I’ve long had an ambition to read the entire Booker prize longlist before the judges choose a winner. This year, I managed it. It wasn’t the best field ever, and I rated only 2 of the books the full 5-stars. [If you’d like to know more about the books and my views, see here: Part 1, Part 2]. It was the one I didn’t think would get the prize which won – but as I have some history of this happening I wasn’t overly bothered. The big impact is it’s had a knock-on effect on my subsequent reading.
Although literary fiction is my preferred genre, I read a fair range of books – thrillers, cozy mysteries, science fiction, space opera, biographies and women’s fiction, even, on occasion, a bit of chick lit 😉 . Mostly they’re “sorbet” or in-between reads, but my mental health also means I sometimes need a bit of light-hearted entertainment. Of the books I’ve read since finishing my Booker readathon, only one left me feeling more than “meh” – even though they merited 3-stars (my rating for good). Then I started a new book by Peter Carey – multiple Booker winning author – and my, what a difference. I could barely put it down and absolutely raced through it. Mentally, I’ve dubbed this “the Booker effect”.
A couple of years ago, I tried an experiment to read only those books which I felt would give me joy. Ideally they’d be candidates for a 4 or 5 star rating, but could include those from my favourite sorbet authors. Reader, it worked, and worked very well. Until, that is, the pandemic arrived and stole my reading joy…. This readathon has brought me back to where I can acknowledge once more that life really is too short to read a book which is only good (enough). I want very good and excellent from my reads (or good light-hearted fun) 🙂
This week Himself and I have been watching the Yellow Bird dramatisation of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who played with Fire, The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest). I’d previously seen the film starring Daniel Craig, but it’s not a patch on this – the Swedish version. The thing is if you really like Scandi-noir, you’ll want to watch proper Scandi-noir, and that means it has to be Scandinavian. Hearing the cast speak Swedish while reading the subtitles makes it an authentic experience, such that I found the rare occasions of them speaking English to be jarring.
Yellow Bird are pretty expert at this now, having transferred to screen a number of other successful Scandi-noir authors. Much though I’d like to call this “the Yellow Bird effect”, that’s not going to work, for Yellow Bird are not alone. The Danish production of The Bridge was a huge success, even resulting in a US spin-off focussing on the Mexican border crossing. But as with Yellow Bird, what sets the Scandinavian version head and shoulders above the US version was their authentic Scandinavian-ness. There’s a darkness and style which you simply don’t get in the works of other countries, something I haven’t seen since the days of Film Noir in the 1930s. I’m currently dubbing this “the Scandinavian effect”, but it’s also possible I’m tired of mainstream big productions.
Lastly Himself and I have stopped drinking during this year. Not for any reason other than that we’re a bit bored with it, and having found the morning after effect of one (occasionally two) drinks to be disproportional to the pleasure gained. Although there’s been a massive expansion in the development of alcohol free alternatives, it’s not something we’ve particularly pursued being entirely happy to drink sparkling water and cordial. In truth, while I’ve I’ve tried a few which are pleasantly enjoyable, as they’re really rather expensive (comparative with the top of the range alcoholic versions), I decided to try a less expensive option called J&T (for Juniper & tonic). And oh how disappointing was it…. for it tasted of neither juniper nor tonic, and I swiftly transferred to their Cucumber and Mint option instead. So if I’m not willing to pay large sums of money for non-alcoholic versions, I really need to work at finding some new flavours to enjoy instead.
What have you learned recently? Have you found new things to enjoy, or crossed other things off your lists? Do you have any recommendations for tasty grown-up soft drinks?
© Debra Carey, 2021