I knew it was tempting fate to do a post about Spring bursting out all over yesterday. It was minus four Celsius overnight and this morning we awoke to freezing fog and a heavy snow shower. Although it cleared later and a watery sun came through, the temperature has never risen above one Celsius all day and now it seems to be getting dark early. I shall not mention Spring again for another fortnight (well, not unless it turns really warm).
Also I have to confess to failing miserably in my attempt to read Colin Thubron's "To a Mountain in Tibet" one chapter per day. All was going well; I was reading each chapter twice over and really enjoying it, until I had two very poor night's sleep and got up at 4am to have a cup of tea. Well, dear blog friends, who could resist reading an extra chapter under those circumstances?
The consequence is that I have finished the book and have to report that it is absolutely excellent stuff. The travel, the spiritual angle, the philosophical angle - it all comes together to make such food for thought. In the end I so enthralled the farmer (who is not a reader on the whole, unless it is about farming) that we got out the World Atlas and looked at the places on the map - and marvelled that Tibet - this roof of the World - was once an ocean.
Atlases are magic to me once I begin to look at them. In 1984 I spent three weeks in Alma Ata (now called Almaty I think) in Kazhakstan and then some time in Samarkand and Bukhara. This part of the world fascinates me. But Tibet - now that is something different and Thubron brings it to life. There is this ambivalence - it applies to so many wild places - about whether one should leave these communities alone or whether one should bring them education, health care etc.
With the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the fifties that debate is very relevant to Thubron's book. I do urge you to read it.
The bad news is that I have finished the book - and finishing a really good book is always a bit of a let-down because you miss it. The good news is that I have started another absolute smasher. Thanks to several people who recommended it in the comments on my earlier blog and thanks to N and S, where we had lunch on Sunday and where they had a copy ready for me to borrow, I am now reading Edmund de Waal's "The Hare with Amber Eyes" - couldn't be more different from Thubron and yet just as enthralling.
de Waal traces the history of a group of netsuke which he inherits, tracing them back to a distant ancestor and the life and times and the circumstances in which they were purchased and passed on. Brilliant writing. I have just reached the part where the netsuke have been passed on from their original purchaser and given as a wedding gift. The scene has moved from Paris to Vienna - and I admit I was reluctant to leave the first owner and to leave Paris. I want to know what happens next to the original owner. Now surely that is a sign of a really good book.
So there you have it - two good books to put on your "Want to read" list. Don't say I don't help you out sometimes and do let me know what you think of them both.