The Luminaries: Eleanor Catton’s book, the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2013, seemed to be the “love it or hate it” book of the year. A number of reviewers got to page 200-odd, then dumped it. They missed out on another 600 pages which I thought were very well written, with a highly complex plot, intricately detailed characters and some powerful descriptions of New Zealand’s wild west coast on the South Island. If you’ve been thinking about reading it and have time over your holidays, I’d highly recommend it.
A River Runs Through It: I’ve fly fished on and off for years, and the first thing people say to me is “Have you read a River Runs Through It?” Until this year, the answer was no, nor had I seen the movie. This novella – just 104 pages – is the most bewitching book I’ve ever read about the sport (and I’ve read a few). I understand it was author Norman Maclean’s only book of note, but if that’s so, it feels like his very soul has flowed through his fingertips into this story. His father was a minister of religion and a master angler who taught both his sons to fish, and the book opens with the words: “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing”. The story of his family then unfolds with passion, humour and sadness.
An Equal Music: I’ve never tackled Vikram Seth’s huge tome A Suitable Boy, but this 381-page book is a rare gem, particularly if you love classical music.On one level it’s an intense love story between two chamber musicians, on another level it’s an extraordinary insight into the world of classical music making, particularly chamber music. Seth is a poet as well as a novelist, and there is great beauty in his writing. In his author’s note he says: “Music to me is dearer even than speech”. Therein must lie his inspiration for this book.
The work in progress is: Gould’s Book of Fish: this, and the Sound of One Hand Clapping are two Richard Flanagan books that have been sitting around for a while saying “read me”. OK, I finally started with the Fish, and I’m mesmerised. His skill of recreating Van Dieman’s Land in the convict era and the character of Billy Gould are extraordinary, as is his use of language. Half way through, and I’m loving it. NB: He’s now just won the Booker for his latest novel, so that’s another one for my Christmas list.