ARTS & LEISURE
What are you reading?
Genre? Non-fiction (travel/memoir). How did you get hold of it? Stumbled onto it online and downloaded the available sample; then, once I’d read that, I bought the real thing. What’s it about? In a word: walking. Macfarlane uses his home in Cambridge as a starting point for a series of walks that he undertakes in the UK and beyond, during which he ponders everything from the natural world to map-making and literature. How far have you got? Hard to say! It’s a book that you don’t really need to read in a linear fashion from start to finish; rather, you can dip in wherever you like and pick up a “path” to follow. What did you think of it? I love all travel writing, whether it’s Bill Bryson swinging into some small town and having a naughty laugh at the locals and their foibles, or Pico Iyer making subtle, lyrical observations about Japanese culture and religion. Macfarlane’s stuff is very different, but just as good. It’s a bit wordy, so if you prefer people cutting to the chase, you might want to avoid it. But if you enjoy a journey as much as a destination, it should be right up your alley. Genre? Historical fiction What’s it about? Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, the story revolves around an 18-year-old girl starting her new life as the wife of a wealthy trader. As she tries to navigate the pious and gold-obsessed society, she must also come to grips with her staff, her sour sister-in-law and her distant husband. When her husband presents her with an exact replica in miniature of the house she lives in, as a wedding present, she enlists the help of a miniaturist to furnish it. However, the elaborate pieces and dolls produced by the miniaturist seem to mirror her life all too closely, and almost predict the future, leading her to begin understanding the dangers and undercurrents of the household in which she lives. How far have you got? Finished. What did you think of it? It’s unlike anything I’ve read before – the mystery and intrigue gripped me to the end. I also found the setting interesting, as I knew nothing about 17th-century Holland, or about the lives of women or their servants in those days. It’s not difficult to get into, and it must be pretty good as it’s the first fiction book that’s captured my attention since I gave birth to my second child six months ago!
Shamus Sillar, Australian The Old Ways – A Journey on Foot Robert Macfarlane
Katie Peace, British The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
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