Autumn reads

The more perceptive of you might have noticed that Autumn has hit the UK with the full force of a drunken lout running straight into the window of a kebab shop. #winteriscoming, readers, and I am woefully unprepared for it. The sudden change in temperature has left me wondering where my jumpers are (answer: in storage in Edinburgh), why I only seem to have one glove out of every pair (answer: pathological idiocy) and why oh why I moved back to Europe (answer: lunacy).

Thankfully the season does have its charms. We tried to light a fire in the chimney a few days ago, which was wonderfully atmospheric and comforting for the three and a half minutes it lasted. Basic survival skills: we r doin it rong. When all else fails, I say, retreat to the duvet with a hot water bottle and a pile of books. Here are my autumn reads:

What I did, by Christopher Wakling

The adult world fraying at the seams seen from the point of view of 6 year old Billy. The narrative device could have been cloying, but the author, whose sage advice I was lucky to receive on the Curtis Brown Creative course I attended earlier this year, handled it deftly and with a brutal commitment that left me on the edge of my seat. There are also some great stories and drawings on Billy’s blog.

Verre Cassé, by Alain Mabanckou

I tried to read this in English and gave up miserably after the first few pages. The version originale is riotous and unrelenting, a vision of a Congo broken and exultant, grotesque and heartbreaking.

L’Homme à l’envers, by Fred Vargas

Fred Vargas is my literary crush of 2012. I inhaled all of her books in the space of a few obsessive weeks. This is crime writing at its most poetic and subtle. Commissaire Adamsberg solves crimes by taking long walks and observing seagulls, and in this chapter of his adventures he tracks a werewolf through the French wilderness. Eternal thanks to Emma for introducing me to  the series. In English here.

The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace

I’ve just started reading this but I am already enthralled by the writing, its buoyancy and radiance. I am forcing myself to read this slowly and to savour every page. I want to lie my head on its shoulder and let it lull me into peacefulness.

Mmmm, books.

This may or may not have anything to do with the fact I am trying to impress a penguin. What are you reading these days?


14 Responses to “Autumn reads”
  1. soleils says:

    The pace of life at the moment is such that I feel lucky if I am able to read the cooking instructions on an M&S lasagna (shame on me, my maman would not be proud), but I did read two amazing books recently, one in English : Louisa Young’s “My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You” (she is a wonderful writer, all her books are inhalable), and one in French “La conversation amoureuse” by Alice Ferney (very perceptive, very gently shocking). Thank God for books, eh?
    I can no longer read translations, even decent ones.
    I have never been less sure I can face another seven-month gloomy season in this land. Seriously considering running away armed only with my passport. But there is the small matter of three young humans who might miss me a little, or at least the regular meals I provide.

    • fatpony says:

      Oh Soleils. The gloomy season. I dread it too. I have just turned on the SAD lamp. And I’m quite excited about having a working chimney in this new flat.

  2. Waffle says:

    Sigh, Fred Vargas. I just wish she wrote FASTER. I don’t know what the English translations are like, and actually, M, I don’t know why you and I aren’t the translators, because we would be fucking ace.

    I have been reading:

    The Marriage Plot by Geoffrey Eugenides. I thought this was going to be one of those sprawling, vast Great American Novels, and was surprised that it’s actually quite an intimate, tight-casted story. This is what happens when you read on Kindle, I suppose, you don’t get a sense of whether you’re reading a brick or a slim volume. Anyway, I enjoyed a lot.

    Various Scandi thrillers by Asa Larsson, following a recommendation on my blog. I love a good bit of nordic gloom/crime and these are nicely lyrical about the cold and the sun and the northern lights and the natural world generally, in between hideous murders. I’m quite hooked.

    Also thrillery, I loved Broken Harbour by Tana French, which is creepy and atmospheric and dark and set in a brilliantly evoked ghost estate in post-boom busted Ireland.

    Finally finished Wolf Hall after approximately 30 years. Getting ready for Bring Up The Bodies.

    Also on the pile: The Yips by wonderful wonderful Nicola Barker whose Darkmans is up there in my top 5 books, The Romantic Exiles by EH Carr because I have a fancy to write something about it, La Curée by Zola and L’Elégance de l’Herisson which I just can’t get into even though everyone says it is Brilliant.

