Bookwise: September 2010

The last book I read was Guy Gavriel Kay’s Ysabel.  I LOVE the spelling!  The cover is lovely and very sophisticated, which is always a pleasure in a genre plagued by horrible lurid covers. The blurb gave me no hint that two of the characters hail from another story which I loved.  I have to say the book/s they appeared in originally have been among my all time favourites, and perhaps for this reason, despite pages of accolades, this new book does not quite measure up for me. It lacks the depth of the earlier book/s, although I have to say I did always wonder what happened to these two characters… Nevertheless I read it through and enjoyed it. There is something in the voice he evokes when he writers- the mood- which I find hard to resist, but somehow it felt to me like there was not quite enough in the story. I am of course being vague because I don’t want to spoilt the book for you. For me, it made me feel hungry for something more substantial, and so I will go back and read Tigana or The Fionavar Tapestry. These I recommend unreservedly.

Right now I am listening to The Harsh Cry of the Heron which is the fourth book- and a prequel to – the 3 Tales of the Otori books, which have already been published. This audio book is from Bolinda Audio and I am enjoying it tremendously. I am always listening to at least one audio book, and when I am drawing I consume several.  One of the things I love about the Bolinda Audio Books is that they do not abridge books, as so many other firms do.  I loath the idea of anything being abridged and I would never allow one of my books to be so savaged. And why? Listening to a good audio book is such a delicious experience that I have often been guilty of actually slowly washing dishes just to prologue listening.  I don’t know how many times I have sat in the cat riveted by a chapter, and waiting for it to finish so I can go inside!

The only reason for abridgement is to make the book cheaper.  It would be like tearing out the last two hundred pages of The Stone Key and therefore selling it for less!

Other audio cd’s I have enjoyed tremendously are Katsuo Ishiguro’s When we were Orphans and John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s woman which I borrowed from the Geelong Library Audio Book collection, and the audio books of  The Dark Materials Trilogy, written by the brilliant Phillip Pullman. I read all of the books before listening to the audio versions, as I have read The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Herne, but listening to an audio book is a whole other thing. If you have never tried it, you have a rare pleasure in store for you.  Save it for a long drive and choose well.

What I love about the writing in the Otori books is the meticulousness of the world the author creates, and the way the brutality and action of this alternate feudal Japan is evoked with all the care of a master painter building a picture with small perfect strokes. The fantasy in it is so very subtle, that it is easy to think of it as historical. Certainly the author clearly knows Japanese history and loves her subject. This picture of the young warrior, Shigaru, is so compelling that I already mean to go back and re read all of the other books, which follow on from it, though being written before. And of course, I can’t wait to see what she will write next.

What I am actually reading now is a book by Orhan Pamuk called Snow.  I am at the last chapter and it has been a fascinating read. Slower than I am accustomed to, the book has made me think about the fragility of faith in the modern world. I will not read something else by this author immediately because the reading was very intense and it took me a long time, and also because somehow the mood it evokes in me is too contemporary. My next book will be the new one by Katherine Kerr, called The Spirit Stone. I love the way she arranges her Dverry stories using reincarnation and I love the vividness and grainy pragmatism of her dialogue. She is really a masterful tale weaver and her stories are so eciting that I know it won’t take me long, no matter that it is a sizable book, and no matter that I will try to force myself to slow down. My only consolation is that I have a new Ursula Le Guin waiting for me, called The Telling.

I will keep you posted.