Richer than the other novels, and full of felicities (yes,yes, I know). It’s also an empath’s novel par excellence: ‘Only connect!’ in Margaret’s famous phrasing. ‘Personal relations are the important thing for ever and ever and not this outer life of telegrams and anger.’ The whole novel is an exploration of personal relations.
‘But was the dawn wonderful?’ asked Helen. With unforgettable sincerity he replied: ‘No.’
The Italian spread out his hands, implying that he had not thought of rudeness, but would produce it if it pleased her.
2018 Thumbnail Review #2 Jacob\'s Room by Virginia Woolf
A carefully crafted haze of fragmented impressions that coalesces from time to time and snaps into focus. It’s a kind of Howards End where the writing has been splintered by World War I and emerged as a thing of shreds and patches. Fascinating to compare the two.
‘Nobody sees any one as he is, let alone an elderly lady sitting opposite a strange young man in a railway carriage. They see a whole – they see all sorts of things – they see themselves. Mrs. Norman now read three pages of one of Mr. Norris’s novels.’
“But the Daily Mail isn’t to be trusted.”
2018 Thumbnail Review #3 Rovers of the Night Sky by Night Hawk
Compiled from articles published during 1917-18, this account of an RFC/RAF observer flying in Fe2b night bombers has the virtue of immediacy, making it a valuable record.
2018 Thumbnail Review #5 The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin
If you want wisdom, here it is. Put away your philosophy books and your Bob Dylan; read Le Guin.
‘What you are I do not know. What you will be, no one knows.’
‘An act is not like a rock that one picks up and throws, and it hits or misses, and that’s the end of it. When that rock is lifted the earth is lighter, the hand that bears it heavier. When it is thrown the circuits of the stars respond, and where it strikes or falls the universe is changed.’
2018 Thumbnail Review #6 Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin
The fourth Earthsea book is the harshest, bleakest thing Le Guin ever wrote, and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. Not suitable for children, not much suitable for adults either, it’s one of only two books (the other is Jude) that I recommend to nobody. And bizarrely (for her), it’s also defective in plot, characterisation and even style. Bleugh.
2018 Thumbnail Review #7 Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki/Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Writing from two different worlds. The Japanese is understated, seemingly inconsequential, a filigree. The English is ingenious, portentous, over-written. A fascinating contrast.
McEwan *** (for completely different reasons)
2018 Thumbnail Review #8 The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien
It’s decades since I last read this straight through. I know it backwards (literally; when I started Secondary School the library only had Volume III, so I read that first) but it’s always fascinating to re-visit (I’d forgotten Goldberry).
It remains the original and greatest, from which everything since depends.
2018 Thumbnail Review #10 Portnoy\'s Complaint by Philip Roth / Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Different universes. The Western is self-indulgent (sic), let it all hang out (sic), hold nothing back (sic); the Eastern is delicate, subtle, restrained. No contest.
2018 Thumbnail Review #12 The Circus of Dr Lao by Charles G Finney
It’s been decades since I last read this surreal fantasy, published in 1935. I now realise Finney must have been hugely influenced by James Branch Cabell (whose Jurgen is indeed referenced on p.14), and in turn hugely influenced Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn (1968)). So The Circus of Dr Lao forms a key link in the development of American fantasy literature.
‘Was it a bear or a Russian or what?’