Sunday Bulletin – November 9

Old Filth

I was right about the correlation between watching less TV and finishing more books. In the evenings I now settle down with my book after dinner rather than flipping through the channels all night long and it has been wonderful. I love the quiet, the concentration and the joy of slipping into a story rather than reading snippets of chapters during commercials. I’m enjoying what I read and I’m also remembering more.

When I was younger I could watch TV, listen to music and read at the same time, remember everything and take it all in. Not so any longer. I have an older brain and it needs coddling and assistance in order to work decently. If I try to do multiple tasks now I feel like I’m on the brink of a mental breakdown and I berate myself for eating too much sugar and rotting my brain (I always blame my fogginess on sugar). Now I know I just need to do one thing at a time and I’ll be fine. But I can always stand to eat less sugar.

Books finished last week:

Never Let Me Go¬†by Kazuo Ishiguro – I read this for my November book club meeting. I found the first person narrative rather trivial at first and hard to grasp, but the second half of the book moved more quickly. A group of students grow up at mysterious Hailsham school and are groomed for a special purpose (I won’t say what in case you want to read it yourself). There are definite moral and ethical issues here and heartbreaking choices, but in the end I was unsatisfied. I think it will be a good book to discuss, though.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim – When I first started reading this I thought it was going to be a nice, charming little story about a woman’s love for flowers and solitude and communing with nature. It is certainly about all of those things, but it has an undercurrent of acidity that is quite funny and sometimes alarmingly mean and a wise and insightful tone that made me stop to think about what the author was really saying under all this talk about roses. I read a few passages to a co-worker and she was instantly intrigued and wanted to know what this wonderful book was. When I told her she wasn’t necessarily turned off, but she didn’t want to borrow it from me either. Her loss, really, as this is so amazingly good with gorgeous writing about gardens (my new passion) and devastating opinions on marriage and the relations between the sexes. I’m so glad that I already have The Solitary Summer on my shelves and will be reading it soon.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam – This book is very hard to describe because it has a seemingly slight plot: elderly ex-judge mourns the loss of his wife Betty while remembering his early childhood in Malay, his brutal time spent as a foster child in Wales, his golden school years and the ocean voyage that nearly killed him in WWII. However, this very layered novel takes the reader on a journey that, to me, is always more interesting than a book full of plot twists – a novel that examines the growth of a character from childhood to dotage. Edward Feathers (also known as Filth for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong) is an old man living in retirement in the country. His wife has just died and his mind is slipping back into his past, into the events and choices that shaped his personality and his fate. He’s a rather reserved and cold man, but he does have a streak of romanticism that runs through his soul and colors his memories. I found this book to be very stirring as it says so much in a very simple and sometimes really amusing way about love, death, survival, friendship, loss and grief. It’s about an ordinary man who weathers the storm the best way he knows how. And I loved it.

So, two great books and one so-so book finished last week and two started: One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Cutting down on my TV time is one of the best decisions I’ve made lately.

Have a wonderful Sunday!