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.
Cold Spring Harbor - Richard Yates This treads similar territory to other Richard Yates novels, though it covers a shorter period, in fewer pages, focusing on younger protagonists. As always, more is conveyed by what is unsaid than what is actually uttered (e.g. the awkward driving lesson where nothing was taught and nothing learned).

Evan Shepard is a bit of a loser who gets back on track (slightly) when he gets into cars. Nevertheless, he already has a teenage shotgun wedding, child and divorce behind him when a chance encounter with the Drakes (divorced mother, daughter Rachel and mid teen son Philip) offers the possibility of new happiness, stability and purpose.

Although the story is ostensibly about the ups and downs of Evan and Rachel's relationship, it is the lesser characters that gives this book its richness, interest and humour (e.g. Rachel's "torrentially talking mother", Gloria). The only weakness is 7 year old Kathleen, whose speech doesn't ring true.

Further depth comes from contrasts: all the characters are anxious for love and approval, conscious that they don't quite fit in anywhere - except for the wealthy aristocratic neighbour who is effortlessly at ease anywhere; Evan did too much too young, and Phil hates him for that whilst also being frustrated at being a late developer himself; Evan's father Charles' ambitions have been thwarted by visual impairment and then caring, uncomplainingly, for his psychosomatically housebound wife, so he tries to live vicariously through his son (doomed to fail), and Gloria brazenly speaks her mind, in contrast with Charles' cautious reticence.

There are some wonderful, if painful snippets: "smile at her in a way that would soon become habitual: a mixture of pity, fond teasing and readiness for love"; eating supper in silence EVERY DAY, so as not to miss a radio soap; "even their handshake was a failure"; "in this artificial household, dinner was the most oppressive event of the day", and the observation that an unpopular boy has to chase friends as if they were girls.

Intriguing trivia: it is dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut (they were friends).

Currently reading

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