The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon attracted a lot of attention when  this novel about a fifteen-year-old autistic boy was first published. Sometimes when books get a lot of hype and you read them more from curiosity than from the expectation of really enjoying them. For me, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was in that category and it took me a while to get around to reading it, but, goodness, am I glad I did. This is a nicely told mystery story – deceptively simple. The hero is an autistic boy who sets out to track down the killer of the dog mentioned in the title. It is sometimes funny, moving and thought-provoking and if you haven’t already read it, I would say, definitely give it a go.

Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss

As a child, I was fascinated by elephants and loved to hear stories of how they live in families, communicate and even appear to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. So, not surprisingly, I am a committed fan of Cynthia Moss. I absolutely loved Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family which I have returned to several times over the years. It is a really terrific insight into the lives of a family of elephants – sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, always moving and beautifully told. If, like me, you’re fan of this noble beast, then be sure to find time for Ms Moss.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

So, I’ve just re-visited The Great Gatsby. Why? Because lately, I have wanted to re-read some of the novels that were on the curriculum when I was at school. It started when I picked up Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and was astonished at how wonderfully crafted a novel it is, and how, I largely missed that when I read it at 16 – perhaps because, at that age, even if you are bookish like I was, your exposure to literature is still so limited.

So, I resolved to look again at some of the other titles that were on that curriculum all those years ago and that is what led me back to The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics) this week. And what a pleasure the reacquaintance proved to be – how beautiful the language, how skilled the craftsmanship, how evocative the setting.

There is something alluring about the death of the American dream in novels that always draws me. Richard Yates has the same effect in Revolutionary Road.

Haunting sadness

But oh, how I wanted to read and re-read Fitzgerald’s sentences. I will dream of the haunting sadness of enchanted metropolitan twilight for days to come. How I wished to have this novel read aloud to me by a wonderful, slow voice that would savour the sentences.

If anything irritated me, it was the introduction and footnotes in the Penguin edition that I purchased because they are a distraction from the text.  A work like this deserves uninterrupted reading. By all means include the learned essay, but stick it at the back and let the reader first enjoy the novel.

At 170 odd pages, The Great Gatsby is a quick read. Take an afternoon break and treat yourself to a read or re-read. It is definitely worth it. Next up on my curriculum classics is Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics). Watch this space for details.