4 January 2020 – one year of this blog

That’s it. A year of writing notes about the books I have read or listened to.

35 books in all. Not bad – at the start of the year I estimated that the number would probably be about 20. Beloved slowed the pace down in November and December, but I never once thought of giving up on it.

I will carry on in 2020 and beyond, but will not be numbering the posts.

And if you have read this, thank you.

33. The Blood Strand, by Chris Ould

Here’s a variation on the Nordic Noir theme: British cop helps solve a murder in the Faroes.

Jan Reyna’s mother took him away from the Faroe Islands when he was 3. Now in his forties, he returns to visit his estranged father, who is seriously ill. as I said, he is a policeman in the UK: by fortunate coincidence, a Detective Inspector specialising in homicide cases.

And, guess what – there’s a murder. It’s sort of all tied up with what happened to his father. It’s sort of got connections to why his mother (now dead) left all those years ago. And so Jan gets involved as a kind of consultant to the detectives in Torshavn.

This novel has what appear to be the classic ingredients of a good Nordic Noir. The bleak setting. The taciturn locals. The years old unsolved mystery.

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. I got the impression that the author, Chris Ould, speaks Faroese. Also the narrator, Matt Addis, prononounced Faroese words and the occasional snippet of Faroese speech fluently: definite plus points for this audiobook.

This novel is the first of three. I understand that in the next two Reyna digs deeper into his family’s past, and the story of why is mother left is revealed.

I shall be back for more of this series. 8 out of 10.

Half-way through the year – a quick review

6 months into this blog, half way through the year, it is a good time for a little round up.

When I started, I thought that maybe I read/listen to 20 books a year. At the half-way point I have completed 18 books, and am mid way through two more.

The books I have read/listened to are probably typical of my reading/listening.

14 have been given ratings of 7/10 or higher, and only 4 are rated 5 or below.  The most frequent mark is 8/10, and there is only one book that I saw no point in persevering with.

The two most challenging books, Underworld and Don Quixote I listened to as audiobooks. As I said in writing about Don Quixote, “one of the great things about audiobooks is that I can listen to long descriptive passages, paying attention and often appreciating the writing, whereas with a book in my hand I would have raced through to the next bit of ‘action’.”  I find it a lot easier nowadays to listen to the classics as audiobooks than to read them.

In a similar way, some years ago I struggled reading the long slow first part of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, but listening to the audiobook I made it all the way through, and found it very rewarding.

I suspect that there is a lot about the modern way of life that shortens the attention span.

14. The Laughing Policeman, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

laughing policeman.jpg

This is the fourth in the series of police procedural novels by Sjowall and Wahloo, set in Stockholm in the 1960s and 1970s.

Read elsewhere about the social commentary of these novels. To me these books are obviously of a different time. Stockholm was a very different place 50 years ago.  I don’t suppose that women are called nymphomaniacs any more.

These books describe the methodical nature of police work. A lot of hard slogging, following dead ends, making mistakes, until it all comes together.  Here, an unsolved murder more than 10 years ago holds the key to a mass killing, a bus driver and 9 passengers shot on a bus, one of the victims being a young detective who in spare time had been looking into what we would now call a cold case.

Unlike some, I am not sure how to view these books individually, as opposed to as part of the overall series.  I think I’ll give it 7 out of 10.

7. When All Is Said, by Anne Griffin

What a fabulous book!

I heard the author on Graham Norton’s radio show, and that sold this book to me.

Maurice Hannigan is 84. A widower, he is alone, his son living in the USA. He is in the bar of his local hotel, where he drinks 5 last toasts, to 5 people who have been special to him: his older brother who died when a young man, very many years ago, his stillborn daughter, his sister-in-law, his son and his recently departed wife.

Through the stories of his relationships with these 5 people we hear about Maurice’s life, told with real compassion.  He has had a good life, but hasn’t always known how to show his feelings. I don’t want to give much away, but we also hear about the major events in Maurice’s life, and about Maurice’s part in shaping events that affected the lives of members of another family in this small town in Meath, Ireland.

I really enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook. The narration was excellent, holding me for every minute.

A well-deserved 10 out of 10.