Books 27-29 / 2016

27) The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I’ve read most of McEwan’s stuff, and they are really novellas these days, so this was quite quick to pile through. It’s eminently readable, and all seems fairly effortless as it wades through religion, medicine, law, marriage and much more. The main character is a female judge deciding whether a Jehovah’s Witness boy should have a blood transfusion against his/his parents’ will in order to save his life. [btw, did you know the JWs only decided that was outlawed in 1945? Fairly late & nonsensical reading of a few Bible passages]. If you fancy wading through that and other dilemmas, this is the one for you. I thought it was one of his best. 7.5/10

28) Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years by Sue Townsend. I realised a few pages in that I was exactly the same age as Adrian Mole (39 and a quarter) so maybe something subconsciously telling me to read this now. Thank god I did, though, because I’ve needed some laughs this week. It is brilliantly funny, on almost every page: covering the Iraq war, Northern Rock, Jeremy Kyle and the mundanities of book-selling and provincial life in a converted pig-sty. The amazing thing about Sue Townsend’s writing (aside from the incredibly high comic hit-rate) is the consistency of voice throughout: not just this book, but from the Secret Diary I read all those years ago. And it’s satirically acute as well as funny and moving. Perfect Brexit-escapism (UKIP only get a passing mention). 9/10

29) Autumn, All the Cats Return by Philippe Georget. This is the sequel to the excellent Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored which I read last year. They are police procedurals set in Perpignan and have a particular vibe and feel to them which is almost tangible. Inspector Gilles Sebag is a non-cliched lead with a nice line in self-doubt, humility and occasional insight. This book centres around a series of crimes connected to Algeria’s independence from France, and the ramifications of actions from years before. There’s quite a lot of history in there, which I was fascinated by, even if it slows the pace of the story a little. It’s not *quite* as well achieved as the first book, but thoroughly enjoyable and a great summer read for a hot day. 7/10

PS – If you want some Chilcot-related reading, by far the best thing I’ve ever read on Iraq is Fiasco by Thomas Ricks: an amazing, detailed and depressing unpicking of the American military operation.

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