I am halfway through the book group novel for next week. Or it may be the week after. Anyway. It's The Queen of The Tambourine by Jane Gardam. I love Jane Gardam's writing and I have read loads by her, including, I thought, this novel which I thought I had on my bookshelves. I didn't, so I bought a second hand copy which fortunately arrived minutes before I left the. Smoke for das Boot yesterday.
I started it today, and from page one realised I had not read it before. I began by being amused by the Hyacinth Bouquetish character of Eliza. Then that palled, but before I could think I might give up the novel stepped up a gear. Unobtrusively. Jane Gardam is the most understated of writers. Don't expect big scenes; crash bang wallop chapters; shock horror revelations. It's the detail that matters in her books; the tiny shifts in behaviour, attitudes and thinking. Nothing and everything happens. She is not for the skim reader.
I'm loving it. And it was a tough gif after The Tidal Zone which introduced me to Sarah Moss. I think she has written about five novels so far. So I have been a bit slow on the uptake. I blame the library service. If you know me and my hobby horses, this will not come as a surprise.
Time was I'd go to our local library, small but with an admirable stock of books. I'd prowl the shelves and come home with a haul of novels by people of whom I had never heard. My horizons were widened. Then someone in some library service somewhere decreed that libraries should stock best selling novels by best selling authors and any book not borrowed n a six month period should be cast into outer darkness. So suddenly we found ourselves with libraries that stocked the same books as our supermarkets. Writers who I had discovered before the six month rule disappeared from the shelves. I am grateful that my reading was widened by earlier more enlightened library administrators, but it's a bugger these days.
So Sarah Moss. There was a review of The Tidal Zone in the Guardian. It was by Penelope Lively who is one of my favourite novelists, a writer whose intellect is only equalled by the deceptive simplicity of her prose. Anyone who can render complex ideas into digestible paragraphs without compromise leaves me gobstruck.
Penelope Lively said more or less that The Tidal Zone was a pretty good novel, but she preferred Cold Earth. I understood it as a grade B, maybe a B(+). The library doesn't have Cold Earth. But it does have The Tidal Zone as an E Audio Book. So I borrowed it, and it was beautifully read by Toby someone. But I wanted to read it, so I ended up buying a print copy. If Cold Earth is better than this, and yes, I do now own a copy, it must be pretty bloody spectacular.
Back at the library for a talk about something local which is also pretty bloody amazing, I found Jeannete Winterson's Gap of Time and another novel (title forgotten) by Sarah Moss. And I managed to get Kate Atkinson's God in Ruins as an e book, so Jane Gardam has more than a little competition for my attention. The fact that she has held it, says quite a lot about the quality of her writing.
Here at the marina there's a swap exchange bookshelf in the shower block. There is a copy of Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? which may come home with me.
Looks like September is going to be a pretty good month for reading.