Thursday, 1 January 2015

Seven in December

I read seven books in December.

 Well, more or less.

I finished Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang, started in November.

Feeling like a spot of murder and mayhem I read:

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves. (Christian Aid sale purchase back in May.) One of her brilliant ‘Vera’ novels.

Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell. And this is one of RR’s brilliant Wexford novels – my favourite fictional detective.

Then I moved on to espionage:

A Colder War by Charles Cumming, spy novel, a good but not-as-good follow-up to A Foreign Country.

The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming, a satisfying follow-up to A Spy by Nature.

Being a spy sounds very exciting, but a non-existent sense of direction (among other shortcomings) would hamper me were I ever to find myself dodging pursuers. However, I conjure up the thrill of the chase by imagining when on a train, or on the Edinburgh tram, that the 'ticket inspector' coming slowly down the carriage is actually an imposter on the look-out for me. The real inspector is lying trussed up in the guard's van (or tram equivalent). I compose my face. I can only hope that its calm exterior gives no indication of the hammering heart within. I make eye-contact and smile … I’ve got away with it so far.

As is custom in our house, on Christmas Eve I read to my, now 22-year-old, daughter, The Night Before Christmas – two editions, one the traditional version:

and one with the same words but where the characters are mice:

Love them both.

Said daughter gave me a lovely little book published by Galley Beggar Press (‘a new range celebrating the best in classic short fiction’). It’s a Mr Mulliner story called Honeysuckle Cottage by PG Wodehouse. A writer of hard-boiled detective stories inherits the eponymous cottage from his aunt, a romantic novelist a la Barbara Cartland, and to his dismay finds that his writing is being influenced by his surroundings.

And I’ve been dipping into all month and just finished This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of journalism by the novelist Ann Patchett (winner of the Orange Prize for Bel Canto). Her subjects are far-ranging – from the relationship between her dog and her grandmother; to going through, and passing, all the tests to join the Los Angeles Police Department; to opening a bookshop in Nashville because there weren't any left ('The Bookstore Strikes Back'). But my favourite piece is called The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life which is just that. (I see that it’s available on Kindle as an individual entity for £1.81; highly recommended to all writers).

Her main advice, illustrated by her own experience, is to practise, practise (although being American she says practice, practice). So, if I was to break my resolution not to make any New Year resolutions, that is what I would resolve to do.

Happy 2015.


  1. Hi Kate - Happy New Year and thank you for clearing something up for me in your blog. I seem to have always stumbled over the word usage of practise/practice and now I know why - I'm Canadian! Thanks for that. ;-)

    Lynn Otty

  2. Happy New Year, Lynn, and happy to help! Hope all well with you.

  3. Oh, impressive, Kate! I'm intending to read a book a week this year...but I haven't started yet.