Wednesday, April 13, 2011

some lovely long books

There's nothing like long books. They're perfect for holidays, and perfect to ramble through in the snatched spare moments of ordinary life. Here are 3 long books I've enjoyed recently.

New York by Edward Rutherfurd. My friend Emma introduced me to this epic novel of the history of New York, as seen through the eyes of the generations of a family. I learned stacks of American history, but never boringly! Rutherford tells the story of one individual through several chapters, then picks up the story of another (a son, a grandson, a nephew) until the novel reaches the recent past. I look forward to reading London, which by all accounts is even better.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Recommended by my sister-in-law Kath, this winner of the Booker prize tells the (first half of the) story of Thomas Cromwell (yes, a sequel is coming, but not yet - *sigh*), who rose from lowly beginnings to became chief advisor to Henry VIII. I particularly enjoyed the sympathetic portrayal of Protestant martyrs like Ridley, Latimer and Tyndale. Neither a bodice-ripper nor a yawn-fest, this lyrical, skillfully-written historical novel is a very satisfying read.

At Home: A Short History of Domestic Life by Bill Bryson. Having read and loved A Short History of Nearly Everything, when I saw this book in Target (of all places), I raced home and put it on hold at our library. Tired of telling the story of everything, Bryson thought the history of domestic life would be simpler and more constrained - which of course it wasn't. This rambly book is packed with bizarre details like the disgusting toilet habits of Queen Elizabeth's royal party, the hazardous history of beauty treatments, and the importance of salt and pepper.


Gordon Cheng said...

Hey Jean isn't Wolf Hall fantastic. I'm forcing my way through The Autobiography of Henry VIII because a friend saw me reading Wolf Hall and thought I would like that one as well. But compared to WH it is just a great fat doorstop. The only benefit of reading it is that it shows the enormous depth of insight and strength of writing in Hilary M's work.

Some day I will plumb Wolf Hall for some of the best quotes and use them for a few blog posts.

Jean said...

I consider myself forewarned (about The Autobiography of Henry VIII that is!).

You'll have to be quick on the quotes. I was planning to put one up on Monday! :)

Steph G said...

Ohh, goody! New books!
I looked at 'Wolf Hall' on Saturday and wondered if it was worth it. Pleased to hear it is.
And 'New York' sounds really interesting too. It was one of the Cities I studied in Yr 12 history.
Btw, do you still have 'Cocaine Blues' by Kerry Greenwood? I can't remember.
And if you feel like combining food and history I just discovered a new TV series called 'The Supersizers Go...' (insert era Elizabethan/Regency/Wartime etc.) UK 2008. It's hysterical.
Hope you're enjoying school holidays.

Jean said...

Hi, Steph!

Yeah, I do still have your book - sorry! I was just looking at it the other day and thinking I have to get it back to you.

How about I give it to Jean and she can pass it on to you some Thursday?

Speaking of TV shows, we loved "Lost in Austin". Thanks for recommending it.

Love Jean.