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Reading Life: 4th May 2016

A photograph of the site of the Curious Arts Festival

As much as I like using flowers as the visual theme of these posts, I can’t say I’ve all that many photographs left so I welcomed the chance to change it up a bit this time. The photo above is of last year’s Curious Arts Festival which I’ll be speaking about in a moment.

I’m still reading Far From The Madding Crowd; about half-way through now. I have come to terms with the fact that it isn’t (wasn’t? considering I’m half-way) going to be the glorious revelation I’d hoped when I first decided to read it – whilst my fifteen year old self may not have enjoyed it due to it being classwork and something she couldn’t relate to at that age and not having yet studied the period enough, I didn’t expect I would feel a similar boredom, if caused by different factors, this time. I’d thought I would love it; I don’t know why – I suppose there was something in my subconscious that paired ‘classic’ with ‘older now’ and with my teacher’s stopping the video cassette of the old film and saying “look at his eyes, girls!” which continues to be one of the very few things I remember verbatim from those years. (I now realise she was speaking of Troy as I vaguely remember a dark-haired man in a red military jacket, all 70s or 80s hair and that screen distortion that came with pausing videos.)

I digress. I don’t hate it by any means – I love Hardy’s clever independent woman moments wherein an appearance from Destiny’s Child wouldn’t go amiss, and I like his use of gender stereotypes and even the way he feels a need to explain obvious things, but the endless description of the country and night sky I could do without. It’s not Dickens – it’s not wordy – it’s just a bit dull. Yes, Hardy, I get it – please move on. This said, as I near 65% (I stopped reading my physical version because seeing the number of pages put me off) it’s starting to look up. There’s potential in it, I think, to get really good.

So Hardy’s book is my long-term read; I’m reading a couple of chapters a day, sometimes more if they’re short, full of dialogue, and unaccented (not often, then) and in the meantime I’ve been getting through the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist and whatever takes my fancy. I’ve put A Little Life on the sidelines until I finish Hardy because two long reads, albeit I know Yanagihara is a more compelling read for me, is a bit much. I’ve still the Thackeray and Tender Is The Night unfinished on my 2016 list which is giving me enough of a false sense of having read a good number of books; I don’t need to up that count.

A photograph of the Curious Arts Festival

Moving away from books themselves I’m contemplating the Curious Arts Festival. It’s a smaller festival, less known, hosted at Pylewell Park in the New Forest. This year it’s from 22-24th July and if you go for the whole weekend you can take a tent and pitch it in the grounds; you’re right there, no need to travel during the festival itself. Pitching is free once you’ve a ticket but you can rent a more luxury tent if you wish. It promises to be a weekend of literature, music, theatre, and good food, and there are plenty activities for children, too.

Given it’s not for a few months yet, the list of people confirmed is still growing; at present highlights include Carol Ann Duffy, Deborah Moggach, S J Parris, Renée Knight, Meg Rosoff, Joanna Cannon, and S J Watson.

Part of the selling point for it is surely the location – to paraphrase Marks And Spencer’s adverts (“this is not just chocolate, this is Marks And Spencer’s chocolate”, repeat for any other number of items) this is not just the New Forest, this is an estate in the New Forest, and beautiful, too.

I’ve been watching TV recently; this happens rarely at the moment – there are too many books to read. I pulled a muscle which caused me pain for a good while and for a few days could do nothing but sit still. A few years ago – well, 2010, I suppose, when it was first shown – I’d earmarked The Indian Doctor as something I wanted to watch and then went and missed it. Anyway, it was repeated on iplayer. I liked it but it was a bit cringey at times and the Indian drumming used as incidental music was a bit too, ‘don’t forget, there are Indians in Wales’, making the situation be a bit too exotic. Other than that I watched Maigret and Being The Brontës. The latter was fair, the former I thought very good. A lot of people have said Rowan Atkinson’s Maigret isn’t sprightly enough, not humorous enough, but be that as it may I thought it was a good programme and dealt with the source material well.

No Star Wars comment from me today; I’m sure you’ve heard it enough.

How is your reading going?



May 4, 2016, 10:41 pm

Shame you are not enjoying the Hardy. He does seem to divide people – my sister hates him; my husband loves him….


May 5, 2016, 3:57 pm

Like you, I read a short story of Hardy’s in school and really didn’t enjoy it – I did enjoy Far From the Madding Crowd as an adult though.

I am currently reading Scottish, historical fiction Turn of the Tide by Margaret Skea and the children’s classic The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit.


May 5, 2016, 4:03 pm

Oops I’ve finished The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit! I am now reading another children’s classic The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley.

Laurie C

May 5, 2016, 4:05 pm

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Thomas Hardy, so you go, girl! ;) I’m patting myself on the back for completing a review that I started drafting ages ago. I couldn’t quote anything because my e-ARC had expired (poor planning on my part) by the time I wrote the review. Oh well, one down from my going overboard on NetGalley over the winter! Just finished Jennifer Haigh’s Heat & LIght, which was also good.


May 7, 2016, 12:22 am

My reading slowed down a bit the last couple weeks. I am hoping to kick start it a bit this weekend!

Alice Farrant

May 15, 2016, 7:03 pm

I often think I’m going to love a classic now because I’m older or I’ve read loads of books now i’m ready for them haha. Sadly I too often over estimate how interested I will be in them. I think this will be a book you will love you read, but won’t love the process of reading.


May 24, 2016, 10:07 am

Bookertalk: It ended well enough, it’s just that slog to get there. I can see why he might divide. Certainly I’m ready for more filler-then-greatness in future!

Jessica: I think I understand why they chose Hardy for school but at that age it’s just that bit too hidden behind the writing. I feel I missed your review; I’ll have to have a look for it. You’re reading The Water-Babies! That’s one of those classics that gets forgotten, isn’t it? Good choice.

Laurie: Thank you ;) I’m considering it a personal literary milestone. Well done on that review, it’s so difficult finishing an older draft. In case it’s one you haven’t posted yet, have you tried GoodReads for quotes? (Not trying to add to your work load!) Yes to that one down thing, it’s nice to just get the feedback sent.

Kailana: Hope it goes well :)

Alice: Yes to that! I’m all mature so it’ll definitely work… ah, not so much. That was the case – I’m glad I read it and I did love the ending but apart from it I’m glad I’ve done it.



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