Books in November

Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley – The Mechanic: The Secret World of the F1 Pitlane
I stopped watching Formula 1 a few years ago, but when I spotted this in the library I was intrigued and thought it would be interesting to hear about the sport from the point of view of the ‘nameless’ mechanics. The perspective is interesting because the mechanics are the heart of the sport, at the centre of this massive show, and yet are largely anonymous and are certainly not making any of the money. Priestley gives an engaging and frank description of the near insanity of McLaren in the 2000’s as they challenge for world titles, are found guilty of spying (sort of) and Alonso and Hamilton do their best to destroy the team. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more description of the actual engineering, and race activity for the pitlane crews; and a little less drunken partying. Overall it’s interesting, but a little bit light. (596)

Ben Aaronovitch – Rivers of London 8: Lies Sleeping
It is a little hard to find something original to say about books in this series, they are stunningly consistent, just like an old friend that you can immediately fall into sync with. It is once again brimming with cleaver, elegant and witty turns of phrase that ground the characters entirely in present day London, even when the story is towards the bonkers end of the spectrum. As usual I found myself re-reading sections for the pure joy of it. I think the story line hung together a bit longer than usual, but I did lose track a bit at the very end. (593)

Susan Calman – Sunny Side Up
I love Susan Calman, and this book is completely HER. While her first book was about the challenging subject of depression, this one is about joy and kindness. Since doing Strictly Come Dancing, she seems to have blossomed and this book celebrates that. That doesn’t mean it’s a simpering saccharine affair, Calman still has enough witty rage and pithy cutdowns to please my cynical heart. It is quite a lightweight book, it’s not going to change the world, and it doesn’t give a huge insight behind the scenes of Strictly or the life of a comedian, but it is just a NICE book and sometimes that’s what is needed.

John Le Carré – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Generally I didn’t really follow what was going on, too many people and too much jargon. But at the same time, it was quite a page turner. It reminded me a bit of the Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander books, which have the same problem that I understand almost nothing they’re talking about, and yet somehow it all washes over you to give a quite immersive experience of the situation. It sort of all came together for me by the end, but I can’t quite definitively say whether I really enjoyed the book as a whole. I suspect if I immediately read it again, I’d probably really like it because I’d not feel so ignorant, but I’m not going to bother.

Laura Purcell – The Corset
Another very satisfying book from Laura Purcell, following on from The Silent Companions. The Corset is not scary in the dark and ghosty way that The Silent Companions was, but it’s still creepy thanks to just the day to day horrors of being poor in Victorian times was. The main story is told in flashback and interwoven with some day-to-day tribulations of a considerably more well off woman who is frankly quite irritating. While her own difficulties are significant to her, and obviously demonstrate the contrast in fortunes, I got frustrated at being pulled away from the more interesting story. Other than that the pacing is excellent and the resolution very satisfying. Heartily recommended for a dark Autumn evening.

Andy Miller – The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life
I keep reading books about reading books; and generally I find that the more the author talks about their love of books, the more I find myself turned off. This book is the closest I’ve read to actually making me believe the author really does love reading, and some of the aspects he talks about do resonate with me. But he’s also an English graduate with a tendency to pontificate and most of the books he picks are utterly unappealing to me. The book itself is rather forced, a meandering mission and a bludgeoned together structure that feels utterly artificial. His voice is strong though, and he made me smile all the way through with his little observations of life. I did enjoy reading it, which to me makes it a good book, but I think the author probably wanted a more profound impact than that.

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