Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whilst I was away

One thing I really like about going away is that I get time, or make time, for some reading. I got through a load of novels on this trip, and though I took a load of theology, it somehow never really made it out of my bag! So here's some of them...

I couldn't believe that this was a first novel, it is so well written and evocative - a murder mystery set in the freezing wastes of Canada in the 1800s. Its mixture of three dimensional characters and powerful language made is a compelling read, it is insightful, sometimes challenging and a very good read.

As always, a fun read from Dan Brown, the man always delivers the goods - its about spying, politics, geology, extraterrestial life and extreme cold. All the old cliches fit - ripping yarn, page turner, racy, exciting etc etc etc...

Having been nice about Brown above, this one outshines the DaVinci code and out-Browns Brown..., whilst taking a similar 'religious mystery' approach. It's a compelling, well researched consideration of the current Arab/Jewish situation in Jerusalem and at the same time a well thought out thriller taking in themes like Nazi-ism, anti semitism, religious and racial prejudice. Along with stolen artefacts and a trip around the middle east and Europe. It is well put together, thought provoking and a very good read.

My favourite book of the holiday, this chronicles the story of a Scottish Church Minister who, apparently, has a meeting with the Devil and proceeds to alienate Parishioners, Church members and friends before his body is found many months later in a remote part of the highlands. It deals with issues of faith and belief, meaning and reason, hopes and fears. It talks about the humanity and vulnerability of Church leaders, and its clever, funny and very well put together. It doesn't attempt to try and tie things up nicely, and is presented in the form of an account of the events written by Gideon Mack, the minister, then a report from a journalist which is a comment on the veracity of the account neither of which are conclusive and each part of which begs questions about the other.

Not a novel, and mentioned in my last post, another very enjoyable read of the holiday was Talk to the Snail...

A very helpful delve into the psyche of the French, or rather how those who are more Anglo/American might understand the French way of thinking and doing. It's not an in-depth book, its funny without being smug, clever and witty without being too full of itself. Written by a Brit who's lived in Paris for over a Decade it displays something of an Urban bias but still gives some helpful tips and wry comments on the way the French do things. The sub-title is '10 Commandments for understanding the French' and it is divided up into readable chunks (there are 11 Commandments, but you have to read the introduction to see why) with very funny little thoughts and phrases at the end of each chapter, some of which can be very useful!

So that's some of what I read this last few weeks, the links will obviously take you to Amazon.co.uk. - not that I want you to go and buy all these, but there are more reviews there and things like ISBNs if you want to get them elsewhere. I recommend all of them, I was fortunate that I didn't read a duff book all holiday! I would have been miffed if I'd taken rubbish all the way to Bergerac!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Return of the wanderer (wonderer?)

Yes, we are back from our holidays, three whole weeks in gorgeous Dordogne, South West France. My Franglais just about managed to get the message across when it came to such essentials as 'where is the toilet?', 'a large black coffee please', 'may i have the menu?' and 'a beer, please'. I also learned that a mispronunciation of 'merci beaucoup' (thank you very much) can be easily mistaken for 'thanks, nice ass' (merci, beau cul) - though fortunately that was from a rather amusing book I read called 'Talk to the Snail' which gave the lowdown on French life in a witty and amusing and sometimes rude manner - rather than through personal experience.

I have decided that i want to live in France, but my limited French and the lack of Anglican positions makes this a complete fantasy! Unless I get that blockbuster novel written or make a living through writing and do the Vicar bit on the side (yes, I would do this job unpaid if I could afford to),

What was most fantastic (even more so than the lovely grub, temperate weather, incredible scenery, amazing medieval citadels and chateaux, fresh fruit and veg, wine, pleasant beer and general chilled pace of life) was the time I got to spend with lovely wife and gorgeous children. Definitely worth a 14 hour drive each way (still recovering, got back 3am) just for that! No phones, faxes, emails etc etc either. Hooray!

There are lots of things going on in my head and in my life which i am sure I will blog about, but for now 'au revoir' and thanks for all the nice comments whilst I've been away. thanks too to Naomi of 'Diary from England' for including me in her 'Creative Blogger Awards'.