#24 – Read all the BBC Top 100 books: Progress update
At the time of my last update on this particular challenge, in February, I had eight books left to read. I made great progress between February and April, rattling my way through five of them. Then I hit War and Peace. One thousand, four hundred and fifty seven pages of zzzzzzz….. Which I have, finally, dragged myself through to the end of. As you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t enjoy this one. For me neither a good story nor a good historical account of the Napoleonic Wars; once again characters I didn’t care about and wasn’t interested in (this seems to be a common theme for me with Russian writers) and lots of unnecessary naval gazing about the nature of history and motivations for wars. I was frankly relieved to finally close the book and read something much more interesting instead. I had resulting to checking the number of pages and counting down which is never a good sign. (In fact, it put me off that much that I have gone ‘off list’ with my reading for a bit of rest and light relief but at the end of October I’ll be back on it.)
The pick of this crop of books for me was Katherine: Anya Seton’s imaginative retelling of the life of Katherine Roet, ultimately wife to the powerful and intriguing John of Gaunt. A fascinating story, captivatingly written, this one made me keep turning the pages. I adored Katherine and wanted to know how her story ended. And for a woman living at the time she lived, it is a most remarkable story. I’m not sure how much of Seton’s version is historically accurate and how much is romanticised to make a good story but this book interested me enough to make me want to learn more. Apparently Alison Weir has written a good biography of Katherine so I shall look that up.
Less enjoyable were the two Jacqueline Wilsons; Vicky Angel and Tracey Beaker. As I suspected I wouldn’t, I didn’t like Tracey at all. Attitude problem. Vicky the ‘angel’ was equally unlikeable. Putting it bluntly I thought she was a bitch and I was glad she’d died. When I think back to the books I was reading as a child and young teenager (Enid Blyton, Judy Blume, Michelle Magorian and their ilk) I feel really sorry for the lost magic. The books clearly popular with kids today are gritty and real and don’t offer the chance for adventure and escape that I had and loved.
Another ‘teenage’ book, Holes was better than the Jacqueline Wilsons but stretched improbable co-incidences just a little too far for me. A light and easy read, although I would hardly class it as a classic.
And finally there was Brave New World. Hardly brave, more terrifying! Scary to even imagine a world where emotion is totally conditioned out of people and people are literally ‘born to work’. Of course, I found myself rooting for the rebel but actually on the whole I found this a disturbing and distasteful read.
So now 98 books down, only two remain: Winnie the Pooh and Ulysses. Hard to find two more contrasting reads I suspect. I’ll tackle the bear first, then brace myself for what I am sure will be a War and Peace style endurance challenge. At least I’ve got 18 months to finish it in. Wish me luck…