    I am also reading something called “Overcoming Anxiety”. it is not working.

    • fatpony says:

      All my Zolas are in my mother’s attic in Cambodia. *Sob*. Another clear sign of terminal idiocy. I am in the mood for Ventre de Paris. The cabbages! The piles of cabbages!

    • fatpony says:

      I do not know this Nicola Barker of whom you speak. Would I like her?

      Also: overcoming anxiety. HA.

  3. Laurinda says:

    Hi M
    Wasn’t sure about the 6 year-old narrative voice in ‘What I did’, so read Chris Walking’s ‘The Devil’s Mask’ instead. The Georgian Bristol setting and a plot revolving around the ending of the slave trade in Britain made for an unusual and enjoyable combination.

    Currently reading Ian McEwan’s ‘The Innocent’, which is so meticulously worded, it makes me want to sob from sheer joy.

    My most memorable reads of this year so far have been ‘The Help’ (which lived up to its hype), ‘Gillespie and I’ (which was the best anti-heroine book I’d read since ‘Notes on a Scandal’) and JoJo Moyes ‘Me Before you’ – though in the case of the latter two, it annoyed me slighly that successful authors should be such nice people too!

    Wrap up warm – I’d recommend bedsocks personally.

    • fatpony says:

      Bedsocks! I’ve just spent the morning darning my cashmere. I’m hoping for a head to toe cashmere reading outfit.
      You intrigue me with this Innocent. Another one for the amazon wishlist…. arrrrgh!

  4. Ammo says:

    Thanks for the recommendations!

  5. Julie W says:

    Have read some fantastic stuff recently. ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern is the perfect antidote to all this reality nonsense – enchanted places, magic, a love story, and beautifully written too. Then ‘Pigeon English’ by Stephen Kelman at the opposite end of the scale, a very gritty slice of reality shot through with humour and humanity. Just wonderful. And I’ve just started reading ‘The Yellow Birds’ by Kevin Powers – a debut novel from an Iraq vet that is painful, poetic and strangely hopeful.

    As for coping with cold weather, my cat recommends sitting on the radiator.


    • fatpony says:

      Your cat is wise. Wise like an owl.
      I want one of those stoves that is also a bed. Didn’t they have those in the olden days?

  6. Wadey says:

    By the time summer is coughing it’s last I’m ready. Ready for the crisp air and the crab apples. When the temperature drops and the rains fall I know that the time is near when the ceps will be popping up like chilean miners, and as the evenings draw in I know the reading season is upon me. Who needs sunlight, it’s just a distraction.
    My reading needs swing back and forth between the desire to feel something and the urge to know something. Autumn, for me, is all about the feel. The book I am reading at the moment is actually unpublished, by our good friend Mark P and makes for the perfect curl up moment. I found it incredibly moving and can only imagine the research Mark had to do to build his story – it must have been heartbreaking. The book before that that truly impressed and moved me was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – not one to finish at two in the morning when the world is silent and you can’t hear your heartbeat over your own sobs.


    • fatpony says:

      You have Mark ‘s book?!? I am envious. Although I found myself aping his precise staccato style after just a few chapters, so perhaps best to keep away from it.
      Can’t believe I still haven’t read Jojo’s magnificent octopus. Just don’t think I could cope with the weeping.

  7. Alice says:

    Bedsocks aside, I also enjoyed My Dear I Wanted To Tell You by Louisa Young (though I did feel the serendipity with which characters meet and remeet makes 1918 Flanders/London/Kent seem a very small world indeed).
    Still on the First World War theme, I read All Roads Lead to France, Matthew Hollis’ biography of the poet Edward Thomas. This is an evocative account of Thomas’ final years, from the dripping country lanes of Gloucestershire to the trenches. It’s also a tribute to the transformative power of friendship, showing how Thomas was set on the path from critic to published poet by the American poet Robert Frost. I did feel terribly sorry for Thomas’ wife though.
    One that got away was Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, 800-plus pages of Soviet 20th century history. I tried, really I did, but this was one long Russian name too many. I hear it’s good if you persevere.

    • fatpony says:

      800 pages of Soviet history! I can’t quite tell if that’s alluring or repulsive.
      All Roads Lead to France sounds wonderful. Thanks for all the recommendations everyone – I’m set for the winter!

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