“Great Irish Lives” ed. Charles Lysaght [New Year’s Resolution]
This is a collection of obituaries from the London Times, starting with Grattan and Daniel O’Connell and covering many major figures thereafter. It was a present and it isn’t the kind of thing I would have bought it myself but I found it entertaining and mildly interesting. Although, you would need to know a lot about the ins and outs of 19th century politics for most of it.
“Under My Skin – Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949” by Doris Lessing [New Year’s Resolution]
I loved chapter one – lots of ancestral history. I will love this book, I thought to myself. OK, you know where this is going. It was ok, but my fundamental problem was that I found the author very annoying and difficult to relate to which is a problem for autobiography. I found myself sympathising deeply with her much loathed mother. And she lives so much in her inner life, it can be a bit difficult to follow what is happening in her outer life. She assumes that you know a lot about her novels and her life already which, I suppose, is not unreasonable but it is a false assumption, in my case anyhow. She has lots of affairs, she leaves her husband and two small children, her second husband, possibly, becomes an East German spy. But yet, it is dull, for my money because she’s so enormously earnest.
“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” by Rebecca Miller [New Year’s Resolution]
I finally persuaded my book club to read one of my new year’s resolution books when I had them trapped in my house recently. It covers the descent into nervous breakdown of the perfect wife – something of a theme for Americans, I often think. It’s a reasonable page turner. The characters are not very believable; maybe people like our heroine do exist but I think it is doubtful. But lots of things happen to her and they are well-described and the book is well-written also. Entertaining.
“The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula Le Guin
We went into the library in Marino, round the corner from Bram Stoker’s house and they had an enormous gothic section. I was suitably impressed. They had a number of Ann Radcliffe books but when I asked for “The Mysteries of Udolpho” they said it had just been taken out. I took this instead. And a little quiz to check if anyone is reading along. Ann Radcliffe and Ursula Le Guin are linked in my mind by having been read by a fictional character in a book I read over the summer. If you identify it, you may be my husband.
Anyhow, this seemed appealing. Look, gender and science fiction, my key interests in one handy package. It starts off fine. Slightly underwhelming but fine. And that’s how it continues. The big item of interest is that she tries to imagine a world without gender. It’s not that interesting; and I’m a feminist.
“A Life of Contrasts” by Diana Mosley
I was reading this in tandem with Doris Lessing’s book and I have to say that I found it by far the more enjoyable read. I couldn’t help feeling that Doris Lessing was a much worthier person but far less entertaining than Diana Mosley.
This is, of course, more Mitfordia as Diana was born Mitford and became, briefly, Guinness and then Mosley. I know most of the stories and the cast of characters already. And Diana was probably the most interesting sister of them all. She defends Mosley at every turn and despite myself, I find some of the questions she raises interesting. She seems a charming and lovely person despite her beliefs – sorry, but there it is. She glosses over, as I suppose might be expected, the less pleasant aspects of her husband’s activities and she must have been the only, somewhat sane, (her comments on the deaths of the Goebbels children make me wonder whether she was entirely so) person defending Hitler in 1977. Definitely worth a read. But, if you are going to tackle only one Mitford book this year, make it the six sisters one.