It feels like a million years since I was reading on the beach in Cornwall. I got so involved with Jamrach’s Menagerie that I forgot about suncream and ended up with a sunburnt cleavage – not a good look. Hardly a hardship in comparison to the characters in the book, though, who sailed off to the south seas to find a dragon and ended up in a very sticky situation indeed. It is published by Canongate and feels to me very much like a Canongate book. If, in a dark office, The Crimson Petal and The White snuggled up to The Life of Pi, then Jamrach’s Menagerie would be the result. And very much a cherished love child, I think.
It was another good book to be reading in the company of my father, who left Ireland when he was fifteen as a cabin boy on a German ship. Every so often I’d read aloud a bit about all sailors being mad men and my Dad would sagely nod. Every night I’d eat the dinner my parents cooked and then enjoy the stories my Dad told about his life at sea.
And so on to Sebastian Barry and On Canaan’s Side. It is such a funny thing, reading. It’s a terrible admission but I’ve never really got on with Sebastian Barry before. I’ve picked them up and put them down and never quite been in the right the mood. I’ve always thought this was my problem rather than his and that I’d get around to appreciating him one day. And that day came. On Canaan’s Side is a wonderful novel and is jostling with The Stranger’s Child for first place in my longlist affections.
And then my holiday ended and I came back to London and all my responsibilities. I’m finding the final two books less enjoyable (I’ve abandoned one of them half way through with not much desire to finish it) and do wonder whether they would be pleasing me more if I were under an apple tree with all the time in the world rather than snatching bits here and there and always feeling fairly aware that there are other jobs I should be doing.
Booker longlist action is continuing in Cornwall without me, though. I spoke to my mother today. She is reading Jamrach’s Menagerie and my Dad is reading Derby Day.
Apparently my Dad is finding a lot of similarities between the crooked race goers in Derby Day and the various types he has known in the course of his eventful life. I do wish I was there to be hearing about it over dinner.