To clear some of my review backlog (some, I realise, have been on my to-be-reviewed shelf for well over a year) I thought it would be good to run through some of the titles which aren’t going to get a whole post to themselves – sometimes because I don’t have much to say, but mostly where I can’t remember enough to do them justice.
A Wrinkle in Time (1963) – Madeleine L’Engle
This is a much-loved children’s book that I’ve been intending to read for ages, but it turns out that I’m the wrong person to read it. I knew it would have time travel, but I thought it would be set on earth – instead, it’s all about other planets and funny aliens and dark forces and basically all the things that don’t fit my tastes as a reader. It was quick reading, but I shan’t be returning to any of the rest of the series. I do, though, still hold out hope for L’Engle’s other books, particularly her autobiographical writing.
The Train in the Meadow (1953) by Robert Nathan
After reviewing Mr Whittle and the Morning Star the other day, I thought I’d see if (since ebooks are available aplenty) any audiobooks of Nathan’s work were out there. And they are! Well, a few are, and they included this intriguing-sounding short book. It was just as quick a listen as the others were quick reads, but it’s rather baffling. A train stops in a meadow; on it are a lonely boy from an orphanage, a disaffected priest, a distraught singer, a couple going through strife, etc. etc. But where are they going to, and where are they coming from? Why are they exiles, and why do they all need their papers checked by the secretive security men? None of these questions are answered – I never worked out if it were a dystopic future or an early comment on McCarthyism or what. But the atmosphere was done very well.
Running in the Corridors (2014) by Ann Thwaite
I read these short stories, mostly about childhood, by Ann Thwaite ages ago – and feel terribly guilty for not having written about them. Thwaite is best known as a biographer (of A.A. Milne, amongst others) but is also adept at the short story – and, though I don’t remember a huge amount about these stories (which I read in April), I know that I liked them. And the volume is beautifully produced by Rethink Press. (Oh, and did you know that the etymology of corridor is ‘running place’?)
God on the Rocks (1978) by Jane Gardam
I got this in a Virago Secret Santa last year – it’s such a beautiful edition – and enjoyed reading it back in May. Despite discussing it at book group, all of the details of the novel now escape me, frustratingly, though I do remember that the end had some great stuff about art. Oh, Simon. You and your terrible memory.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?(2011) by Mindy Kaling
Why Not Me? (2015) by Mindy Kaling
I read the first one of these, and listened to Kaling reading the second one, and it’s one of those rare occasions (for me) where the audio is better. She reads her book perfectly, which is hardly a surprise. Both are very amusing accounts of Kaling’s life and career in television – for those not in the know, she currently stars in The Mindy Project, which she also writes and produces. There’s not much deep and meaningful in these, but her way with comedy is very up my street – dry and self-deprecating and slightly silly.
Look Back With Mixed Feelings (1978) by Dodie Smith
Oh gosh, I read this one all the way back in September 2014… it’s the second volume of Smith’s autobiography, and chiefly concerns her time in various theatres (sometimes acting, often an assistant). It doesn’t have quite the charm of Look Back With Love, and perhaps I didn’t love it quite as much, but I certainly enjoyed it hugely. She is quite dry about her youthful passions and anxieties:
I have an account of that day, written in a red, leather-bound notebook in which I only described very important occasions. I say “I can’t write all I feel” – but I must have been doing my best, having turned out forty pages.
Well, there, that’s cleared the pile a little.