I have a confession when it comes to The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. This is the third and final book in her Cromwell trilogy. Whilst her publisher, 4th Estate, has released synopses and guides for the previous Booker-winning books, so that readers can dive into book three without reading the 1,200 pages that came before, I wanted to start at the beginning. It only seemed right. Also, I had tried to read Wolf Hall on many occasions, and I had never actually finished it. Now, I told myself. Now is the time. And I was right… sort of: now was the time for Wolf Hall. However, it turned out to be the time for Wolf Hall and nothing else. I did finish it this time, the intricate journey of Thomas Cromwell, a man who ‘patted his wife, kissed his dog’ and who shapeshifted his personality to slink through layers of society, from blacksmiths to kings. However, for some reason, I just cannot fall in love with these books, even though I desperately want to. The only way I can think of describing it is that reading these novels feels like walking through a gallery of true-to-life paintings from the 1500s. I am in awe of the artist’s research and skill; in fact, I think she is a queen. I do enjoy my visit to this gallery, but I don’t want to purchase a painting and take it home, and before closing time I feel as though I’m ready to leave. So, it’s with regret that I have shelved the rest of the trilogy for now.
Weather by Jenny Offill reads like a series of stepping stones, or life Post-Its. Neil Gaiman once said “Google will bring you back a hundred thousand answers. A librarian will bring you back the right one.” Lizzie Benson is striving to be that librarian. She’s an unofficial shrink for her family, and is assisting her old mentor Sylvia by answering questions about climate change and the end of the world. But sometimes the end of the world isn’t only the bigger picture, it’s your son telling you he doesn’t think you’re a very nice person. ‘He was just a kid, so I let it go. And now, years later, I probably only think of it, I don’t know, once or twice a day.’ Parts of this book made me cackle, then I’d turn the page and feel like the book was judging me for laughing, as it jumped from a ridiculous situation to an appalling one. How do we live with the weight of disaster, it seemed to ask, and still find joy? It’s an intriguing book; not top of the list for me, but it prods in all the right places.