Friday, 18 March 2016
What are you reading?
What's your book-of-the-season?
Even when I was writing The Housemaid's Daughter, I would take a break and do some serious reading around this time of the year. And there's usually a standout work. Last year it was The Children Act by Ian McEwan, a brilliant, short novel set in the legal community in London. It explores a theme that could touch us all. I enjoy books that make us look inside ourselves and wonder how we would react...
This year has been a tougher choice. My book-of-the-season is a tie! And a strangely connected one, I realise, with the first of my winners set in a modern, chaotic world and the second set over two thousand years ago in a time of equally immense upheaval. Tim Butcher's Blood River traces the author's 2005 journey in the footsteps of the nineteenth century explorer, Stanley (of Dr Livingstone, I presume fame) who traveled through the Congo, discovering the source of the great Congo River and following it to where the river meets the Atlantic, a journey of many hundreds of miles and immense hardship. Tim Butcher's journey some 140 years later is no easier, he encounters poverty and war amid a tropical jungle that will make your hair stand on end.
Now, for my other winner, let's leap back 2000 years to an urban jungle and enter the world of Cicero, the prominent Roman orator, politician and scholar. Dictator, Robert Harris's final book in the Cicero trilogy, follows the great man through the time of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony and the struggle for control of Rome. But this is no dry history. Instead it brings to exuberant - and sometimes horrifying - life an era that is not as far from our modern world as we'd like to believe...
Both of these books held me captive. Perhaps you may enjoy them, too?