldn’t make head nor tail of this book would be unfair.  I followed what was happening perfectly well.  But, I couldn’t for the life of me see why it had garnered such praise.  It’s one of those books that is split into different time periods and if you’re going to do that then I do think that there needs to be more than just a plot link between the two stories, there needs to be something thematic going on as well, which as far as I could see there wasn’t.  I also didn’t think there was anything out of the ordinary in the style of writing either.  To be honest, it wasn’t a book I would have finished if I hadn’t needed it for the group but, at least, I thought, someone there will be able to explain to me what it is I’ve missed.  Well, no one could because we all felt the same way about it, so can anyone reading this enlighten us as to why this book has been rated so highly.  At the moment we’re all feeling rather dumb.

9781409140924The other two books I’ve read fared much better.  The first was the third in Harry Bingham’s new crime series, The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths. I came to this straight from the latest in another series which I’ve stuck with because of the plot lines even though I knew there was something that bugged me about the main character.  This book helped to pinpoint what that was.  Fiona Griffiths might not be the most typical of police women but I do recognise her as a real woman, whereas the heroine of the other series isn’t.  She’s a man’s view of what a woman is like and let’s face it, some men just really don’t know, do they.

Actually, this third novel is all about identity.  It sees Fiona taking on an undercover job and at times finding it difficult to remember just which persona is the real one.  Ironically, as she comes out of what is a really harrowing experience, she finds herself with a better understanding of who she really is and what she wants from the life to which she returns than she had when the assignment began.  Coming, as it does, in the wake of certain high profile cases where police officers have found it difficult to maintain the necessary divide between the role they have adopted and their real identity, this is a first class exploration of what going under cover really means.  Bingham’s series is rapidly becoming one of my favourites and if you haven’t read it then I strongly recommend his work, although do start with the first one.  You really do need to read these in order.

9780141964041.225x225-75And another series that needs reading in order, although perhaps less so than Bingham’s, is the Frieda Klein series written by husband and wife duo, Nicci French, which in Thursday’s Children reaches its fourth episode.  This sees Klein, still haunted by the killer from her first outing, Blue Monday, returning to her East Anglian roots, ostensibly to convince the local police that the death of the fifteen year old daughter of an ex-school friend was not suicide, but also to confront some of the demons that have haunted her own life since she was a similar age.

The strength of French’s novels for me always lies in the characters and here we catch up with our old friends such as Josef and Reuben as well as meeting Frieda’s past school friends who greet her return with what I felt was a very realistic set of differing responses.  The highly fraught world of teenage relationships both present day and in Frieda’s past is very convincingly explored and while she needs to return to the scenes of her childhood both to gain justice for Becky and to lay certain ghosts of her own, this novel is a clear warning to anyone who thinks that going back to the old school reunion is ever going to be a good idea.  This is another series I strongly recommend.

So, now to select my reading for next week’s excursions into the world of our National Health Service.  I think the latest Lindsey Davis novel, Enemies at Home  and the most recent of Gordon Ferris’s Douglas Brodie series, Gallowglass, should fit the bill nicely. But will two be enough…..?

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37 thoughts on “Reading in the Waiting Room

  1. I can’t throw any light on A Lady Cyclist, Alex, but I am grateful to you for saving me the price of the book and the precious reading time I might have wasted on it as it was on my list. Glad that you’ve found plenty to distract you from the limbo of waiting time.

  2. Crime fiction does seem very satisfying when one is waiting for doctors, especially if you’re going through a spell of the doctors not being sure what is wrong and what to do about it. Not only is the crime fiction easy to follow while keeping an ear cocked, but everything wraps up so nicely at the end.

    1. I think this works, Jeanne as long as you’re not reading about a gory autopsy. At that point it can all seem a bit too near to home!

  3. I’ve definitely appreciated e-readers in waiting rooms – you can be there for hours! And I certainly need something not too demanding. On Friday I arrived at the dentist too early for my appointment (my fault, I’d looked at the time for my next appointment on the calendar!) and so had three quarters of an hour to wait. I had my Kindle with me (it goes everywhere I may have to wait) to calm my nerves. But it wasn’t much help because I was distracted by the two old ladies sitting opposite who talked constantly in loud voices and the child who kept asking her mum questions.

    Can’t help with the Lady Cyclist book though. Sometimes we’re all puzzled at our book group about why some books come so highly recommended – and we can’t see it …

    1. Now of all the places you don’t want to have to wait for any length of time it’s the dentist. Last time I went I was asked if I would mind waiting as the previous patient had proved to have a bigger problem than expected. As the wait went on and on and on I began to wonder if they were having to take his head off! Not the best of thoughts as you’re sitting waiting to go in yourself:-)

  4. I so agree about waiting rooms and the inability to concentrate. I’ve never heard of the Lady Cyclist — I’ve heard of but never read Harry Bingham (need to put that right) and I’ve just read Thursday’s Children. I wasn’t sure about Freida when I first started the series, and in fact I still find her rather irritating at times, but now only as a friend sometimes is — my sympathy is fully with her, and in this one it was good to get some idea of why, perhaps, she is as she is. I’m off to the doctor’s tomorrow and will be reading on my iPad as I don’t have a Kindle.

