I’m not making much progress with attempting to read War and Peace for the umpteenth time.
This is for two reasons.
I keep finding other books I’d prefer to read, notably Citizen Clem by John Bew which is absolutely brilliant and deserves all the accolades that have been heaped on it.
I keep going off at tangents to find out more about things that come up in the book. Yesterday I was looking up the WW1 Gallipolli campaign in which Attlee was a serving officer; Edward Bellamy’s 1887 novel “Looking Backwards” which appears to have influenced Attlee’s political thinking; and some of the WW1 poets as Attlee tried his hand at writing poetry in his early years and during his war service. I was reminded of studying the poems of Wilfred Owen for A level English Literature in the late 1960s and took a few minutes to visit some of them again. I learned Anthem for Doomed Youth off-by-heart and have never forgotten the opening lines:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
I’m about halfway through Citizen Clem now and enjoying every page of the biography.
In recent months I’ve developed a taste for dystopian fiction especially Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Terry Tyler’s Project Renova series. I love Terry Tyler novels and have read them all but was surprised when she moved into dystopian fiction for her new trilogy. What an achievement! She’s made a brilliant genre transition whilst retaining her distinctive author voice. The next book in the Project Renova series is to be published later in the year so, while waiting patiently for publication day of Book Three, I’ve been reading Active: Before joining the resistance you must first become active by Dan Hastings. The novel takes a number of present day issues and develops them further into a plausible, dystopian future set in 2030. The novel has many qualities of a thriller and the juxtaposition of the two genres makes for an interesting read.
I like Lynn Gerrard’s poetry and her third collection Whisperings and Wonderings: The Grumblings of a Gargoyle is excellent. Many of the poems are dark and occasionally disturbing as the writer explores Death, Relationships and a little Philosophy. The collection is cleverly balanced with some lighter, humorous poems strategically placed to prevent the collection becoming depressing. I re-read the book earlier this week, dipping into the collection a few poems at a time and enjoying them just as much in the second helping. I really liked both earlier collections of poems from Lynn Gerrard and this book is just as good. I understand a fourth collection is in the pipeline and I’m looking forward to reading it.
So, not much reading time for War and Peace! As the late, great Frank Zappa is reputed to have said: Too many books; not enough time…..
….which leads me on to my
reason for not reading War and Peace.
I’ve watched the BBC adaptation of War and Peace on DVD. The fantastic James Norton, currently starring in the Sunday night drama, McMafia, plays Andrei Bolkonsky and he and the rest of the cast create excellent portrayals of the richly, complex characters. The settings and costumes are lavish and there are some graphic battle reconstructions. The series cracks along at a great pace packing all those thousands of words into just six episodes. It’s a real TV drama treat. Watching the TV version has helped with my struggle to remember the names of all the characters. Whether or not I’ll ever get into reading the novel in its entirety, I really can’t say. War and Peace remains open on my Kindle but I’ve a queue of other books to read after I’ve finished with Citizen Clem.
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