When I last wrote about my reading challenge I was in the middle of a German novel called Weil Sie Das Leben Liebten (Because They Loved Life) by Charlotte Roth. A few years ago before my first trip to Berlin I read another of Charlotte Roth’s books, Als Wir Unsterblich Waren. It was set in Berlin and was a family saga of sorts, intriguing and political. I really enjoyed it. Sadly I can’t say the same of Weil Sie Das Leben Liebten. Set as it is in Berlin in the 1920s to 1940s I assumed that I would be gripped by the book. I love reading about social history. This book just didn’t hold my interest. The main character loves animals and works in Berlin zoo. I like my own animals, but I am not an animal person. Too much of Weil Sie Das Leben Liebten had to do with teaching hippos to swim or learning to love crocodiles. The story itself was good but it could have been 200 pages shorter and had less zoo-related padding. I might read another Charlotte Roth book, but at the moment I am not in a hurry to.
I am Lucy Barton by Elisabeth Strout was next on my bedside table. A German friend who reads a lot of American literature gave me a loan of it. I loved it. I’ll sounds very shallow saying this but I’ll say it anyway. It was short and easy and nice. Lucy Barton is in hospital and had a lot of time to think. She analyses her life in a series of memories interspersed with scenes of hospital life – phone calls with her young daughters, chats with her estranged mothers who has shown up to visit, her admiration for her doctor. This is a bookI feel I should read again in a year or two. I feel there is another level to it that I didn’t fully get. After the struggle I had with getting through Als Wir Unsterblich Waren, I wanted to enjoy a book again and I did enjoy I am Lucy Barton. I think I’ll enjoy re-reading it and picking up on hints I missed in my first read.
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes is a book I bought for myself back in January. I ordered it as soon as I heard of it and was very tempted to jump straight in and give up on Als Wir Unsterblich Waren. But I persevered. Belgravia tells the story of the Trenchard family and how their life becomes intertwined with the lives of lords, duchesses and earls in the 1800s. Julian Fellowes is the author of Downton Abbey, a series I thoroughly enjoyed and could watch over and over. His characters in the series are wonderful. Belgravia is similar to Downton Abbey but set a century earlier. The servant-master relationships are explored as are encounters between the gentry and the middle class. It is a good read, predictable at times but with several twists I didn’t see coming. The one thing I would warn against is imagining Mr. Carson, Anna or Mrs. Hughes whenever there is mention of a butler, ladies’ maid or housekeeper. Elements of the descriptions brought those Downton characters to my mind as I read but I quickly had to dismiss them as the Belgravia characters came to life.
I’ve moved onto something completely different now, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack.I won’t go into detail here but it is safe to say that it is completely different. Pop back in a month or so for my next update and see how I found it.