It’s been a very wet June here in the UK. I got completely drenched at my son’s rowing regatta and had to attempt the pretty hopeless task of drying my jeans off under the hand dryer in the ladies’ loos. I leave you to picture the scene. My poor old tomato plant doesn’t look very happy either. On the 23rd June the UK voted to leave the European Union, much to the dismay of me, my friends and family. So it’s been a rather dismal month all in all. However, I’ve ploughed on with my writing, although getting the word count up can feel, at times, like pulling teeth.
At the end of May I reported that my word count was 60,000. Well now it’s 64,400. Talk about crawling towards the finish line! I know that an increase of 4,400 doesn’t sound like a lot and I really wish the number was higher, but, as I remind myself, I’ve ditched some scenes that weren’t working, written new scenes and polished others. So quite a lot of work has gone into achieving a net increase of 4.4K. The only thing to do is to keep on working.
I filled in a gap in my reading this month by reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is pure Romanticism with a capital “R” and I loved it. The style reminded me very much of a classic German text I read at university, Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther) by Goethe, the towering figure of German Romantic literature and a proponent of the Sturm und Drang style (Storm and Stress). Maybe a good way to defeat those Brexit blues?
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre is an account of the friendship between Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliot and their respective careers in MI6 whilst Philby was secretly working for the KGB and betraying his country. Macintyre writes perceptively about the old-boy network of the English public school system which was in large part responsible for the fact that no one believed someone as charming and well-connected as Philby could be a Communist spy. This is a gripping account of friendship, trust and betrayal and is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.
I was really looking forward to reading At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier because I’ve loved her previous novels. But I have to say that I struggled with this one. The character of Sadie was so unlikable as to make the first half of the novel quite off-putting. Also, I didn’t agree with the editorial decision to remove all the apostrophes from Sadie’s first-person narratives. It’s presumably done to show the reader how ignorant and uneducated she is, but we know that anyway. The lack of apostrophes just makes the text difficult to read.
Different Class by Joanne Harris is the sequel to Gentlemen and Players, one of my favourite novels by her. Like most of her other books, Different Class is about the nature of identity. Harris plays with the reader’s expectations to craft a very clever novel dealing with highly topical issues, at least in the UK. The character of Roy Straitley, the dusty old Latin teacher, is brilliantly done. My only reservation was that, knowing the twist in Gentlemen and Players, I was on my guard this time and wouldn’t let myself fall into the trap of assuming that the non-Straitley chapters were written by the most obvious character. We don’t know who is writing those chapters until about three-quarters of the way through the book. The plot relies on us not knowing, but not knowing who the POV character is makes it difficult to commit to the story.
I’ve been busy on my non-fiction site, The Good Writer, adding posts and pages. The scope of the site covers three areas: grammar tips, self publishing and writing craft. The website is starting to take shape now, so please go and take a look.
I also helped a fellow writer set up her new author website. Rosemary A Johns writes dark fantasy and her debut novel Blood Dragons is coming out later this year. Please check out her website. It has some super-cool photographs!