Looking Both Ways

Janus on a 3rd-century coin (Wikipedia Commons)
Janus on a 3rd-century coin (Wikipedia Commons)

Traditionally when approaching year’s end and anticipating the new a janiform attitude is called for. To celebrate a year of reading I’ve decided to highlight twelve posts, one for each month and chosen more or less at random, which I hope you might enjoy reading for the first time (or re-reading if you’re already familiar with them).

First is a discussion of the extinct archaeopteryx, the feathered creature which may or may not be the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, and which has caused controversy ever since its appearance on the world stage in the 19th century. More entertaining, if a little more erudite perhaps because it’s fiction, is A S Byatt’s novel The Biographer’s Tale which interweaves the lives of historical figures — such as scientists Carl Linnaeus and Francis Galton and dramatist Henrik Ibsen — with her imagined protagonist.

2013 has been the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice  so it’s entirely appropriate to give a last huzzah for Austen’s great romance. In contrast, Ursula Le Guin’s SF collection of tales within tales A Fisherman of the Inland Sea looks at social mores in alien societies not too different from our own despite their distance in time and space.

On the high seas now with Jim Hawkins and the Curse of Treasure Island, a bloodthirsty sequel to Stevenson’s classic adventure story. We pass thence to high humour with Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s parody on self-fulfilling prophecies, Good Omens.

An excuse to wallow in personal nostalgia presents itself with a reminder of archaeological digs on a Somerset hillfort, sometimes called Cadbury-Camelot because of its folkloric associations with King Arthur’s legendary city. Nostalgia of a different kind comes with a Life-of-Python autobiography by the team behind the Flying Circus — who, four decades on, rather incredibly are contemplating a comedy tour.

Many action novels try to create a bit of empathy for the rebel who paradoxically creates carnage while attempting to do the ‘right thing’, and The Bourne Identity seems to me typical even though not a genre I’m normally drawn to. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two novels with a young girl as protagonist succeeding against the odds: Julia Lee’s plucky Clemency Wrigglesworth survives uprooting from the Indian subcontinent to Victorian England, and Lizzie Ross’ booklover Noni survives without the use of magic in a fantasy world where magic is a given.

And finally, A L Kennedy’s haunting short story collection Now That You’re Back appropriately ends up a year exploring a world of ideas culled from miscellaneous tomes in a range of reading matter. If, after this review of reviews, you’re looking for this blogger’s New Year’s resolutions, there’s only one: to read more books. Yes, an easy resolution to make but even easier to uphold.

4 thoughts on “Looking Both Ways

    1. And a Happy New Year to you too, Sari. Your kind words remind me that I too have derived much enjoyment and insight from your blog, for which I’m very grateful — and anticipate more good things on 2014!


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