I actually took a week off in February over half term. I don’t normally stop working, but this time I felt I needed a break and it did me good. Storm Doris brought a tree down in our garden last week but apart from that it’s great that the days are starting to get longer. As I write this I can hear a woodpecker drilling away outside.
I finished January with 18,000 words of Scarborough Rock and now at the end of February I have 27,000 words. That’s the sort of steady progress that I’ve learnt to be happy with. I like to take my time developing plots and I’ve already changed my mind over a few things.
I got lots of reading done this month, including re-reading two books by two of my favourite authors.
Under the Dome by Stephen King is a massive tome. I wrote a longer review of it here. We watched the television adaptation as a family and really enjoyed it. If you’ve seen the TV version then you have to be prepared for the book to be substantially different. The TV scriptwriters changed a lot of stuff and added a lot of material, particularly in the third season. However, the book has the advantage of being more focused and, in some ways, more unflinching. I would describe it as a study of human nature under the magnifying glass and, for the most part, it ain’t pretty.
I love Sarah Waters’ books but The Night Watch is the only one I struggled with on the first reading. I think this was third time I’ve read it now and I appreciate it much more. It’s a slow burn novel following a group of disparately related characters and the story moves back in time from 1947 to 1944 to 1941. The beauty of this book lies in the subtle interactions between the characters and the depiction of war-torn London. It’s all in the detail.
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson is the first in her Jackson Brodie detective series. This is another book that I first read years ago. This is not your standard crime fiction detective story by any means. The crimes are not that complicated and are solved relatively easily. It’s much more a novel about characters and life. It has a quirky, at times comical style. To enjoy it I think you have to appreciate Atkinson’s clever way with language and her slightly rambling stream of consciousness style. I love her books.
The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid is the second book in her Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. In an interview on the BBC with Andrew Marr she said that she wrote this book after meeting Jimmy Saville and deciding that under the TV image he was a deeply unsavoury character. Knowing this makes reading The Wire in the Blood even more chilling. It’s gripping and disturbing.
Here’s a short video I made about my novel Oranges for Christmas: