As someone who rarely reads fiction any more, and then rarely past page 30, I impressed myself by finishing two books in one week. Give me a medal.
A Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway.
Contrary to the title, no one in this book loses their arms, and this despite it being set during WW1, History’s most boring war.
Mr Henry is an American ambulance driver in the Italian Army. He can speak all European languages, always has money and is about as interesting as 80’s office furniture. He falls in love with an English nurse and gets her up the stick, despite not having the use of his legs at that point in the book. (I read between the lines and imagined she must have gone on top.)
The Nurse, Catherine, is far, far less interesting than 80’s office furniture. She talks the most inane gibberish. I pictured a young Susan Hampshire after a course of E.C.T.
A good three quarters of this book is spent describing what Mr Henry is eating and or drinking. When his wife goes into labour with their child, for example, he finds time to go to a local restaurant and have a good meal and some blonde beer, twice.
I don’t know why I stuck it out. I thought there might be some enlightenment or a message of some kind if I read to the end. Failing that, some insight into the war. But no.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Now this I enjoyed. It’s an Autistic teenage boy detective story. There are also loads of maths problems thrown in along the way. That’s ‘out there’ by any standard.
The best part of this book is when the autistic boy tries to leave his home in Swindon to find his mum in London. Because of his problems with agoraphobia, fear or strangers, fear of noise, fear of the unfamiliar, fear of being touched, his inability to interact with people and his weak bladder – this simple trip takes on the epic proportions of Homer’s Odyssey.
The story is told in the first person too so you get all these interesting, vastly oversimplified observations about the external world the boy sees. He discusses his behavioural problems in the way one might discuss vacuum cleaner bags. He irrationally hates the colour brown and doesn’t trust it. This I identified with.