Friday, 22 September 2006


What a long time it has been! I've been away for the past five weeks, in Ireland, then in Italy, and now back. Have much to say, but am going to try to spread it out over a couple of posts so that it doesn't all feel breathless.
First, I read two books over the holidays. Alexander McCall Smith's Morality for Beautiful Girls (Abacus, 2003), part of his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, was not quite the read I had been expecting. They are not quite 'detective' stories, though some detecting does go on. Set in Botswana, the series has Mma Ramotswe as the heroine, a feisty and intelligent woman who runs a small detective agency. The blurbs and reviews are often very flattering about these books, and I've seen them being read on beaches, buses, etc. But I was disappointed. Perhaps the best way of describing the book is that it is charming, but maybe not in a good way.
The second book I read was Hugo Hamilton, The Speckled People (Fourth Estate, 2003). It is a beautiful read. The book is told in a child's voice, speaking his truths and things as they seem to him, with sometimes devastating simplicity and power. It is such a difficult voice to work with but Hamilton controls it utterly so that you hear him and more importantly you start to listen to him. A memoir in the traditional sense it is not. Nor can it really be considered 'The Early Years' volume. It is about the language crisis played out in his house between an Irish father who would only allow Irish to be spoken in the house, and a German mother, who communicated with them in German. English is the unspoken and unspeakable. It creates an atmosphere where you feel everything so keenly, words become hugely important. It was an utter pleasure to read and I think it can be legitimately considered a modern masterpiece of Irish writing. Read it.
I have also been making my way through Carol Ann Duffy's Rapture (Picador, 2005). I think it is interesting and at times very delicate and beautiful. I'll review it again I think.


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