Monday, September 8, 2008


I've been reading Katie Fforde pretty regularly since her first book came out sometime when I was in China about 15 years ago. Her novels are gentle, cosy reads about comfy women usually in their 30s/40s discovering or rediscovering their faith in humankind in general and mankind in particular. There's a soothing familiarity to her plot-lines in which slightly or more-than-slightly ditzy female encounters mysterious and brooding chap and eventually, after encountering some sleeping policemen (can't go so far as to describe them as bumps), achieve an HEA. The books are all set in a slightly mythical but pleasant England, perhaps Cotswold-ish or Somerset or Gloucestershire where people have big range cookers and cottages. They are really high-quality braingum, and I have loved them fairly uniformly, but reading Going Dutch, her latest paperback, turned into a terrible chore.

It was the usual problem: I started off not terribly entranced by our heroines - there was Dora, who was a silly girl in her early 20s who had succumbed to pressure to get engaged but then ran out on her wedding day and takes refuge with her best friend's mother, who was dumped for a younger woman and has left the family home to live on a barge on the Thames. Both Dora and Jo are rather dull, although Dora is duller and drabber. They are both in recovery, and their recovery by and large seems to include intravenous cups of tea. Now I know that tea is a great panacea, and I have just finished my afternoon cuppa as I type, but non-stop tea-drinking does not a great plot make, even when the cups of tea are being made for nice and mysterious chaps helping you cross the North Sea in a barge. And one falls off, and they rescue him and when they are all in Holland, both Dora and Jo finally get off with their swains and eventually get home so that they can live happily ever after. That's it. I skimmed the last 50 pages. I cannot say I'm bursting to read my next Katie Fforde unless she's miraculously discovered some character variation and a touch more excitement plot-wise.

Then I turned to the travails of Ariel Manto and have become hooked. Ariel is not a nice girl, still less a nice woman. She's an obsessive, dodgy doctoral student faced with the mysteries of the multiverse and her adventures are utterly bizarre and compelling. I am really enjoying The End of Mr Y, and I can't end-read because I had a look and I can see it won't make complete sense unless I've read the book sequentially, although I have my notions. It felt as though my reading glands had suddenly been given a shot of bicarb mixed with vinegar - fizz running through the synapses and all systems go.


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