29 June, 2007

Reading block

I can't seem to settle to anything serious at the moment, so what I've been reading recently have mainly been children's books and trash.

First, two more Rosemary Sutcliff books: The eagle of the ninth and The silver branch. Last year I read the third book in the trilogy, The Lantern Bearers, which is about the end of the Roman rule in Britain: these first two books are set earlier. She's very good on the eerie wildness of the uncivilised parts of Britain and she gets in a lot of the small ways in which the Romans changed Britain:
the lasting legacy of the Romans in Britain which, along with Hadrian's wall and underfloor heating, included cabbages, apples, roses and the domestic cat. (Guardian review of The Eagle of the Ninth)
Vaguely following on from these (a couple of the characters appear) is her re-telling of the Arthurian story, Sword at sunset, which is truly excellent. [35] [36]

I've also read a few graphic novels: I re-read a couple of the Sandman ones and also read 'V' for vendetta, by Alan Moore (writer) and David Lloyd (artist). Set in a post-apocalyptic, fascist Britain of the late nineties (following nuclear World War III in the late eighties), it's about freedom and anarchism, with the central character V as an anarchist dressed as Guy Fawkes, committing terrorist acts with the intention of wreaking havoc and encouraging the population to revolt against the fascist leadership. It was too Orwellian to really please me: as in 1984, the people are an undifferentiated silent mass, with no individuality or any apparent will of their own. I also had problems with the connection of destruction and creation: it reminds me too much of my own immature revolutionary ideas. Still, the book was cleverly done; I only noticed afterwards that it had been done without thought bubbles and 'scene-setting' captions, which adds real tension to the story. [37]

Lastly, I read Cashelmara, by Susan Howatch - I love Susan Howatch's early blockbusters, they're spendidly melodramatic but not badly written and the plot thunders along. [38]

Awfully written, on the other hand - so terrible that I couldn't actually read more than a third of it - was Jilly Cooper's latest bonkbuster, Wicked! Set in a sink school - featuring 'feral' care children who quote Shelley and a sexy young headmistress who 'really communicates' with the children by comparing Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with Tony and Cherie Blair - this was part Tory education manifesto (the sexy headmistress makes her school a success by establishing a link with the local private school, of course, which in proper Jilly style is run by an equally sexy headmaster), part sleepwalking assortment of the worst of Jilly's favourite clichés, part unreadable idiocy demonstrating very clearly that Jilly wouldn't recognise a poor teenager if she were mugged by one. Quite possibly the worst book I've read this century. [39]

1 comment:

weierstrass said...

i also found 'Wicked!' unbearable after resolving to read it for fun, and a change.
Jilly should stick to writing about what she knows about - snobbish bourgeois country people.

I bought Sandman vol. 9, 'The kindly ones' if you want to read it. It was the only I hadn't read since I never found it in any Newham library.