Each summer, a number of public figures are asked to offer their suggestions for an ideal summer reading list, usually by some national daily newspaper wanting to pad out their Sunday supplements. When I read the said lists, I am often left deflated by recognising so few of the books on their lists although I console myself that they are often more about the person than the book, or are ‘must-have’ books that I file in that sub-group of books everyone owns, but few profess to have actually read, cover to cover.
My own summer reading has been eclectic. The Plumb triology of Maurice Gee which I hugely enjoyed, JG Farrell who I negelected for so long (The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles) and Richard Morais’s novel ‘The Hundred Foot Journey’ in anticipation of the film set in St Antonin Noble Val where we have our bookshop. In addition, I have read smatterings (one novel, many short stories) of Elizabeth Myers, in anticpation of writing something on her in the future, and Rory McLean’s excellent novel ‘Berlin’, with a re-read of ‘Chesil Beach’ and ‘The End of the Golden Weather’ as fillers, the former out of curiosity, the latter out of nostalgia.
In between I have been writing ‘Turangawaewae’, or ‘In My Beginning’ or whatever title I end up giving it and a number of articles on selection, teaching, sport and the like while weathering the worst summer seen in our part of southern France since the 1970s (or so has been the word in the village!)
There have been compensations, however, reading being one of those.Last night, we listened to an organ recital in Collegiale Saint-Vincent by the organist of Notre Dame Cathedral, Philippe Lefebvre and his two young protegees, Vincent Dubois, organist at the Cathedral of Soissons and Johann Vexo, organist of the cathedral of Nancy. The music was quite stunning, a series of virtuoso performances of immense power and beauty, but made more so by a violent thunderstorm that raged outside which provided a constant backdrop of lightening for over an hour, making the stained galls windows glow and flash as Lefebvre duelled with God in this great Cathar Church, turning it into a celestial battleground.
Quite the closest I have come to experiencing the drama of The Book of Revelations.