“The Pretender” by Mary Morrissey [New Year's Resolution]
I quite enjoyed this but, I can’t quite say why, it reads a bit like a book written in translation. It’s about Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia. It’s a mix of fact and fiction and I think it does a good job of trying to imagine the motives of the woman who spent a lifetime pretending to be someone else.
“Just So Stories” by Rudyard Kipling [New Year's Resolution]
Despite their moments of imperialism these are really great stories to read aloud to 6 year old boys. Also, they made me realise that I had never said the word “sagacity” aloud before as in “a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity”. So we’re all learning. You will be delighted to hear that the man of “infinite-resource-and-sagacity” was a “Hi-ber-ni-an”. You can read this particular one yourself here. You may think it dull but find the requisite 6 year old boys and you will be surprised by their delighted reaction.
“The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling [New Year's Resolution]
I quite enjoyed this. Despite the title, it’s not all jungle. I was inspired to read it by “Riki-Tiki-Tavi” which I read when I was eight in one of my favourite books of all time. I’m not sure whether it was because I read this story at just the right age or because it really was the best but I still liked it best of all the stories. I feel that I have had enough Kipling for a while now though.
“33 Moments of Happiness” by Ingo Schultz [New Year's Resolution]
I sort of knew from the cover of this book and the font that the 33 moments of happiness in the title would be set in hours of misery. This must be why it’s been awaiting attention on my bedside table since sometime in the 1990s. Why is literary fiction so bad at happiness? These are short stories set in St. Petersburg. There is much gloom, some confusion, and, yes, alright, arguably the odd moment of happiness. I think of the 100 odd books in my New Year’s Resolution pile, this must have been one of the hardest reads. It’s magical realism, written by a German and set in St. Petersburg; can you imagine?
“Ferno” by Adam Blade
The boys love this book. It is volume one of the Beast Quest series. There are 60 (!) volumes and counting. Given that my sons are working their way through the series at a rate of knots, I thought that I should read volume 1 so that I could understand some part of their convoluted explanations of plot. The plot is not complex. Tom goes to free a beast from enchantment. He does it in a very pared down version of every fantasy novel you’ve ever read. But to be fair to the four people who write these books (Adam Blade, is, alas, a fictional character and the copyright to these volumes is held by Working Partners Ltd.), it’s fine. The writing is very accessible for small children and every page is a new cliff hanger. It’s spectacularly limited when it comes to character development and the plot is clichéd but, not if you’re six! Every old trope (missing father, faithful companion, exciting map) is a stunning new development to them. They talk about the books non-stop. Honestly, six year olds could have the best book club ever.