Very little was read (but not reviewed) this month. There was far too much going on in my part of the world, consuming almost all my attention. The first part of the month was taken up with obsessively checking the polls on whether the UK was likely to leave the EU or not. The latter part was spent even more obsessively scanning social media and listening to the news in the hope that someone had a way out, or at least some sort of plan. It seems my country has cut off its nose to spite its face and has nothing to fill the gaping wound that’s been left. So, only two books to report on beginning with a thoroughly engrossing piece of non-fiction.
If you’re nosy like me (no pun intended) you’ll probably enjoy Joanna Biggs All Day Long which looks at all sorts of ways people earn their living – from cleaners to dancers, rabbis to shoemakers – taking in a few more off the wall or controversial occupations such as giggle doctor and sex worker along the way. Made up of interviews with a wide range of employees, self-employed, volunteers and the reluctantly unemployed, Biggs’ book is sometimes funny, sometimes touching, always interesting. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy most of my working life but I’ve also spent time doing a wide range of scuzzy jobs – some grubby, some menial, others utterly tedious and soul-destroying. It’s something that everyone should do. I’ve never forgotten the people who were kind to me when I was a naive, uselessly impractical student working at something deadly dull but safe in the knowledge that I’d be out of it in a few weeks while they faced a lifetime of it. And I always remember them when I vote.
The novel I read intermittently through the last two weeks of the month was Elizabeth H. Winthrop’s The Why of Things. The ‘H’ is important – there’s another Elizabeth Winthrop who is a prolific writer of children’s books. A family from Maryland visit their summer home in Massachusetts only to find that someone has driven a car into the water-filled quarry in its grounds. Sadly, the driver – a young man – has died and the general consensus is that it’s a suicide. As the novel progresses, each member of the family dealing with what has happened in their different ways, it becomes clear that it is not the upset of the death of the young man they are trying to cope with but a far greater loss. It’s a perceptive, compassionate piece of fiction – well worth your time – and deserved better attention that it got from me, I’m afraid, distracted as I was.
That’s it for June. Hoping for better times next month, or perhaps a miracle.