more reading

I’ve got into a habit of reading on the metro to work. It’s not long – only six stops which takes about ten minutes. But I am a fast reader so I can get through quite a lot of pages in that short time, and I love the feeling of escaping into a book for the ride.

It also relies on me finding a seat since I have not mastered the skill of standing up and reading, particularly since some morning metro drivers seem to enjoy violently shunting their passengers around to test their balance skills.

Since the last book reviews I did here, I’ve read two more. The first came highly recommended by my friend Claire, who is an avid reader and a writer so has helpfully high standards. The second was one my mum gave me for Christmas, knowing I’d enjoyed another book by the same author.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann is quite simply a beautifully written book. His language, descriptions of people and places and the way he slowly pulls you in to the story is just lovely to experience. It is set around the famous event when a man walked a cross a tightrope between the twin towers in New York one morning (completely illegally…). The book tells the stories of a number of different characters and how their lives are impacted together that same morning in hugely different ways.

It tells each person’s story one at a time, but then you catch glimpses of them through the other stories. The book had this slightly heavy feeling as I read. It painted slow but impacting pictures of grief, poverty, prostitution, racism, infidelity. But you were also thrown images of hope, friendship and love in the midst of that heaviness that made the book bearable.

I don’t think it’s a book for everyone. It’s not always an easy read but it’s a beautiful read, and if you appreciate authors who use language really well and weave a careful tapestry of stories together, you’ll enjoy this.

The second book I read was almost the opposite to McCann’s. The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall is an unashamed romance set in early 20th century Russia on the brink of the Revolution. It follows the story of young aristocratic Valentina Ivanova, a piano player whose life is turned upside down in the opening pages when her beloved sister is crippled by a revolutionary bomb. What follows is a story of love and revenge which completely absorbed me.

I rarely see where a story is going. I guess if I stopped and thought about it objectively I could often guess how a book or film is going to conclude, but I never do, because when I read or watch a film it just takes over my entire thought process. I am literally standing alongside the main characters through every page and scene. I think that is partly why I enjoy books that are so different from each other. But it’s also dangerous, because if things are going badly for my character I will be moody and depressed until I get a few chapters further and the possibility of hope and a happy ending is thrown in.

That’s also why I had to stop myself watching Grey’s Anatomy. I loved it but it was terrible for my emotional stability… 🙂

But back to the book, which is fantastic. I was so keen to read a few more pages each day that I became one of those metro-riders who keenly observes the carraiges as they pull into the station, analysing where the best opportunities for an empty seat are and not allowing other slower passengers a chance to get there first!

If you like historical novels and if you love a thrilling romance, this book is for you. Also, the man Valentina is madly in love with is a Danish engineer, so I felt we had a lot in common *wink*.