    1. Start with ‘Talking With The Dead’ Harriet. I think you’ll enjoy him. Prior to this series he wrote one off thrillers, which I didn’t get on with, but the Fiona Griffiths’ books are excellent. I’m an i-Pad lass as well. My mini goes everywhere with me.

  5. I agree with you about The Lady Cyclist. It sounded so intriguing to me when I read about it, but I ended up giving up on it quite quickly. The writing just felt really uninspired to me and I felt like I had other books I would much rather be reading. A shame since the concept had seemed so interesting.

    1. Yes, we all thought the idea was splendid, it was simply the book that was so poor. There was so much scope for development but what we felt was that the author had simply run down a check list of clichés for mediocre novels and put them all in regardless.

  6. Ooh the Harry Bingham series is news to me, I will have to check that one out. And you know I love the Frieda Klein books so very glad to hear they are keeping up the excellent quality. I am so sorry to hear that you are spending too much time in waiting rooms, though. My feeling is that any amount of time spent there is unpleasant. I will drop you a line shortly. Take care of yourself!

    1. I think you would really enjoy Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths novels, Litlove. She has problems connecting with the world around her that I so totally identify with. What is it about waiting rooms? My real grip at the moment is the number of them that now have televisions in them. Who wants to be condemned to watching day time television? Are you not likely to be feeling bad enough as it is, already?

      1. I completely agree! My dentist’s waiting room always has some David Attenborough programme playing and I over-identify with whatever is being tracked and hunted down. Shudder. Off to look up those Bingham novels right now….

  7. Sorry can’t help with the Lady Cyclist’s Guide either. I’ve heard good things about it but haven’t gotten any further than that! At least your mysteries were good! Sorry to hear you’ve been spending so much time in waiting rooms of late.

  8. God, all the sympathy in the world. I have spent so much time reading in hospitals and hospital waiting rooms. (Though experience has taught me to be grateful for reading time when I have it — it’s worse if you’re there with people who don’t want to read and only want to talk the whole entire time.) I usually can’t even manage mysteries — brain won’t follow them — and I stick with kids’ books and books of advice columns.

    1. Jenny, your comment reminded me of my last visit to see a theatre production screened at a cinema. The woman sitting next to me (whom I didn’t know at all) seemed to think that it was perfectly acceptable to talk to me about what we were watching all through the performance. I wonder if she would have done that if we had actually been in the theatre?

  9. I have read the Lady Cyclist! I rather enjoyed it, and liked the way the two parallel narratives entwined around each other eventually revealing their connections, and both providing adventure tinged with tragedy. I like the sound of the Harry Bingham too though.

    1. I’m glad someone enjoyed the book, Annabel. It would be rather sad to think no one did. Do give Bingham a try. He’s well worth it.

  10. I hope whatever is sending you to waiting rooms is over soon.
    For me, waiting rooms are the one time I get to read all those magazines. People, which I guess is a bit like Hello in the U.K., is not something I would ever be caught dead reading otherwise. I can usually get through most of the stack before I go in to see the doctor, though my local hospital has been getting very good about cutting down wait time lately.

    1. The trouble is that no one ever seems to refresh the magazines and I’ve spent so much time in some of these waiting rooms recently that I’ve gout through everything they have to offer. Besides there is nothing worse than finding an advert for something that looks really interesting only to find that the manufacturers withdrew it as old hat six months earlier.

  11. Oh I am sorry for you having to hang about in waiting rooms so much, I suppose the only positive thing to take from it is that there is some good reading time for you. But I too hope that things are sorted out quickly and you don’t have to spend much longer in them.

    I confess, I really enjoyed the Lady Cyclist, I loved the way the author wrote and I didn’t find it cliched at all. I’m actively looking forward to Joinson’s next book, I think she will just get better and better. However, it would be a dull world if we all liked the same things! I was intrigued by the sound of the other novels you wrote about, I’ll keep an eye open for them.

    Get well soon!

  12. Doctors’ waiting rooms are oddly conducive to reading, I find. The quiet (but not too quiet), the waiting. I hope you feel better soon and am glad you’re enjoying some good books at least!

    1. I always have half an ear open in case I miss being called, Letizia. I am terrified of having to go to the back of the queue and start all over again.

  13. Yes to electronic reading in waiting rooms. I’ve only begun reading detective stories recently and their flow is well suited to the w-a-i-t-i-n-g. Now I’m off to look into Harry Bingham and Nicci French (Ian Rankin and John Harvey fan to date, oh and PD James). Thank you.

    1. Carol, it’s really nice to meet you. Do try Bingham and French. You will find that both of them have written more than just the series that I mention but I would suggest that you start with those, so ‘Talking with the Dead’ for Bingham and ‘Blue Monday’ for French. If you’re looking for recommendations for good crime writers then you really can’t go wrong with SJ Bolton who I think is the very best of the young women writers or if you would like to try something American do give Sara Paretsky a try. Her PI is a model for strong women everywhere.

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