Sunday, February 14, 2016

2016 books, #11-15

Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill [audiobook]. Read by David Thorpe.  Bath: Oakhill, 2010.

I wanted to read this because it was about cricket in America, and murder.  And it sort of is, and sort of isn't.  I really don't know what to say about this book other than that I'd hoped to enjoy it and eventually just sort of left, confused.  The fact I had to listen to the final disc twice, and still didn't work out what the author was intending to say maybe expresses either my lack of attention, or the lack of focus of this book...

This dark road to mercy, by Wiley Cash. London: Transworld, 2014.

I really wanted to love this book.  Cash's previous book, A land more kind than home, was a tour de force.  This sets itself up magnificently; a 12-year old and a 6-year old are put into a children's home in North Carolina; their loser dad abducts them; people are chasing the dad... But somehow it fails to deliver.  Having said that; this was a book-group book and we had so many things to talk about having read it...  And when I say I was disappointed - that's in comparison with the previous book which is quite astonishing.  This is still pretty good.

Boy racer: my journey to Tour de France record-breaker, by Mark Cavendish. Epub format. [Originally London: Ebury, 2010.]

Cav's first autobiography, written in 2009; and as opinionated and passionate (and occasionally chippy) as you might imagine if you've listened to any of his famously unpredictable post-race interviews. What I didn't necessarily expect was his ruthlessly realistic view of his own talents and how they match up to those of other sprinters; but he's someone who is always the first to praise his team's performance... This takes us through Cavendish's childhood, early racing, the Academy, and his first couple of really successful series with 9 Tour de France stage wins and the massive disappointment of being the only member of the UK Cycling team not to win a medal at Beijing. Cav's notorious photographic memory for every race is shown at its full advantage here - and his collaboration with Daniel Friebe (whose contribution is somewhat hidden in the credits at the very end) has made for a wonderfully readable book.

Sex, lies and handlebar tape: the remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France, by Paul Howard. Edinburgh; London: Mainstream, 2008.

I had to get this out for the name - saw it in the bibliography at the end of another cycling book.  I didnt know much about Anquetil - his glory years were when I was a toddler - but he'd been the hero of my French penfriend's Dad, and one of those names who keeps coming up.  I can't say I particularly warmed to him as a person, which is probably why this has taken me months to read and I've only finished it now because it needs to be back to the University Library in a couple of weeks; but it's a fascinating story. Not least the fact that his daughter is also his step-granddaughter, the child of his stepdaughter - something the French penfriend's Dad didn't ever mention.  Anquetil's constant quest to avoid financial distress, even when he was earning hugely, and his seemingly unequivocal endorsement of doping, are alienating; but the book's a window of a world into the decade before Eddie Merckx's dominance and interesting from that point of view. If you like that sort of thing.

My family and other strangers: adventures in family history, by Jeremy Hardy. Ebpub format. [Originally London: Ebury, 2010.]

This is a lovely warm, funny book.  Hardy goes about investigating his family history in a somewhat haphazard way - perennially not really getting up in time to get a full day's research in, or being sidetracked by lunch; and this is endearing.  While he's toddling around graveyards failing to find stones, or being wildly enthusiastic about the research room at The National Archives, he's also reflecting on his own life, his family's (and thinks about family in general and how we make it, as his own daughter is adopted), and what it means to belong somewhere.  He explores Hitchin, and Arundel, and mentions many times that it would be much more helpful if he had an army of white-gloved helpers from Who do you think you are?  He also talks movingly about the deaths of Linda Smith and Humphrey Lyttleton, both very recent at the time of the book.  Many times, you're laughing with a lump in your throat. Highly recommended.

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