It’s been a challenging month, with my daughter still recovering at home from extensive orthopaedic surgery, and reluctantly doing some home schooling from the sofa. We’ve been sharing a sofa bed downstairs for two months while she needs care in the night, and at 14 she could really do without her mum sharing a bedroom with her!
Anyway, all that, combined with the usual pressures of work and so on, mean that I have to snatch time to read. I’ve read and reviewed five of my #20booksofsummer: Olga Ravn’s The Employees, Deborah Levy’s Real Estate, Annabel Lyon’s Consent, Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, which had been on my TBR list for more than 20 years!!! I enjoyed them all, but especially the Levy, with Consent coming second.
Aside from selections from my carefully curated 20booksofsummer, I’ve gone off-list by reading Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, which is a beautiful book, and which I absolutely loved. A pitch-perfect pastiche of 80s London, examining the affairs and ambitions of Nick Guest, who is openly gay, somewhat hedonistic, intermittently serious (with an academic interest in Henry James), and desperately social climbing, during the decade that brought the devastation of HIV/AIDS to a generation of young men. Nick’s ingratiatingly close relationship with the glamorous, posh family of his handsome Oxford friend Toby (Tobias) Fedden, and his affair with another former student acquaintance, the gorgeous and closeted Lebanese millionaire Wani Ouradi, form the core of the novel. The story also includes some very funny scenes referencing Margaret ‘The Lady’ Thatcher, with whom patriarch and positively salivating Tory MP Gerald Fedden is captivated. The line of beauty of the title can be read as referring both to the copious lines of coke that are chopped out on various surfaces throughout the novel, and to the architectural ogee, a sinuous line that emulates the curve of a buttock or a muscled back: Nick is a man who has a “love of the world that was shockingly unconditional”, and his head is turned as much by a beautiful work of art as by a sexy young man. Carefully plotted and wonderfully evocative, I absolutely loved this stunningly written book, which was perfect in every way. The Line of Beauty won the Booker Prize in 2004.
I also finished reading Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel The Circle, which is a damning dystopian critique of the perils of social media and of an ever-more-closely connected society and workplace. The story was a bit clunky in places, but the message was powerful and thought-provoking.
Finally I listened to a clunking audiobook of Louise Penny’s Still Life, a crime novel that I wished I hadn’t bothered with, and read Jane Harper’s crime thriller The Dry, which was much better.
TVwise, I watched Bo Burnham’s Inside on Netflix, which was a warped piece of genius, a one-man musical comedy show written and performed during lockdown, which made me laugh uncomfortably and also worry about Burnham’s mental health – and wish I hadn’t watched it with my two teens.