Reviews

‘an intriguing read . . . keeps the reader guessing . . . a lot to enjoy in this romp through the Cambridge Commons . . . a strong sense of place and a narrative style that is both energetic and engaging.’ [Dead Letters]

- Margaret Murphy, SHERLOCK

Book-lovers! Serial monogamy or a more free-wheeling approach?

513S9PZLNOL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Are you a serial monogamist or do you like to have several books on the go at the same time? For myself, I am rarely reading just one book. Sometimes I must admit that I spread myself too thin. Here’s a snapshot of what I am reading at the moment.

I am approaching the halfway mark of Niall Williams’ novel, History of the Rain (2014). I have a deadline for this one as we’ll be discussing it at my book group next week.

I am also a few chapters into Elizabeth Hawes’ Fashion is Spinach: How to Beat the Fashion Racket (1938), a fascinating and amusing account of the author’s adventures in the fashion business in the 1920s and 1930s. Moira at ClothesinBooks.com wrote about this on her wonderful blog: I often read books she has reviewed.

51wCxRurT3L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_These are both London Library books. I didn’t want to take them with me when I was away for a couple of days earlier in the week, so I took a break from them and read Ellie Griffiths’ new novel, The Woman in Blue on my e-reader. Arriving home tired, I didn’t want to read anything the least little bit demanding: Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero was perfect.

There is also usually something on my e-reader that I keep for when I can’t sleep or wake up early. At present it is Ethel Lina White’s The Man Who Loved Lions.

Also by my bedside is a brand-new book, just out, Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science and Love by Hope Jahren. I’m 100 pages in and have had a bit of a break, but I do intend to finish it.

So that’s the state of play at the moment and I’d love to know how others organise their reading.

The one-sitting read

51Spa3FCHhL._AC_US160_These I rarely read a book in one sitting. Maybe sometimes on holiday, but otherwise it tends to be when I am not very well. Such a day came last week – just a cold, but I didn’t feel up to much. I retired to bed with Ellie Griffith’s The Outcast Dead, which I’d been saving for when I wanted a treat. There was no-one at home so I read it straight through without interruptions, including over lunch, and I enjoyed it hugely.

I used often to read like that – for hours on end. I remember as a teenager that a favourite place to read was sitting on the stairs, back against the wall, feet against the bannisters, while the sunlight through the stained glass of the front door of our between-the-wars semi sent shifting patterns moving across the hall carpet.

The great thing about a one-sitting reading is that you don’t forget who characters are or mislay bits of the plot. You get completely immersed in the book, sinking into it, leaving your ordinary life behind. Of course not everything can be read like this. Proust or Tolstoy demand a greater expenditure of time – the reading has to be spread over days, weeks, or maybe months – and that sense of living in a parallel universe is part of the experience of reading the book. But I like a crime novel to be short enough to read in one sitting – and if the writer has done their job, I should want to read it in one sitting, drawn on and on until at last the final page is reached, it’s over, and with a sigh of satisfaction, I close the book (and go online to download the next in the series).