Sunday Round-Up

DSC_0382Well, not much to report on the eye front, other than that they are still troublesome.  So, for the moment I’m going to try and write one round up post a week just to make sure that I don’t lose touch with you all and give my reading time one day a week over to catching up with your sites.  I really don’t want to have to drop out of the blogging world altogether.

Inevitably, what I read is going to have to be prioritised rather differently now.  I don’t want to have to leave any of the three reading groups to which I belong either, and so those novels are going to have to come first each month.  I just hope that not too many books that I’ve read before will turn up on the lists because re-reading is going to be a real waste of time.  In fact, two of the three for November are re-reads.  At least the first, Graham Greene’s A Burnt-out Case, which is for discussion tomorrow, is a book I read as an undergraduate, so a good long time ago.  I wish I could remember more of my earlier reactions to it.  I do remember being amazed (although pleased) that a Catholic college would set their students a book like this, which has a lot of disparaging things to say about a certain sort of religious observance.  Coming to it a second time I’m not sure that it is as good a book as I remembered, but interestingly its themes do seem to be reasonably adaptable to any ideology and the author’s horror at the way in which the world re-writes an individual’s story to suit its own needs is as relevant to day as when the book was written.

The book I was in the middle of when I suddenly had to start to count the number of pages I could manage in a day was David Mitchell’s latest novel, The Bone Clocks.  If you’ve read this you’ll know that it’s not the sort of book to read in small bursts if you want to have any hope of following what is going on.  The plot is so convoluted and so intricately interwoven from one section to another that you really need to have a good run at it in order to keep everything straight in your mind.  This is the first novel of Mitchell’s that I’ve read and I have to say that I enjoyed it very much indeed.  Because I’m interested in structure the manner in which he divides his text up into what appear to be six separate sections only then to have them all run into each other in one way or another fascinated me.  It is a high risk strategy, however.  If you happen to come across a section that is written in a style that annoys you he does run the risk that you will put the book down and not go back to it.  This very nearly happened with me where the fourth section was concerned.  Had it been any earlier, I might just not have gone on.

Is there anyone reading this who is a real Mitchell addict?  I heard an interview with him in which the interviewer seemed to suggest that in fact the interweaving is not just in each individual novel but that it carries through from one book to another.  Is that the case, does anyone know? Certainly, there is a reference in this one to Black Swan Green, although it doesn’t seem to be anything more than a passing mention of the place and one character.  If it should be so, then somehow I am going to have to find time to go back and read all the earlier ones just to see how he manages it.

Enough for today.  Same time, same place, next week, I hope.

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34 thoughts on “Sunday Round-Up

  1. It’s good to hear from you, Alex, though I’m sorry your eyes are still giving you trouble. I haven’t read anything by David Mitchell but I’ve been meaning to try one of his books for a long time.

    1. I’m not sure ‘The Bone Clocks’ is the one for you, Helen. From what others have told me, ‘Back Swan Green’ might be a better place for you to begin.

  2. Sorry you’re still struggling with your eyes – hope things improve soon. I’m afraid I’m another who hasn’t read any David Mitchell so can’t help – they never quite sound like my kind of thing, though I’m always sorely tempted – and doubtless will be again if you review it!

    1. I think ‘The Bone Clocks’ might just work for you, FF. I think you would enjoy keeping up with all the twists and turns that suddenly meet up in the most unexpected places.

  3. Alex, I was inspired by you to have another go at Siri Husvedt’s What I loved, and I thought of you double with the narrator’s trouble with his eyes. I will blog on that next, but I was absolutely taken by it and can’t believe I have changed so much in 10 years as to “get” it now and not before.

    I don’t love David Mitchell. I know a lot do. It’s the following of it that can get you!

    1. Thank you, Denise. I am so glad that you decided to back to the Hustvedt. I am gong to have to persuade my other reading groups that they want to read her early work so that I have a good reason to give time to her. As for Mitchell, I suspect he was we would call a marmite author, you either love him or hate him. I have always had rather a taste for marmite.

  4. I hope your eyes get better soon! I’d never heard before of Graham Greene’s A Burnt-out Case, but I read too fast and I misunderstood it for a A Burn-Out case, feeling a bit surprised that Graham Greene was aware of such a phenomenon 😉 !

    1. I hope that you are still able to enjoy reading and glad to read that you have an interesting menu of books to be going on with! I read A Burnt Out Case years ago and, as you say probably not among Greene’s very best but still well worth reading. I have yet to get around to David Mitchell and hope to get around to him (he must be in a pile of TBR somewher!).

