Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

Was away on a short holiday last week and spent a lovely seven days in Liguria, in the small town of Monéglia, near Cinque Terre. Ate really well and spent a lot of time sitting at the beach or at the pool. Traveling with an almost-three-year-old means there are not a lot of hours in the day for reading, but I did manage to read Tove Jannson’s excellent excellent excellent The Summer Book and then re-read Alison Anderson’s wonderful Hidden Latitudes, which I read years ago before I started this blog. I really loved both books and will write about them soon because they both deserve proper discussion.

Coming home from holiday, I was greeted by a very full mailbox (thank you Bookmooch and The Book Depository) and cannot wait to begin reading through this stack of recently acquired books:

  • Jess Stoner – I Have Blinded Myself Writing This (am so excited to read Jess’s book – she’s a friend of mine and frequent reviewer at Necessary Fiction, and I just know that this unique book is going to be real treasure)
  • Barbara Comyns – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (another Comyns and I’ve heard it is excellent. Hooray to Dorothy, A Publishing Project for re-issuing this)
  • Mary Costello – The China Factory (I gave away the two copies I already had, so had to order a new one. I loved this book that much.)
  • Christine Schutt – Florida (cannot remember now who mentioned this book to me but it looks so lovely, cannot wait to get started)
  • Marianne Wiggins – Herself in love (short stories!)
  • Bernard Malamud – The Natural (getting ready for the September edition of The Dead Writer’s Book Club – won’t you join in?)
  • Helen DeWitt – The Last Samurai (any book that involves an endless looping of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is probably going to be fantastic)
  • Michael Ondaatje – The English Patient (have never read it, nor have I seen the film. Figure I should start with the book)
  • John Cheever – The Wapshot Scandal (why not?)
  • Tessa Hadley – The London Train (I’ve read several Hadley short stories in the New Yorker lately, so went to look for one of her books)

As I’m sure you can guess, books are always coming into this house in alarming numbers, but this stack gathering in one week impressed the entire household… it’s very hard to decide where to start.

14 Responses to “holiday reading & new books”

  1. Lilian Nattel

    I can’t believe nearly 3 years old! It seems like she was born yesterday. What a wonderful stack of books.

  2. Rebecca H.

    How fun to come home to those great books! I really enjoyed the DeWitt novel — very smart and entertaining. I just read my first Comyns recently (Our Spoons Came From Woolworths), and it was very good, so I’m looking forward to more.

    • Michelle

      I’m so happy to hear about the DeWitt novel – you’re not the first to say good things, but I value your opinion. And glad you liked the Comyns. I think you would also really like her other books. I’m looking forward to Who was Changed and Who was Dead.

  3. Guilherme

    On The English Patient, I’d say see the movie first. That’s what I usually do anyway, but in this case it was particularly apt because the stunning scenery (and the acting, soundtrack, photography, etc…) will draw you in and you’ll appreciate the book even more. I think.

  4. Helen

    I hope you enjoy the Comyns, Michelle, I think it might be my favourite of her books (and in a different league to The Juniper Tree).

    As for The English Patient, I always prefer reading the book first. In this case I thought that the film was everything Guilherme writes – beautiful scenery, acting, soundtrack, photography – but turned the story itself into something slightly different to the one I found in the novel, more focused on romantic love.

    • Helen

      Oooh, that was a bossy comment!

      Meant to say, finding a pile of books like that is the perfect end to a holiday surely!

      • Michelle

        Oh goodness, not at all! I tend to prefer reading the book before ever seeing the film, only because I don’t want to have the actors’ faces in my head when I read the story. Unfortunately, for The English Patient, I’ve seen images from the film, so that’s already finished for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do for this one – for simplicity sake, I’ll probably read the book first. Mainly because I so rarely have time for films these days.

        And yes, getting a pile of books like the ones now sitting on my desk was definitely the perfect end to my holiday.

    • Guilherme

      “…turned the story itself into something slightly different to the one I found in the novel…”

      With you on that, Helen, I felt the same way.
      And the focus goes from the sapper and the nurse, in the book, to the “English” guy and the Englishwoman in the movie.
      Both highly enjoyable. One of those rare occasions when the movie is right up there with the book.
      Michelle, I just prefer to see the movie first to avoid disappointment, but now I remember you once mentioned that you get actors faces stuck in your head…

      • Michelle

        It’s really interesting to me when movies manage to accomplish something similar to the book – there are very few films I can think of off the top of my head that do this. But I love it when they do. And I think that often it’s because they do focus, as both of you mention here with respect to The English Patient, on something slightly different than the book. So I really look forward now to reading and watching The English Patient. Will let you all know which one I do first.

        One book/movie duo I can think of that does something similar is Stefanie Zwieg’s Nowhere in Africa. Beautiful book, stunning movie. I saw the movie first in this case…

      • Helen

        Hello Guilherme – thanks for the heads up you wrote on my blog! Yes, I totally agree, and good point about the change of focus.

        And you are absolutely right Michelle, about films of books. The two media are so different, with different strengths; it’s a great pity that so often directors stick to the narrative and structure they found in the book when films can ‘tell’ in very different ways.

        Hope you enjoy both!

  5. Stefanie

    So glad you had a nice holiday. And what a wonderful thing to come back to, a mailbox full of books 🙂

    • Michelle

      Thank you – it was lovely. And yes, mailboxes full of books might be my favorite treat in the whole world.

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