March is a many-stranded thing. This year, at least, the winter of our discontent is still very much now, and we can’t go a couple of days without a blast of snowy rain and freezing wind. I want the gentle spring weather, but Russia ate it. I saw cherry blossom trees trying their hardest to flower on time and their pink looked anaemic against a grey sky. It makes my skin hurt. Then there’s the fact that we’ve spent the whole of this winter with at least one of us sick. This week, all of us are coughing and streaming. Henry and I have been taking the kind of ill naps where you wake up feeling sort-of better but also and at the same time, definitely worse. It’s grim.
But then there’s the flip side: a boy who wakes up from his naps shouting ‘CHOO CHOO! Mama! CHOO CHOO!’ because the ice rain on his window sounds a bit like a train. And the fact that our copy of The Prince of Egypt arrived yesterday and we were all totally enthralled. And the Great Trifecta of March Celebration is only half over: an anniversary and a mother’s day done, a birthday (tomorrow) and the bit of our anniversary that’s in Paris (eek!) still to come.
There’s a third strand to March that you may not have considered, which is BOOKS. Books are versatile in that they can appear as a strand in any old month you like. Thanks to the above, I haven’t read much so far this month. But yesterday I had to venture out from our sick bay to pay dues to the library (a regular occurrence, this: I must be funding their refurbishment by now) and for once got to look round without Henry trying to climb one of the shelves.
Et voila. Here’s what I got from the library and tried not to cough over, and why:
First, The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She wrote Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel about Nigeria and the Biafran famine that was the sort of book I think about with fear and trembling – it was so, so disturbing – but changed my life forever. This is a collection of short stories, which I love. Exciting.
Next, a David Mitchell I haven’t read yet. That was as far as I got with the reasoning for that one. On the evidence of Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green, I’d read a David Mitchell novel about ear wax. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet isn’t, I don’t think – it’s about Nagasaki in the 18th Century. As ever, it’s a little hard to tell just from the back cover.
And then, an accidental, potentially brilliant find in the crime section. Gyles Brandreth is in a lot of the comedy shows I listen to on Radio 4, and I like him very much. But even I didn’t expect him to write a series about a murder-solving detective Oscar Wilde. If Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol is done well, it could be amazing. I so hope it’s good.
After that, The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I didn’t realise it was a book before it was a film – don’t know much about either, except that Jennifer Lawrence won the Oscar, but I’d be interested to find out.
And then, last of all – because five books is still too many for me to get through, realistically, but I already feel good about talking myself down from six – Girl Reading, by Katie Ward. It’s another many-storied story with characters in medieval Siena, 17th Century Amsterdam, Victorian London and modern Shoreditch: all women, and all reading. Mostly I got it because it’s got a pretty cover. I’m a sucker for good cover art.
I’m hoping one of my birthday presents might be a bit of time to read, sans Postman Pat. He’s a good one, Pat, but he’s so shouty and intense about delivering post – always exclaiming and hopping into helicopters and suchlike – that he does tend to spoil the concentration. Henry’s opening credits dance is worth an awful lot, though.
Hope your shelves are full, my dears!