I had to rush 'There but for the' by Ali Smith back to the library last week before I had the chance to review it. Like 'The Accidental' which I reviewed almost exactly a year ago, it has been longlisted for the Orange Prize, and it was a similarly weird book. For all the other apparently intellectual quirks and references that were lost on me it was enamoured to me by the information that the young girl Brooke was named for Louise Brooks, because my daughter Tish (real name Thymian) is named after the character that Louise Brooks plays in 'Diary of a lost Girl'. It seems silly but such small incidental information can frequently give me a bond with a story that might otherwise have passed into obscurity. On the surface this is a tale about Miles, who shuts himself into a stranger's spare room during dinner and stays there, and all sorts of stuff starts happening around him, people are drawn in and the whole event takes on a life of it's own, until it almost becomes irrelevant whether he is still in the room or not. It is a clever book, about words and language as much as it is about people, and about society as much as about personal relationships. I liked all the references to Greenwich and the meridian and Brooke's obsession with it. In fact she rapidly became my favourite person. It kind of drifted inconclusively to the end in the same way 'The Accidental' did, which I liked, as if things aren't really as important as all that.
'The End of Mr Y' by Scarlett Thomas was also long listed for the Orange Prize, back in 2008. This book was on audiobook and it seemed to go on and on interminably, or maybe it was just really slow to get in to. I am not sure if I liked it. It was almost trying to be too clever, not 'literary' clever but the premise for the story is clever, but then it mixed up science and superstition and religion and it became a bit too much for me. Our protagonist Ariel discovers a copy of a rare book, 'The End of Mr Y' and it contains instructions for reaching the 'Troposphere', a kind of mind space, where you can enter other's consciousness and move through time and space by jumping between people or even animals. It is all very surreal and the ideas about existence outside your physical body tend to leave me a bit cold. It got a bit carried away with it's own cleverness and I was bored and in the end took it to work to listen to just to get it finished as I wanted to find out how it all ended... and it was a bit predictable. Sorry.
Have also listened to 'The London Train' by Tessa Hadley and 'The Whole Day through' by Patrick Gale, neither of which made a big enough impact for me to was to write anything about them. Or maybe I just can't be bothered much at the moment, am very much lacking any inspiration from anything I have read, certainly not enough to want to jump up and down and tell people to go read it themselves.