What I’m Reading – Caro Fraser

Today I have a guest post from Caro Fraser, whose wonderful new novel, The Summer House Party (currently 99p on Kindle, folks!), I’m currently engrossed in. Intriguingly, she’s the daughter of George Macdonald Fraser of “Flashman” fame (I love wee literary facts like that!) Anyway, over to Caro… 

I currently have two books on the go. Three Sisters, Three Queens is my book club’s choice, and it’s about sisters Margaret and Mary Tudor, and their sister-in-law, Katherine of Aragon. It’s the first novel of hers that I’ve read, and so far it’s pretty good, though I’m not sure I much like the narrator, Margaret. I’m also reading Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant. Most people have seen the film starring John Hurt, but the book itself is well worth a read – it’s a brilliantly witty, elegantly written gem, and an astonishing insight into what it was like to be gay in the unforgiving era when homosexuality was illegal.

I think the two best books I’ve read in the past few years are, without doubt, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Her style is beautiful, the momentum of her story-telling never flags, and she gets under the skin of all her characters and brings them superbly to life. I definitely recommend them to anyone who hasn’t read them. Another recent favourite is The Pier Falls, a collection of short stories by Mark Haddon (who wrote The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, which I confess I haven’t yet read). They’re all very different and are beautifully written, though as they’re rather dark they may not be to everyone’s taste. A book EVERYONE should read is Misery, by Stephen King. He is often dismissed as low-brow and populist, but for my money he’s the best storyteller writing today.
I also have a special soft spot for women’s fiction of the 1930s and 40s, and writers like Dorothy Whipple and Winifred Holtby, who recognised that ordinary and everyday events possess their own drama, and who write about them with elegant understatement and wry humour. For anyone who likes books of that era, I’d recommend The Priory by Dorothy Whipple, and South Riding by Winifred Holtby. The Tortoise And The Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins is also a strange and unexpected treat.
Books I want to read – if writing my own books ever gives me the time – include the last in the Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy (I wish she’d hurry up and publish it!), and, of course, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. I’d also quite like to read Ulysses by James Joyce, which I’ve started a few times. Maybe one of these days I’ll finish it….

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