Monday, April 06, 2009

2009 books, #15-17

After a good couple of months of reading I seem to have slowed down somewhat...

Cold in hand, by John Harvey. London: Arrow, 2009.

After years of saying he'd never write another Resnick novel, John Harvey has given us one; and although it's well-written, well-plotted and incredibly moving, I almost wish he'd left Resnick in his happy hinterland...

Something quite unbelievable happens in the middle of this book; it's a moment where you sit back and think He can't do that, can he? and then you think yes, it's his book; yes, he can... Doesn't mean you have to like it, though.

Dave Barry's complete guide to guys by Dave Barry. New York: Random House, 1995.

A complete contrast. Predictable, silly, and quite funny. I didn't find it "a laugh-out-loud book" as advertised; but there are some nice moments. I don't think anyone but Dave Barry could have got away with making guys quite so stereotypical, but it's a line he's been holding for many years, and he's pretty good at it.

Adventures on the high teas : in search of Middle England by Stuart Maconie. London: Ebury Press, 2009.

This one, in contrast, is "laugh-out-loud" material; one which got me a double seat to myself on the train three mornings last week - I don't think anyone fancied sitting next to the mad chai-drinking chortling lady if there was any sort of alternative. I loved both his previous books, Cider with roadies and Pies and prejudice : in search of the North; this is possibly even better. Maconie's described as "the English Bill Bryson" on the cover (by Tony Wilson, of all people) but this is a bit unfair - he's much better. He's genuinely affectionate about the people he's describing without any of the disdain you occasionally get with Bryson; and he weaves in high culture and popular culture and makes sense of it in context. There's a passionate defence of folk music and Vaughan Williams; a sideways look at Donald McGill's seaside postcards; an examination of the fondness of Britons for cosy murders in places like Midsomer and Oxford; a bit of an elegy on country railway stations; and a search for Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwell Green. He visits Midsomer and Adlestrop, Bath and Beaconsfield, Tunbridge Wells and Burton-on-Trent, and makes them all fascinating... He doesn't quite manage it with Grantham... And while he's doing all this, he's also very, very funny.

1 comment:

Mary deB said...

I have read the Dave Barry book. He talks about the guy named Steve who is the uber-handyman, and says, "even Steve's son has his own screwdriver set" or some such thing. Well, you know I"m married to Steve and my son owns his own screwdrivers.... So I found parts of that book very funny indeed!