Wotcher Readin' in the U.K.?

Posted: August 26, 2006 in Today's Random Book Gossip

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Great bookish article in the Guardian this morning about the reading habits of the British public. “Unputdownable” summer reading books is the topic, and here’s their list:

1: The Island, Victoria Hislop. Has she got news for him? Wife of Private Eye editor eclipses husband’s media career with book in which Anglo-Cretan Alexis, fleeing man trouble on island of Plaka, uncovers family secrets involving leprosy. Infectious story.

2: My Best Friend’s Girl, Dorothy Koomson. Kam and Adele are best chums until Kam has sex with Adele’s Nate. Flash forward to Adele revealing to Kam that she has terminal cancer and Nate’s child. Can Kam bring herself to bring up the bastard’s bastard? Mother of all shlock.

3: The Righteous Men, Sam Bourne. Guardian political columnist mounts conspiracy to steal Dan Brown’s audience, using easily cracked pseudonym and less easily cracked plot about global murders linked to the Kabbalah. Da Vinci clone.

4: The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova. A young woman discovers ancient papers relating to the Dracula legend. A novel that tries to alchemise The Da Vinci Code, Possession and The Name of the Rose into one bookstore-entrancing potion. Long, slow bite.

5: Perfect Match, Jodi Picoult. Just the thing for when you’ve finally got the kids down. An assistant district attorney handling cases of abuse is forced to apply her skills closer to home when her five-year-old son is discovered to have been molested. Earnest importance.

6: The Abortionist’s Daughter, Elisabeth Hyde. George Bush claims to have read Camus’ L’Etranger this summer but might have been happier with this. A pro-choice champion is murdered in Colorado, leading to her daughter and husband becoming suspects. Sad to terminate.

7: Making Your Mind Up, Jill Mansell. There have been many reports of the death of chick lit, with crime fiction wanted for questioning. But the gags-and-shags genre survives in Mansell’s 17th novel: 30-plus divorcee lusts after office hunk despite the disapproval of her young children. Small minds only.

8: End in Tears, Ruth Rendell. The only veteran on a list filled with new writers. Chief Inspector Wexford overcomes media scepticism to solve the murder of a young girl in a case that touches on love, drugs and the anger of modern society. Same from Dame.

9: On Beauty, Zadie Smith. The novels of EM Forster and the paintings of Rembrandt are transferred to the email age in the third bestseller from a writer who has barely turned 30. Faster Forster.

10: The Devil’s Feather, Minette Walters. In the 12th book by the female pretender to Rendell and PD James’s crime-queen title, a foreign correspondent, exiled to England from Africa, dangerously uses herself as bait to catch a serial killer. Cool chills.

While I haven’t read a single one of these titles, I have read some of the authors. Ruth Rendell is my very favorite mystery writer of all time. She also writes, equally well, as Barbara Vine. I’ve never read a bad book by Rendell/Vine. I’d recommend them all, but Master of the Moor is a “thumping good” gothic.

Speaking of authors with pseudonyms, I can’t figure out why an author writes under two names, especially when (s)he puts both names on the book covers. Why do they do that? Rendell/Vine doesn’t, but many authors do. Defies any explanation I can think of, unless they have a big reputation under one name and want their readership to also read their “other” books, but that seems more than a bit schizophrenic to me.

I bought The Historian months ago, after the reviews started coming out. Still haven’t worked it to the top of the reading pile. I’ve heard mixed things about it. It’s one of those love/hate books.

Finally, Jodi Picoult. I read her The Tenth Circle for review several months ago. I thought it an ambitious task to model a work of fiction on Dante’s Inferno, but in some ways Picoult did a nice job with it. At times I wanted to hit myself over the head with a heavy object from the 3/4 point through the end, due to extreme improbability of plot and some rather tedious writing, but still overall it had some promise. I don’t read graphic novels but I thought she used that element well in this book. I won’t read Perfect Match, though. One was really enough for me.

Interesting to see what they’ve been reading this summer in the U.K. I half expected it to be a bit more highbrow than here in the Colonies, and the Guardian article has some really interesting insight into that. Give it a read if you have a moment.

And God Save the Queen.

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