It was lovely to have some time over Christmas to do some reading and to have the chance to read Old Filth and Last Friends by Jane Gardam. As I’ve previously blogged on, my sister gave me The Man in the Wooden Hat (which is book two of the trilogy) for Christmas in 2014 and I’ve been wanting to read the other two books ever since. They are about the lives of two eminent lawyers, Edward Feathers and Terence Veneering, and their rivalries at work and in love. They are both excellent books, which perfectly capture the end of empire and life of the elderly rich in rural England.
The early life of Terence Veneering is revealed in Last Friends and it is an extraordinary one, involving Russian spies, the circus, poverty in Teesside and deaths in the Blitz and from German torpedos, which remind you just how much the generation that has recently died lived through in the twentieth century. Both books are about the end of lives, trying to tie up loose ends and the importance of ending up with those who have known you the longest, whether friends or foe.
I also got for Christmas this year The Natural History of Selbourne by Gilbert White. I visited his house as a child (see my blog on Reading a Landscape) and now live near Selbourne and keep passing signs to it, so I thought it was about time I read this classic from 1789. It is a collection of letters between Gilbert White and other naturalists and it is a gentle read that describes in detail the seasons and the lives of the birds and beasts of rural England of the time.
Finally I read the latest from one of my favourite crime writers, Ian Rankin (who I have previously blogged on here). Even Dogs in the Wild is a fantastic read. It centres on Rebus and his old nemesis Big Ger Cafferty, who turns out to be an unlikely ally in solving a classic series of murders and in uncovering an old scandal in a children’s home involving many of Scotland’s past and present elite. Thank goodness Rebus is still solving crime even in retirement. A perfect Christmas read.