      1. Ian, I would really like to know what you make of Mitchell. I’ve just picked up his first novel, Ghostwritten, and I hope that I shall be able to find sufficient reading time to tackle it sooner rather than later.

    2. Yes, that would be interesting. It isn’t one of his best books, but definitely worth reading and stylistically it is as good as he always is.

  5. Graham Greene is one of those authors I don’t mind re-reading – even if A Burnt-Out Case isn’t his best. I’m one of the few people in the world who hasn’t embarked upon one of David MItchell’s books yet – must remedy that. I hope the eyes really start to improve soon.

    1. Thanks Annabel. I think Greene is so re-reable partly because he is such a stylist. We have someone in the group whose husband is a very well-known novelist and she was saying that he reckons Greene breaks all the ‘rules’ and yet he gets away with it because he is simply so brilliant with words.

  6. Oh, poor eyes! Are audiobooks an option until your eyes feel better again?

    I do like Mitchell very much and I seem to collect his books but have only actually read Cloud Atlas. I think I must have read the same article as you about all his books being somehow connected. It almost made me glad I hadn’t read them all because now I can read and look for connections. But at the same time it made me wonder if I should read his books chronologically. It can’t really matter, can it?

    1. I go to sleep if I try and listen to audio books, Stefanie, which is a real problem because it is so hard to go back to wherever you dropped off. I am going to try and read Mitchell chronologically but I don’t know when I am going to find the ‘eye’ time to do so. I suspect too, that if you leave too long between them it becomes difficult to remember all the hooks that tie one to another. It was hard enough to pick up all the links between the six sections in ‘The Bone Clocks’.

  7. I loved both Black Swan Green and Cloud Atlas, although they are definitely very different. I hadn’t read that about the inter-connectedness, but it sounds like Mitchell. Looking forward to reading more of him!

    1. I’m hoping to be able to read my way through the first five chronologically, Amy, but it will depend on how my eyes are and what time I can carve out from other commitments.

  8. I’ve read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Cloud Atlas, so I’ll look for connections when I make a big enough swathe of time to read The Bone Clocks.

  9. I love David Mitchell! I’ve read all of his books- they tend to be very different to each other, and there are some that I like more than others (my favourite I think is number9dream, Cloud Atlas is great as well). He’s always playing with genre and structure so it makes them quite distinctive.
    There are a lot of references to his earlier books in Bone Clocks- I don’t think I even picked them all because there are characters and places that I’ve probably forgotten. It’s a nice little additional treat for his readers I think, not sure that you would miss a lot without recognising them. The interesting thing about it is that David Mitchell’s books often feature themes of I guess reincarnation? Or soul travel? and the interconnectedness of people (esp. Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas)- so the characters turning up in Bone Clocks seem kind of like a continuation of that theme.
    I hope you are able to read some good things and that you’re feeling ok.

  10. Sorry I totally missed this post. I have never read any David Mitchell I don’t know if he’s my kind of author or not, I have heard many good things about him. But a convoluted plot rather puts me off.

  11. It would be impressive it David MItchell’s books all turned out to be a single interwoven text. But I think a lot of poeple would say the same thinga about a lot of writers.

    I’ve read three. There are some big connections between Black Swan Green and one of the storylines in Cloud Atlas, but Jacob de Zoet stands alone as I recall. It’s a period piece, like a couple of the stories in Cloud Atlas but I did not see any direct links with the other books.

    I quickly gave up on The Bone Clocks, but I may give it another go someday. While I loved all three of the books I’ve read, I think I list Black Swan Green as my favorite.

  12. Sorry to hear your eyes are still giving you trouble, I hope they are fairing better now. I didn’t notice a connection between Bone Clocks and his other novels, but I found Bone Clocks quite tedious and I’ve only read Cloud Atlas other than that.

  13. Hi Alex – I’m so sorry your eyes are still giving you trouble. My bears send you lots of hugs and hope the new year brings you relief and sound sight again. I haven’t read anything by David Mitchell though his books always sound so interesting, when I hold them in my hands and read the backs or try the first few pages, my mind clams up. Maybe one day. I hope your book clubs choose books you really want to read next year.

  14. Hi Alex
    I’m aware we haven’t heard from you for a while, so just popping by to hope you’re well and to wish you a happy and healthy festive season.
    Take care, and Merry Christmas!

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