Based on last year I am not doing very well on reading but I think I have the bug back now.
- I’ve read Nutshell by McEwan;
- re-read The Honourable Schoolboy by JLC;
- The Whitehall Mandarin by Edward Wilson and also
- The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler.
Since I first drafted this piece I’ve now added
- A Very British Ending again by Edward Wilson.
- I then changed direction and read Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson.
I enjoyed the Nutshell because of it’s unusual narration from the perspective of an unborn child in the lead-female’s womb – commenting the to be committed crime along with her new partner – the brother of her ex-husband. The descriptive passages from the unborn child’s sentience although unborn and unworldly – describing being at the other end of the sexual act to being able to hear his mother listening to audio books. I loved the whole thing and it does have a predictable ending I suppose but still exciting as it builds-up to the final pages.
The Whitehall Mandarin was a typical, factually based framework, good old-fashioned cold-war espionage novel following the main protagonist Catesby on the tail of double-agent; a US special forces agent who turned to fight against his comrades and the daughter of the titular Whitehall Mandarin – the first female minister of defence. The detail which Wilson goes into of the circumstances in North Vietnam doing that conflict obvious belies his past as a special forces agent himself. The story centres around the reason the Chinese were able to get to the H-bomb in a much reduced time compared to the other major global powers and where did the secrets come from. A great read.
I re-read The Honourable Schoolboy because of a repeated JLC interview about the Smiley trilogy and also because of the impending release this autumn of the latest novel from Mr Cornwell about Smiley and crew. A long but enjoyable read about how George and the circus old-hands use the cover-ups perpetrated by Haydon to re-open what he was burying to protect Karla’s network.
The Big Sleep was my first Chandler and as I read it the narrator sounded like Bogart all the way through – the book started very much – chapter and verse to the film but despite the closeness to the ploy throughout, the ending of the film was much more Hollywood than the book. Still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A Very British Ending is a long and detailed overlap of many of the stories of Catesby’s journey through the cold-war. Its main theme is the belief by MI5 that Harold Wilson was a soviet spy and the threat by some radical military to stage a coup d’etat! A great but scary read.
Latterly, Beloved Poison is a gothic crime story about an apothecary, Jem Flockhart, in the 19th century who is trying to find out who is responsible for some miniature coffins that she and a character called Will have uncovered. The uncovering of the coffins starts a trail of deaths which put Jem in a cell before she is released by someone else’s confession but the story unfolds and leads back to Edinburgh and then establishes the link to London. A very enjoyable read. My current read is a first edition of the next Jem Flockhart – Dark Asylum
I still have lots to read………