Monday, 28 November 2016

2017 Reading Challenges - Modern Fiction

After our torrential downpour last night (just for a little while mind you), this morning has started off fresh, frosty and clear. It was a little slick in spots when I went out for my morning run, but I just took it easy. It was also nice to use my new head lamp that my lovely wife got for me. My previous one had problems with the on/off switch - it wouldn't turn off; so I needed a replacement. Perfect timing too as it's nice and dark now for my morning runs.

Now to move on to the purpose of this Blog, the final selection of books for my 2017 Reading Challenge. The genre is Fiction, modern fiction (post - 1900). I hope to read at least 15 books in this genre and the books below will probably be the first 8.

Fiction (Post - 1900)

1. Walking on Glass by Iain Banks (1985) - I've read quite a few of Iain Banks's work, from his Culture Science Fiction series to The Wasp Factory. He was a very unique, talented writer.

"Graham Park is in love. But Sara ffitch is an enigma to him, a creature of almost perverse mystery.
Steven Grant is paranoid - and with justice. He knows that They are out to get him. They are.
Quiss, insecure in his fabulous if ramshackle castle, is forced to play interminable impossible games. The solution to the oldest of all paradoxical riddles will release him. But he must find an answer before he knows the question.
Park, Grant, Quiss - no trio could be further apart. But their separate courses are set for collision..."

2. Nothing Like the Sun by Anthony Burgess (1964) - Like many people I've read A Clockwork Orange, probably Burgess' most famous work, especially after the movie by Stanley Kubrick. But he's an author that I've never considered reading more of. I saw this book and thought maybe I should check out his other literary achievements.

"A Story of Shakespeare's Love - Life.
Was his relationship with the Earl of Southampton strictly platonic?
Did he really love his wife, Anne Hathaway?
Who was the Dark Lady?
Why did he suddenly cease to be 'sweet Master Shakespeare' and become instead the purveyor of a dark and nasty vision of the world?
And what was all that business about a second-best bed?
This is a brilliant, extraordinary novel - full of richness, plague, traitors, plays, bawdiness... and very real people."

3. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl (2003) - Okay, I may be playing a bit loosey-goosy here and this might also fall under the category of Mystery, but I prefer to categorise as historical fiction. I've had this for quite a while now and have really wanted to read it. 2017 will finally be the year.

"A series of grisly murders is rocking the streets of nineteenth-century Boston. But these are no ordinary killings. Each is inspired by the hellish visions of Dante's Inferno. To end the bizarre and bloody spree, no ordinary detective will suffice. Enter the unlikely sleuths of the Dante Club: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields - renowned scholars with the skills to decipher the devilish clues. But can this band of bookish gentlemen outwit a crafty killer? A terror-stricken city -  and their own lives - depend on it."

4. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers (1946) - One of my favourite all-time books is McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. When I saw this book, I had to get it to see if she could create the same type of story with her other writings.

"With infinite delicacy of perception and memory, with a warmth of humour and pathos, Carson McCullers spreads before us the three phases of a weekend crisis in the life of a motherless twelve-year-old girl. Within the span of a few hours the irresistible, hoydenish Frankie - twin sister, surely, of Mick Kelly in the Heart is a Lonely Hunter - passionately plays out her fantasies upon her elder brother's wedding. Through a perilous skylight we look right into the mind of a child torn between the yearning to belong and the urge to run away."

5. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (1951) - For the longest time, The House on the Strand was the only book of du Maurier's that I'd read, one I'd read three or four times. I finally tried Rebecca and loved it so much. Such a fantastic story. Well, now it's time to continue to explore du Maurier's works.

"Ambrose married Rachel, Countess Sangalletti in Italy and never returned home. His letters to his cousin Philip hinted that he was being poisoned, and when Philip arrived in Italy, Ambrose was dead.
Rachel comes to England, and soon Philip is torn between love and suspicion. Is she the angel she seems .. or a scheming murderess?"

6. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002) - One of the newer purchases to grace my bookshelves, I heard about the book from one of my Goodreads' acquaintances and decided to keep an eye out for it.

"London 1862. Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves - fingersmiths - under the rough but loving care of Mrs. Sucksby and her 'family'. But from the moment she draws breath, Sues' fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away."

7. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938) - Waugh is one of those writers whose works I've enjoyed very much; for his drollness, his story-telling and the variety of his work.

"Lord Copper, the newspaper magnate, prided himself on his flair for discovering ace reporters. But owing to a slight case of mistaken identity the man he picked to 'cover' the civil war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia was less than a novice in the business. Scoop, then, is an irreverent novel about Fleet Street and its hectic pursuit of hot news, narrated with all Evelyn Waugh's exuberant sense of satire."

8. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925) - Woolf is one of those authors I've wanted to try but at the same time, for some reason, have been kind of leery about making the effort. Mrs. Dalloway has been on my shelf for a couple of years now. Time to see what Virginia is all about.

"With this book Virginia Woolf broke finally with the traditional form of the English novel. Although she had not yet pushed the process as far as she later did in To the Lighthouse and The waves, the life of the mind was already ousting in importance the tangible reality of the external world. the reader is shown Clarissa Dalloway, the fashionable wife of a Member of Parliament - 'like a nun withdrawing' - largely through the impressions and memories within her mind and the minds of other characters. Moreover the action is contained within the limits of a single day - the day on which she is to hold an important party."

So there you go for now. My initial list of books to start of 2017. I'll provide updates, of course, as I get to the middle of the challenges and start new books. Next in line, back to the normal end month reviews and book purchases for November.

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