The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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June 24, 2013

A short book finished and put away

When an author you really like writes a new book, it's natural  to look forward to it. When that author writes in series, and the new book represents something new, I also think it's natural to think 'Oh, great, something new!' and 'Oh, no, it's not an Isabel Dalhousie or a Corduroy Mansions or a 44 Scotland Street!,' either separately or at the same time. :)  You want to honor his or her creative gifts, and his or her right to exercise them, but you can't help still hoping for what you were hoping for.

There were four people sitting together on this train -- three men and one woman. One of the men, wearing a corduroy jacket, was somewhere in his late forties, as was the woman seated opposite him. His name was David, and the woman was called Kay. She might have been a bit older -- in her fifties, perhaps. David was well-groomed; there was an expensive look to him, as there sometimes is to people who live sheltered lives, who have always had everything provided for them. The other two were young men, both somewhere in their twenties; one, Andrew, with dark hair and eyes of a rather unusual colour; the other, Hugh, tousle-haired, was well-built -- he looked as if he might be good at the playing of a boisterous contact sport.
      The journey on which these people met, the journey from Scotland to England, is not a particularly long one -- four or five hours, depending on how many stations are stopped at. But four hours is long enough for conversations to develop and for people to reveal to others something of themselves. A friendship may be conceived in four hours; a short book finished and put away; a life remembered.

After a chance remark about what he sees out of the window, Andrew strikes up a conversation with Kay, and then the four characters tell their stories, each one about a love found or lost.

There were many traces of the things that I love about A.M.S.'s books -- the delicate perceptions, the moral or philosophical questions raised or suggested, the bits of art and poetry, the unexpected things that happen to very ordinary people. And there was one line, something David thought about, that could have been said about me, at least I would want it to be.  But, mostly, this book just didn't work for me.  Maybe it was the flatness that comes when you read a story about someone telling a story, and maybe it was also that the mood of the book seemed melancholy, or elegiac, or something a little sad.

In the end, I decided {and you see I had to think about it} that I was glad to have read this book. It just didn't have the same sparkle as the books of his that I've loved.


Cosy Books said... husband and I are taking the train to Ottawa next week. The journey will take just under five hours and we've already decided to create a murder mystery scenerio based on our fellow travellers. Unbeknownst to them, of course! I brought this book home from the library to dip into during the journey. Thanks for the snippet - it sounds like fun!

JoAnn said...

Just noticed this on the new book display at the library this morning, but decided to read 44 Scotland Street from my tbr pile first.

Nan said...

He is a writer that I love, and don't love. I've never faltered in my caring for the Mma Ramotswe books, but Isabel Dalhousie lost my interest. Scotland Street is just too weird, though I like some characters. And I do like Corduroy Mansions. The professor series was too silly for me, and I couldn't get into the stand-alone - La's Orchestra Saves the World. I sure do admire his energy though, and he does a ton of stuff besides writing books. Amazing.

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