I’ve been on holiday in Berlin for a week, and I’m catching up with my 20 books of summer posts before I head off again for a few nights: these were books 9, 10, 11 and 12 of my 20, by three British authors and one Irish writer. I’ve gone off-grid a bit from my original list of 20 books.
Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood.
I felt I needed to read this 1930s, Berlin-set novel, given our last-minute trip to Berlin. It’s a pacy, often funny novel (“I must have been already drunk when I arrived at the Troika, because I remember getting a shock when I looked into the cloakroom mirror and found that I was wearing a false nose”), which takes a darker and more sinister turn. The implacable William Bradshaw, who is loosely based on the author himself (who lived in the city as an English teacher and sometime sex tourist), meets the ebullient, campily mysterious Mr Norris on a train. Bradshaw finds himself sucked into a decadent and amoral world, against the sinister backdrop of the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis.
Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews
This is a new release, which I bought in hardback because of the beautiful, poetic writing in the opening pages. It’s about a young woman who falls in love, but, dealing with past traumas, is uncertain whether to give herself fully to the new relationship. She has a difficult relationship with food and her own body, a tendency towards self-destruct, and a compulsion to refuse herself sensual pleasures. This was a lush coming-of-age novel, set partly in Spain as well as areas of London that I am very familiar with, but I found the protagonist’s endless over-thinking a bit … tedious. I just couldn’t summon up patience or interest in a navel-gazing 20-something now I’m a bit of an old bag.
Odd Girl Out by Laura James
This is a memoir written by a woman diagnosed with “high-functioning” autism in mid-life. It was interesting to read of Laura’s challenges and successes and to increase my understanding of ASD, given a recent family diagnosis, and given so many of my friends also have family with ASD, though the writing was sometimes a bit too flat to sustain a full-length book.
Look Here by Ana Kinsella
New in paperback, a psychogeography of London from the perspective of Irish journalist Kinsella, interspersed with interviews with colourful Londoners and ‘field notes’: brief sketches of people seen or overheard. Surely inspired by Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse, this was an enjoyable but rather slight exploration of London life.