Friday, 28 June 2013

It's supposed to be summer

Although it's almost the end of June, we've had few really warm sunny days here in the Cantal. Today the clouds have descended right into the Vallee du Mars and obliterated the wonderful mountain views completely. And it's fairly cold with all the dampness as well.
The other day we went up to the Buron de Chaussedier for lunch with a group of mostly Auvergnates.  The weather was sunny, but with a strong and cool wind, but once high up , you could see for miles. Lunch was a fairly simple menu, but good, and with all the catching up of gossip and so on, lasted until about 4pm.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Reading round up

To allievate the guilt feeling about not having blogged for a while ( although I've been reading ather blogs and have commented on some ) I'd better do a round -up of some recent reads.
A book about cricket in New York didn't sound too promising when I picked it for a reading group read, but Joseph O'Neill's Netherland was an interesting read. A book about New York, cricket and a marriage. Also about the effects of a catastrophic event on that marriage. At times I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading this, but perseverd and eventually found i cared enough about the narrator, Hans van den Broek, a Dutchman, to want to find out more.Hans is a commodities analyst, his wife Rachel a lawyer and they are in New York with their young son. It is gradually revealed how their lives were affected by the event of 9/11, as it is known. Rachel and Hans have moved from their damaged apartment to an hotel; Rachel still feels unsafe in New York and decides to return to London, her home, with their son. Hans, left in New York on his own, meets Chuck Ramkissoon, a Trinidadian who invites him for a week-end game of cricket. Most of the other players are also West Indian or Indian immigrants and are very supportive of each other, off the cricket field as well as on it. Although this is partly a story about male friendship, it is also a mystery.

I followed this with another book about men and sport, this time Lloyd Jones  (review here)The Book Of Fame.It is about the 1905 tour of the New Zealand rugby football team, to England, Wales, Scotland, France and home via America.. It is based on notebooks written by members of the team and their management., and describes the games they played, , the huge crowds that went to see them play, the newspaper reports of the events of their successes, until they play Wales and are defeated. The feelings of some of the players as they become famous for their success on the tour are described, as well as their feelings on their eventaul return to their home in New Zealand.

A totally different read , Beth Gutcheon's Still Missing describes the emotions felt by Susan Selky, a divorced mother of Alex, aged almost seven, when he disappears one day on his way to school.Most of the story is about how Susan copes with her feelings of shock, guilt, numbness - a whole range of often conflicting emotions, as well as dealing with the police, the press and other media, all in the hope that Alex will be found. Ssan's relationship with her ex-husband, Alex's father, and his new partner is also a complex area. Some of the story shows the feelings of the police detective, himself the father of a son of Alex's age, and how that fact partly drives him onto keep searching. I found this book personally involving, as my younger son, also called Alex, once disappeared briefly when we were on holiday in France, and  I could fully emphathise with the feelings ascribed to Susan. Merciully we didn't have to call the local our Alex was found in a short while. This story recalled all the mixed emotions felt on that sunny afternoon in a small southern French town, including the kindness of the people who helped us at the time.

Going for variety, another read was C J Sansom's Dissolution., the first in a series of tales featuring Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer and Commissioner of Thomas Cromwell, and set in the turbulent reign of Henry VIII. Matthew is requested by Cromwell to discover who murdered his commissioner Robin Singleton, when on a mission to the abbey of Scarnsea. Shardlake is a  reformer himself, and travels down to Scarnsea, with a companion, Mark Poer to discover what has been going on. More brutal murders are committed while the pair are investigating the first murder. The cold wintry atmosphere of the abbey and its setting in the sea marshes isolated from the nearby town are well described, and the Tudor and late medieval background are well drawn. An interesting , fairly quick read, and also gives another point of view on Thomas Cromwell, after having read Hilary Mante's Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.

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