Posted by: billpurdue | July 24, 2008

17 I’ve started, so I’ll ……

There was a time when, once I had started to read a book, I almost always read it to the end. I suppose you could say that I always thought to myself “I’ve started, so I’ll finish”. Not any more. Though I have more time to read since I retired, I’ve also found a lot more books I want to read, or at least want to try. These days I’ll only finish a book if it really holds my attention.


An example of this is the book I’m currently trying to put down, but not always succeeding. In One Big Damn Puzzler by John Harding  [Black Swan  £7.99  9780552999809] an American lawyer arrives on a tropical island where only one man amongst the total population of indigenous people can read and write and he is trying to translate Shakespeare’s Hamlet into the local pidgin English. (“To be, or not to be, that is the question” becomes “Is be or is be not, is be one damn big puzzler”). The lawyer is hoping to help some of the inhabitants claim for compensation after they had been injured by stepping on land mines left behind by the Americans after a recent occupation. What he doesn’t realise is that the hotel on the island was never completed, so he has to adapt to living the same way as the locals. He also doesn’t know that there is already one other white person on the island – Lucy from Cambridgeshire, who is about to complete a book about the sexual life and customs of the local people. Lucy doesn’t think that compensation for the injuries is going to help the locals.


The presence of the newcomer seems to trigger off a number of events which threaten to change the lives of the locals for ever. There are some quite comical moments as well as some moving ones: perhaps the Times critic hit the nail on the head by describing the book as “blackly comic…[and] a thoroughly entertaining read”. I’m certainly being entertained and I’ll certainly finish this book.  John Harding’s previous books were What we did on our Holiday  [Black Swan £6.99 9780552773881] and While the Sun Shines  [Black Swan £6.99 9780552999663]


Remembering the Stags


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a football fan, but I can’t keep quiet about a new book all about the Stags (Mansfield Town FC) from the Chad’s very own John Lomas. It’s called End of an Era  [At Heart Ltd, £12.99, 9781845472153] and is due out next month. In the book John looks back at the 77 year history of the club, which, for those unfamiliar with the recent happenings, has just dropped out of the Football League. I hope to bring you more about the book in a week or two.


Non-fiction prize


What with the Man Booker Prize, the Richard and Judy Prize, the Orange Prize and all the others, it’s easy to forget that there is also an annual prize for non-fiction. The winner of this year’s BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction is Kate Summerscale. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or the Murder at Road Hill House [Bloomsbury £11.99  9780747599227] is a classic murder mystery and of course a true story that has inspired writers like Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. Echoes of Arthur and George (Julian Barnes) I suppose

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