The pile of books next to my bed has been growing over the past few months, but a spate of bad weather and a break in assignments gave me the gap I needed to get back into the reading groove. The Asperger’s book supplied background for a magazine commission but I found it so interesting that I want to research the topic more deeply. I swallowed the Fiction Class in two days and lingered over the Venice travelogue, imagining how fabulous it must be to have the time to explore the city’s intricate waterways and grow familiar with its moods.
The introduction to the book about the black Madonnas is disappointingly inaccessible, but I’m hoping the text will ease a little as I get into it. The others, in their different ways, are all winners.
Born on a Blue Day (Hodder) by Daniel Tammet
Daniel Tammet has high functioning autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) but his encouraging message is that, although it’s a lifelong condition, AS can stabilise and even improve over time. This book is a first-hand account of the workings of his extraordinary mind – a feat in itself, as no-one with AS has attempted to document the strange, interior world an AS person inhabits.
Tammet has astonishing mathematical and language ability: he can recite the value of Pi, from memory, to 22,514 decimal places, and in a British TV documentary in 2005 he demonstrated his fluency in Icelandic after just one week of study. His savant abilities developed in childhood after a series of epileptic seizures. In the foreword to the book, savant syndrome specialist, Dr Darold Treffert, suggests that this raises important questions about the potential within us all.
It’s a fascinating and absorbing read.
Fiction Class (Headline) by Susan Breen
A light read that’s a must for anyone interested in creative writing. New Yorker Arabella Hicks passes on what she knows to her writing class, yet she’s battling to come to terms with the story of her own life. Through observing her interaction with her dying mother, a new man and the spiky, unlikely assortment of people in her class, we, the readers, are cleverly instructed in the art of writing and entertained at the same time.
A Thousand Days in Venice (Virago) by Marlena de Blasi
If you love travel, this one is for you. Marlena de Blasi tells the true story of her love affair with Venice and passionate, persistent Fernando, who trusts his instincts when he spots the American tourist in a café. He knows at once that she is The One; she however takes a little longer to reciprocate his conviction.
The blend of fairytale and fact (how do your children react when you tell them you aren’t coming home but staying in Italy to marry a stranger?) makes this story convincing and enchanting.
The Cult of the Black Virgin (Penguin) by Ean Begg
I know there is good stuff in this book, but I haven’t deciphered it yet. It caught my attention because the cover picture is of the little black Madonna of Rocamadour, which I saw on my trip to France last year. I’m intrigued by the history and mystery surrounding the world’s 500 or so black Madonnas, but this book makes such heavy weather of the material that I haven’t got past the introduction. The text is dense, convoluted and stilted, but I’ll press on in the hope of learning something.