Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Six Records of a Floating Life - Fu Shen, Leonard Pratt, Chiang Su-Hui This was written in the late 1700s and early 1800s by a Chinese man who drifted between various clerical and artistic jobs.

Only four of the original six chapters exist, and it makes a very different style of storytelling: each chapter is thematic, and chronological within, but the book overall is not chronological, so some episodes are described in different chapters, in different ways (layers of floating records). It works very well, though the various notes, maps and appendices in this edition are very helpful too.

The four chapters concern his courtship and marriage; their hobbies and pastimes (mainly horticultural); the problems that beset them (ill health, un(der)employment, financial woes), and the author's travels. The last one is particularly good if you're familiar with Suzhou/Shanghai area, but perhaps less engaging if you're not.

It gives a fascinating insight into real lives of the period, because it is an authentic voice of that time. Very different from reading a modern historical novel, however well researched. Shen Fu isn't entirely likeable (though you have to admire his honesty), but his wife is delightful: bright, cheeky, slightly rebellious yet happy to help him find a concubine.

I read it in a day and whilst I wasn't rushing (it's pretty short), there is a beauty to it that really justifies a more leisurely approach.

After this, read The Red Thread by Nicholas Jose, in which a contemporary art dealer tracks down the missing chapters and notices echoes between the book and his life. See https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/35951482.

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China MiƩville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake