Quick Lit: Anglophilia Edition

With Lent over, I expected to get back to my unfortunate computer habit, but thankfully, even though I was not entirely successful at keeping my Lenten habit of staying off social media while Christopher was awake, I feel its pull mostly broken. No more laptop vampire keeping me in its dastardly thrall! It also helps that Christopher has developed a fascination with the keyboard which makes surfing nigh impossible when he’s around.

All that to say, I’ve been reading more in my downtime lately instead of just at night before bed. It’s been a nice change of pace during the day. I realized I’ve read a lot of Brit Lit recently, from Arthur to the Tudors to butlers between the World Wars to murder mysteries on the London train. Here’s what I’ve read in the past two months-ish:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

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This tome reimagining Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation was my big read lately. It took me about 20% of the book before I caught on to Mantel’s weird pronoun affectations and started really enjoying the intrigue. Mantel has some issues with Catholicism – according to her, it’s “not for respectable people,” to which I say “you’re absolutely right” – and some of the Cromwell/More rivalry seemed to be a channel for her own hatred of A Man for All Seasons. An excerpt from the end of the novel from Cromwell (bold mine):

You know what I hate? I hate to be part of this play, which is entirely devised by him. I hate the time it will take that could be better spent, I hate it that minds could be better employed, I hate to see our lives going by, because depend upon it, we will all be feeling our age before this pageant is played out. And what I hate most of all is that Master More sits in the audience and sniggers when I trip over my lines, for he has written all the parts. And written them these many years.

Subtles McSubtleson being super subtle over here. These meta-moments tickled me more than bothered me, though, and I continue to spot them in Bring Up The Bodies, which I just started. Her characters are vivid and while the narrative seems a little strange, I was enchanted by how she brought all of these odd meditative digressions together at the end. I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes of the mini-series on PBS insofar as I liked the book. Cromwell seems a little too nice in the show – he doesn’t “look like a murderer” as is repeated in the novel – but there’s time for his ruthless side to come out.

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Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

I had seen this pop lit novel mentioned across the blogosphere so I thought it would be a fun recovery novel from Wolf Hall, but I ended up extremely disappointed. The premise intrigued me: former architect turns stay-at-home/recluse mother, has neighborhood spats with snooty private school moms, and then disappears one day. But the epistolary format stretched my suspension of disbelief. No one writes letters with so much description or reported speech. And about halfway through, the book just took a dark zany turn that just tired me out. I read Maria Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and I wish this book had more of AD’s spirit.

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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro’s new fairy tale-inspired book was released at the beginning of March. The first half establishing the old couple protagonists’ quest, the mysterious warrior who joins them, and the King Arthur-haunted world’s situation was enchanting and even reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, but the denouement was a major letdown for me. I almost want to read a fanfiction with these characters and a different ending. I’d probably just recommend another Ishiguro book like….

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The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

For the Downton Abbey fan that has had enough of the soap and wants more Mr. Carson. I seriously loved this book and I’ve been told the mini-series is also wonderful.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I like reading the “it will remind you of Gone Girl” book of the moment. I count this among the “Everyone is Reprehensible” genre of pop lit that I whiz through and then feel like an awful person for a full eight hours after inhabiting their world too intensely. Enjoyed the murder mystery. Probably won’t remember it a year from now.

What have you been reading? Have any recommendations? I love Goodreads friends!

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8 thoughts on “Quick Lit: Anglophilia Edition

  1. I got about halfway through Where’d You Go Burnadette, and abandoned it–I just wasn’t interested enough to finish. I’ve got The Girl on the Train for 7 days only, but I’m not sure I’ll get to it–too many other books on my list!

  2. Clicked through from Modern Mrs. Darcy when I saw you’d read Wolf Hall. The pronouns! And so many Thomases! Having read other books about the Tudors definitely helped me along. I haven’t yet sat down to watch Masterpiece yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    • Yes! So many Thomases!!! I admit I had to skim the Henry VIII Wikipedia page to refresh my memory and get my bearings. I was really into the Tudors as a preteen but I was rusty on the details. I think I have it down now for Bring Up the Bodies.

  3. Having read all of these except The Buried Giant and basically agreeing with you on them makes me not want to read The Buried Giant! I really do love the Hilary Mantel books, just because I think her writing is phenomenal. It helps me to just remind myself that they are fiction as much as A Man for All Seasons is fiction — one or the other isn’t a full picture of a complicated Saint. I am so looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, though, because she let’s complicated stories stay complicated, unlike a lot of other Tudor-era writers!

    • Amen to keeping the Tudors complicated! I’m so impressed by all of her characters and their machinations. I’m about halfway through Bring Up the Bodies and I’m enjoying it even more than Wolf Hall. I’m pretty excited for #3. Great point about AMfAS and I think it’s true of all saints, right? They were all sinners with complicated lives like us and chose grace and sanctity in a way we should aspire to emulate.

      And yeah, I wouldn’t recommend The Buried Giant. So much potential. Such a disappointment.

  4. Pingback: Quick Lit: The Slough of Goldfinch Despond | The Romance of Thrift

  5. “And then feel like an awful person for a full eight hours after inhabiting their world too intensely.” Ha! I felt that way after reading Gone Girl – like I needed a shower.

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