Those of you interested in refining the art of the perfect holiday read might be interested to know where I have got to with this earth shattering quest, following my last post on this subject.
The most important news is that I have already read the first and fattest novel on the list, American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, a fictional account of the life of Laura Bush, a pretty librarian who marries the carousing scion of a Republican family, and goes on to become wife of the President of the US. Sittenfeld draws on certain real life events in Laura B’s life including a car crash she was involved in as a teenager in which a young man died; her life as a librarian and infant school teacher; her whirlwind courtship of George Bush and the widely held presumption that her politics are to the left of her husband on everything from abortion to the war in Iraq.
This is a popular novel with an extraordinarily thoughtful edge. It has a powerful narrative, completely believable characters and performs the difficult feat of drawing on our own images of Laura and George Bush,while also creating wholly independent identities for the main protagonists. It’s a book about the price of fame, and politics at the highest level, and quite a painful read in that regard. It is also a consideration of the compromises within even the happiest of marriages.
Regarding the rest of the short list, I have started two of the non-fiction books, The Classical World and How Fiction Works; both so far are terrific, so they will come on holiday with me. As for novels, I am now considering taking a batch of slim classics; I hate heavy luggage!
ps One Off The Short List is, incidentally, the name of one of Doris Lessing’s most brilliant short stories.