Saturday, July 09, 2011

Rain, rain go away…

….but if it doesn’t, there are always books. Since DH’s mother went home on Tuesday morning, we haven’t had a day without rain, often rather a lot of rain, so the garden is still far too sodden for me to work outside. Of course there is always knitting to do and Assisi to ponder, in the gaps between the usual chores and my daily French language practice of listening to the radio or reading the local paper, but wet weather is when books really come into their own for me.

We’re getting quite a good collection in our French house now, and by the time I’ve read them all I should have forgotten the earliest ones and be able to start all over again. Quite how permanent English-speaking residents of France satisfy their craving for reading matter without bankrupting themselves I’m not sure, but we manage very well for our three summer months here.

At the bottom of my just-read pile is Maxwell's Reunion by M J Trow, followed by Wild About The Boy by Dolores Gordon-Smith, an enjoyable mystery in the Agatha Christie/Margery Allingham mould. Set in 1920s Britain, its likeable hero is a mystery writer turned amateur detective and its portrayal of the period is shot through with a deep awareness of the dark shadow cast by the First World War.

About to join that pile is something quite different and I have to thank The Broad at ABroad with a View  for the recommendation. It’s Pass The Polenta by Teresa Lust and consists of a series of truly wonderful essays on food and the memories it evokes. I’ve revelled in the author’s passion for her subject and found it engaging, touching, funny and mouth-watering in turn. Definitely one to reread in the future.

Alongside that I’ve just this morning started A Letter of Mary, the third of the wonderful Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie King. Starting from the premise made in the first of the series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, of the unlikely, yet completely believable, encounter between an elderly Sherlock Holmes and a young woman graduate student, the books describe the growing relationship between them and the intricate cases they undertake. This is really excellent writing: densely plotted, intelligently and beautifully written, with strongly-drawn characters and a gripping atmosphere of mystery and undefined threat.

With books like that to lose myself in, I may not even notice when the sun comes out again. All I need now are your suggestions as to what to read once my pile is finished….

Image via Wylio


  1. Have you read "The Book Thief"? It's one of my favoritest reads ever! It's about a young German girl during WWII and how she begins her love affair with books by stealing them -- all observed by the narrator, who is Death. I've also got one to read this summer that might interest you: "The Pursuit of Italy" by David Gilmour which tries to explain the complex historic issues around the unification of the country and why it is so difficult. And another you might like is "The Discovery of France" by Graham Robb -- I think I'll be reading much of it again this summer -- for the third time... Hope it stops raining for you -- it's quite enjoyable reading 'd'hors'!
    Oh glad to see your remarks about "Pass the Polenta" and thanks for the link -- greatly appreciated

  2. I'd gladly exchange some of your rain for our intense heat!

    I recommended books to someone else by an author called Barbara Nadel today. I had the pleasure of getting to know her when I lived in Cappadocia as she is a frequent visitor there. If you are familiar with the works of Ian Rankin (and Rebus) then you may like Barbara. She writes in a similar vein, but her stories are set in Istanbul and the main character is a detective with the Turkish police.

  3. I'm sorry to say I haven't even heard of The Book Thief, Broad, but it's now down on my library list for when I get back to the UK. The David Gilmour sounds very appealing, as I'm interested in history and love Italy. I already have the Graham Robb and must reread it myself before long.

    Enjoy your summer in the Lot and happy reading.

  4. You're very welcome to our rain by now, Ayak, though I won't be greedy and ask for much heat in return. To be fair, the forecast for next week is a bit better, though it's still likely to rain mid-week, just in time for the Fete Nationale on the 14th :-(

    Thanks for the Barbara Nadel recommendation. I love novels with different and authentic backgrounds, so she sounds very much like my kind of author.

  5. Rainy afternoons turned off for fear of grilling yet another modem in the thunderstorms, so books are the order of the day.

    Your Assisi post made me hunt for J.B. Morton's 'A Traveller in Italy' which has a wonderful chapter on St. old book but for me unbeaten as a guide.

    As to current reading I've gone back to Nicolas Freeling...his Van der Valk and Castaing books...I do get a bit tired of his Vera character in the latter, but there's so much that bears second and third readings.

