The Way We Live Now – Anthony Trollope
This is the first Trollope novel I’ve ever read, and I have to admit it was a bit of Herculean challenge at times. It’s not that it wasn’t good – it was – but at 762 pages, it required a bit of sticking power and there’s a lot of detail. I’m glad I did though. Set in London in the 1870s, it’s a sharp social satire on greed, ambition, love (and maybe a bit of lust) and other human follies. If you fancy a sweeping, panoramic read, then give it a go – despite its age it really does feel remarkably fresh and modern.
A Summer at Sea – Katie Fforde
This is something completely different, and perfect if you fancy a bit of light (but reasonably intelligent) froth. This one follows the usual quirky pattern of a Katie Fforde romance: plucky heroine meets handsome chap… this time it’s a midwife on a career break, spending a summer cooking on a steam boat in the Western Isles of Scotland. It was as light-hearted and charming as Katie Fforde books always are, although I think her more recent novels are a bit weak compared to her earlier ones (my favourites are Living Dangerously and Wild Designs). Nevertheless, it’s a nice, effortless summer read.
Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser
Now we’re back to the past again, although this time it’s Chicago in the 1880s. The story is all about Carrie, who arrives in the city from the country aged eighteen. We follow her struggles to find work in the rapidly growing city, and then her fascinating rise as the mistress of a wealthy, but flawed, man. The novel is very direct and modern and was considered pretty shocking at the time, and was first published in a heavily edited form in 1900. Carrie is not always a particularly likeable character, and her decisions (and the narrative of the novel) are strikingly modern and brutal at times. It really is a fascinating read – in parts sad, shocking and unsettling – but, also a great page turner and I couldn’t put it down.
What have you been reading lately?