What I've Been Reading Recently

What I've Been Reading Recently

The Pictures by Guy Bolton*
It's 1939 and the Hollywood movie studios are paying the police to cover up the crimes of their stars. When a series of gruesome murders seem to point straight back to MGM, a couple of cops wonder whether solving the case might be better than keeping things secret... Fast paced, well written and genuinely intriguing, I enjoyed this a lot. I mean, I had to leave bits of my modern brain switched off - it's a homage to 1930s detective stories and doesn't try to pretend that equality was around back then; I bristled at plausible portrayals of racism and the lack of strong female characters. But I also really like 1930s detective stories (and tales of early Hollywood); I got swept up in the story, wondering whodunnit and who was going to come good in the end.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing*
Wow. Okay, how do I describe this without it sounding all heavy and tedious and pretentious and ugh?! Let's see... Olivia Laing moved to New York from the UK in her mid-thirties. And she was lonely. She lost herself in the internet a lot, but she also found herself examining art which explores loneliness and learning all she could about the artists behind it. This book is part art history, part biography of some often very disturbed people, part autobiography and part pop psychology. It's fascinating and beautiful and upsetting and inspiring; it prompts thoughts about art, about sexuality, about hoarding, about our need for emotional contact with others. After the first chapter, I thought it was going to be too much to read all in one go - I thought I'd be dipping in and out of it for a while - but then, suddenly, I'd finished it and it took a few days before I was ready to pick up anything else.

Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland by Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss and her family moved to Iceland just after the banks collapsed and left, a year later, just after the volcano exploded; this is their story of trying to live in the extremely expensive, extremely cold city of Reykjavik. I have a particular fondness for autobiographies about moving to new countries and I enjoyed the baffled-stranger-in-a-bizarre-new-land aspect of this but not as much as I expected. I was irritated by the casual overgeneralisations about other nationalities (oh, but it's not racist if we Brits all know that all Italians do X, Y, Z...); I was irritated by the assumption that we all have the exact same private school and Oxford English Literature degree education (I only got the Peter Rabbit reference because of CBeebies); and I was irritated by the derision regarding Iceland's nursery system, which was explained merely by giving three quotes from one nursery's website and assuming we will all react to them with the same horror (they want to try to eliminate gender stereotypes?! Nooooooo!). And Iceland, which I want to picture as a place of stunning scenery and crazy pop songs, sounded a bit too much like Aberdeen, what with all its conspicuous consumption, empty housing developments and crappy weather. It's the first time in a long time I've read a book like this and not wanted to immediately move to the country it's describing and that was a bit of a let down.

*Provided for review

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