The hardest part about doing the master’s thesis was trying to work up the energy to read something new at the end of the day. For about three weeks I had no internet in my new flat, so there was precious little to do but I still managed to turn to my meagre DVD collection before picking up my current book. But here’s what I did read, fiction-wise.
This summer I’ve read the latest in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, Shadow of Night. Set partially in late 16th century London, I galloped through the book and periodically called my mother to squeal over minute historical details that I knew (I knew) because of my graduate program. Makes all my student loans feel worth-while. Last Tuesday Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross held a talk and book-signing with Harkness, who is also a professor of history. Not only was she absolutely delightful to listen to, but when I approached her with my books (first in the queue, knees knocking together) and told her that I just finished my master’s thesis that very day, not ONLY did she write a nice inscription for me but when she heard my thesis topic she said it sounded excellent. I floated on clouds all the way to London Bridge train station (an hour’s walk from Charing Cross, by the by).
I also read Penelope Hughes-Hallett’s The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817. Though technically non-fiction, it was absolutely fascinating. Rife with details (bless those literary figures for writing down their every thought), the book paints a fantastic picture of B.R. Haydon’s circle of friends, which included including John Keats and William Wordsworth among many others.
I’m currently two-thirds of the way through Bleak House, and I must admit it’s rather bleak. The plot is interesting, of course, and the writing and the character descriptions are as fantastic as a reader expects Dickens’ to be. But when you want the female protagonist to start cracking skulls and stop being so damn insipid it’s difficult to find the will to continue with it. I’m hoping to finish it quickly so I can move on.
For the plane ride, I’ve bought Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Man Booker Award-winning Wolf Hall. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Bring Up the Bodies has just been announced as part of the Short List for the next Man Booker award. I adored the first book, so hopefully the second will be just as good.