Just read, The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham

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I am on a roll. Now that I’ve finished my history course and am on a summer break from study, I’m determined to make a good dent in my books ‘pile of shame’. I picked up The Midwich Cuckoos the other night to read in bed, didn’t get very far, then returned to it yesterday morning to read on way to work and pretty much had to finish it when I got home last night. It’s only just over 200 pages long and unputdownable. The Spectator jacket quote sums it up very well. Beloved says I’d seen the film adaptation, The Village of the Damned and while I remember the Children, I didn’t remember how it all ended or much of what happened. Must have seen it a while back or fallen asleep. I’d been wanting to read more John Wyndham since I read The Day of the Triffids last year and was struck with its humanity, simplicity of style and language and, at the same time, it was unsettling and intelligent. The same can be said of The Midwich Cuckoos. Again, I thought how best selling authors and Hollywood film makers who tackle science fiction or even just write thrillers could learn a thing or two (actually many things) from classic authors such as Wyndham who was economic with words and more powerful for it. I’d urge anyone who reads only contemporary science fiction to look at Wyndham. I’m certainly going to get his other books and I wouldn’t have come across him if it wasn’t for The Guardian’s 1,000 novels everyone should read list. I come to this list again and again – it’s not perfect, no list is, but it has brought my attention to many authors I’ve never heard of or wouldn’t have come across without some guidance. The list and the science fiction literature exhibition at the British Library, which we went to a few years back and which prompted Beloved to get some other classic books. I say ‘other’ as I’ve not allowed myself a glimpse of what he has yet, have my own ‘pile of shame’ to worry about for the present but I do look forward to the prospect of further exploration.

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Antiquarian bookshop finds

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I keep going on about the large stack of books waiting to be read and then what do I do? Buy more books… Think I can be excused this time, these came from a lovely antiquarian bookshop in Keswick, mentioned in my last post. Why these books in particular? When I have time to read fiction, I try to catch up with some new and good-sounding new releases and I am also working my way, very slowly, through Guardian’s list of 1000 novels everyone should read. I know there are lots and lots of ‘must read’ and ‘100 best’ type lists around, I just found The Guardian’s pretty comprehensive – all those classics you never get around to conveniently placed on one list as well as many 20th century authors that people of my generation or younger may not be aware of any more, Barbara Pym being a good example. I also add comments and other recommendations to the list, India Knight came up with a very good list of comfort reads a couple of years back and the Rosamond Lehman was one of her recommendations, looking forward to reading it. Am currently reading Howard’s End and very much enjoying it. Have read A Passage to India before and I love how Forster’s writing seems measured, perhaps that’s not the right word, proper, maybe with all these tensions and insecurities bubbling up underneath. Wonderfully realised characters, boxed in by their own and the society’s expectations and codes of behaviour according to class, is your money new or old – can they ever mingle and ‘how to help the poor’, being a favourite topic of the ladies debate club the sisters in Howard’s End belong to. Wouldn’t it just be fabulous if you had the time to read great books all day long…