  6. Hello Perpetua:
    Happily, these days reading for us is an every day activity come rain or come shine, but we do know what you mean about it feeling like a less guilty pleasure when the weather is inclement.

    Our rainy day reading suggestions would be: Rose Tremain 'Swimming Pool Season' [set in France], the Irish writer William Trevor and the somewhat overlooked Elizabeth Taylor.

    Happy days!

  7. My sympathy about the thunderstorms, Fly. We had an afternoon like that on Thursday here and had to do the same thing.

    I well remember the H V Morton travel books from my time as a librarian and read some of them back then, though not 'A Traveller in Italy' (which I've now ordered secondhand from Amazon). His 'In the Footsteps of the Master' was superb.

    It's ages since I read Nicolas Freeling, so I foresee some revisiting of his books when I get back to the UK.

  8. Jane and Lance, I don't think a day goes by without my having done some reading, usually in bed. Bad weather just means I do some in the daytime as well :-)

    Many thanks for your recommendations. The Rose Tremain sounds good and I've read William Trevor and Elizabeth Taylor in the past, but not recently. As with Fly's suggestion, I foresee some revisiting ahead.

  9. Hello Perpetua
    Sorry about your rain but glad to hear you are reading enough to compensate for those like me who read about one chapter a day.
    I too can thoroughly reccommend "The Book Thief". It was the last book John bought me and I read it several times before Oxfaming it.
    My tastes in reading seem to be out of sync with most female readers being mainly 'cold war' spy books so somewhat dated.
    I love Len Deighton, Ted Albury,
    and John Le |Carre in particular.
    Hope you get some sun soon.

  10. Ray, I can remember many times when I didn't even manage a page a day, never mind a chapter.

    It'as good to have a second recommendation for the same book and I'll make a point of getting hold of it from the library.

    I read a lot of Len Deighton and John Le Carre at one time, but my tastes have changed and I tend to prefer murderers (or at least detectives) to spies nowadays :-)

  11. Oh, curling up with a book on a rainy day sounds so cozy, Perpetua! And you've got some great ones to keep you company!

  12. I always get H.V and J.B. mixed up....must be the onset on senility...but it started years ago!

  13. Here in Dordogneshire we are having our first proper rain for months and months. Such a relief.

    The Book Thief is my current book too! Loving it.

    We stock up on books at charity shops when we go back by car. Gather another armful each from the twice yearly english animal charity book sale and have you seen And I noticed a stall selling secondhand english books on the market on Saturday.

  14. It is, Kathy, though I don't curl up quite as easily as I used to do! We don't have TV in France, so we read a lot in between our other activities and when those activities are curtailed by rain we read even more.

  15. Tell me about it, Fly! I was doing it decades ago, back in my time as a librarian. I only realised the mix-up this time when I tried to find "A Traveller in Italy" on Amazon and couldn't. :-)

  16. Very glad to hear you're getting rain at last, Rosie. I know I shouln't grumble, as it's been dire in western and central France and even here in Normandy it was seriously dry until a month ago.

    Wow, another fan of 'The Book Thief' I must definitely try it. A lot of the books we have here are charity shop bargains, and we see an English-language book stall at most vide-greniers here. I'm guessing people just have to be willing to try lots of new authors and not just wait for their favourites to turn up.

  17. Hello - one of my favourite subjects again! Books. Put another tick for 'The Book Thief'. I think my personal all time favourite is 'Our Spoons Came from Woolworths' - not least for it's wonderful title. I've read all Barbara Comyns works since I first read 'Spoons' and can recommend them all.
    I've recently enjoyed 'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx - very evocative and now I've finished it, I am really missing it - a sure sign of a good book for me!
    Lots of good suggestions from your comments list - thank you!!

  18. Let's hear it for 'The Book Thief'!

    I remember the Barbara Comyns books from my time as a librarian, Annie, but haven't read them in years. Another author to revisit, methinks. The Annie Proulx title is new to me - one for the library list, thanks.

  19. Just a PS to Fly to say you were quite right. A Traveller in Italy arrived today and the chapter on Assisi and Saint Francis is quite the best short account of both I have ever read. Thanks so much for the recommendation.


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