What Gert read on her holidays


Michael Frayn: Towards The End Of The Morning. Published in 1967, a satirical but mournful story of Fleet St in the days of long bibulous lunches and elastic expenses, where jobs were found for even the most elderly reporters because no one was ever sacked – then along came Rupert Murdoch. I’m now going to read Frayn’s first book The Tin Men, about the William Morris Institute of Automation Research.

I found a terrific account of books about journalists, by Christopher Hitchins

Michèle Roberts: The Walworth Beauty. A time-bending book moving between London of the 1850’s and 2011, centred on the poverty and misfortune that drove many women into prostitution. Rich in historical detail, and you’ll enjoy it on that level, but for me the narrative linking Madeleine in 2011 and Joseph Benson and Mrs Dulcimer in 1850 wasn’t compelling.

Muriel Spark: The Bachelors and The Only Problem. Someone who hadn’t read Muriel Spark before told me how funny The Bachelors is. Maybe you have to be familiar with Spark to find it as disturbing as I did. Of course it’s funny in the line-perfect Spark manner, but it’s desperately sad too. The bachelors lead petty, stifled lives and the one person with any life-energy is the malignant fraudster Patrick Seton. The Only Problem is one of Spark’s more forbidding and demanding books, a story centred around Harvey, who is writing a monograph about Job and whose life has been completely taken over by the existential puzzle of suffering willed by a supposedly loving God.

H.R.F. Keating: Zen There Was Murder. The Gerts read lots of Keating in their youth, so this was a revisit. Mr Utamaro applies the principles of Zen Buddhism to solve a murder. Clever, funny and very neatly worked out.

11 thoughts on “What Gert read on her holidays

    1. I’ve tried to read his more recent books and didn’t like them. Maybe trying just a bit too hard. But this one really (I think his second book) is a classic.

  1. Having struggled somewhat with Spark in the past, I think I’m finally beginning to ‘get’ her now. You’re right about the darkness and poignancy in some of her books. I felt much the same way about Memento Mori and The Girls of Slender Means.

    1. They are perhaps my favourite Sparks. Perhaps because I read them when I was young and heartless, they don’t seem as desolate to me as The Bachelors.

  2. Four books is a good pace, I wish I read quickly. I used to hate analysing poetry in English Literature, I prefer it now that I can enjoy reading without trying to get into the head of the author and never fully meeting the opinions of the teachers.

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