In which I wrap up… August

(1) Things which I have read
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. I really enjoyed the first two sections, though I could have done with less descriptions of space science and more just showing me how the story unravelled in space. I wish the third section had been a sequel, and I wish Stephenson hadn’t made his two main antagonist characters so unlikeable that their arguments barely got counted, because they had several good points. Still, quality space adventure: let’s all plan to move to the moon.

Walking Away, by Simon Armitage. I enjoyed this less than his account of his Penine Way walk, but still liked it a lot, because he’s an engaging companion walking in places I love.

The Martian, by Andy Weir. Rollicking space adventures Batman! Perhaps not the best written book of all time, but the characters and the plot worked, and the space science was more show than tell (looking at you, Neal Stephenson), and I enjoyed it barrel loads. Looking forward to the movie even more now, but glad I read this first.

Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offil. If you could read a rain shower on a sunny day in a place that you loved, that would be reading this book. It’s got joy and melancholy and love and pain and growing up and making choices, all in under 200 pages. A delight.

The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman. An important barnstormer of imperfect glory. I thought I might find the dialect hard work, but ended up thinking in it. I thought at 200 pages it might be going to be too long, and at 600 that it was just right. I love the relationship between Ice and Pasha and am more than slightly disconcerted by my attachment to it, because it says worrying things about what I’ll accept for the sake of chemistry. I both love and don’t love the ending, but I have no idea how else to end it in a way that I would accept as plausible.

I also abandoned a re-read of Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island for book club. I’d been looking forward to it a lot, but was sad to find that I was finding it petty and shallow, so I gave up rather than ending up getting really cross and sad about it.

(2) Things which I have watched
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Probably the best MI film since the first one, and better than Ghost Protocol by virtue of Tom Cruise appearing to be in the same film as everyone else.

Man from U.N.C.L.E. The unexpected joy of my summer, thank you Guy Ritchie (and not just for giving me Henry Cavill looking quizzical while wearing an apron). Slick, and shiny, and fun, silly without being too silly, and with the girl getting as much of a role and character as the boys (and with them being equally as gazed upon as her), this was a blast. Also, there was East Germany and Trabants!

Trainwreck. More fun than I thought it would be, but not quite as fun as some of the rave reviews suggested. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think it’s going to be a fixture in my comedy canon. It has, however, ensured I have added Bill Hader to the list of ‘weird funny guys I find attractive.’

The Bakkhai, at the Almeida. It was the right kind of weird and disturbing, and really well done. I was never completely sold on Ben Whishaw as Dionysos, but I thought that Bertie Carvel was phenomenal as Pentheus and Agave.

Three Days in the Country, at the National. I thoroughly enjoyed this version of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, and the way it portrayed life and love in the country as Russia was on the verge of major change. I thought John Simm hit the right balance between hopelessly devoted and slightly pathetic.

The Story of Swing and A Sondheim Cabaret (BBC Proms)
Two terribly fun, I just want to sing or dance along, shows. I particularly loved watching people dance along to In the Mood in the Royal Albert Hall (I had a seat in the auditorium, where it is slightly too vertiginous to dance). I also still have Too Many Mornings stuck in my head post-Sondheim.

(3) Things which I wrote that I’m fond of…
Quite a bit of book nerdery this month…
I recommended some books about Cornwall after reading Simon Armitage, and I wrote about my childhood heroines. I also shared some early thoughts that bring together some of the stuff I’m reading for work and more generally.

(4) A photo from the month gone by
I went back to the homeland for the bank holiday – aside from one day’s rain, it looked like this:

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(5) In the pile for September
Well, I’m in the middle of Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things, so I’ll be finishing that. Then I have the new Murakami (Wind / Pinball), which I can see driving me back onto A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance (the latter was my first Murakami, and so I have a huge affection for it), and the new Andrei Makine (A Woman Loved) . Plus, I have a yen to read some Patrick O’Brien, so I foresee The Hundred Days in my future. And finally there will be my London Book Club book, and I am super-excited by the prospect of everything on the shortlist this month.

I’m looking forward to seeing Rikki and the Flash at the cinema, Yo-Yo Ma play Bach’s Partitas for solo Cello at the Proms (Yo-Yo Ma Rules!) and I have ballet tickets for the ENB’s Lest We Forget and the Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, both of which I’ve seen before, but WHO CARES.

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