Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Tempting fate.

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.


angryparsnip said...

I must put your book on my reading list.
I first saw the title " The Hare With Amber Eyes" and was intrigued, then I saw the author, then the subject and I was hooked.
But all is shelved for awhile with lots of paper work for the tax man and finance advisers. I really dislike this kind of paper work. @_@

cheers, parsnip

Heather said...

No snow here Pat but I haven't been able to get warm all day. I had a feeling we were celebrating too soon. There is nothing like a good book to keep one company during a sleepless night. Both the titles you mention sound fascinating. Keep warm and sleep well - we've still a fortnight to go before spring officially arrives.

The Solitary Walker said...

Great to read your enthusiasm, Pat - you've made me want to read both books.

I heard an interview with Thubron on the radio (also saw one on TV) recently, and he came across so well - modest and insightful, with a keen interest in and knowledge of Buddhism. Funnily enough, I've never read a single one of his travel books (let alone his novels) and that's an omission I'm about to rectify. I'm ordering that new Tibet book.

Eryl said...

When I woke up to snow this morning I thought exactly the same thing! I used to have a neighbour who wouldn't go without a cardigan until May, no matter how hot it got, so as not to tempt fate. Maybe she had something.

I loved The Hare with Amber Eyes and thought de Waal's writing got better and better as the book went on. I was sad to leave Paris too, but not for long.

I haven't read the Thubron, or any Thubron for that matter, but it is going on my list.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I love that you had to just dig in and devour the book - that's a good one, that's the best kind of temptation to give in to :)

This Hare with Amber Eyes sounds very interesting, am jotting down that title. My husband and I also love looking at maps.

Cloudia said...

You make the life of the mind exciting!

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral


Pondside said...

They don't sound like the sort of books I normally like to read - so I'll definitely look for them, to spice things up a bit.

steven said...

weaver - i'm curious about how you deal with the experiences you had in those extraordinary locations within the context of your quiet life in the dale? steven

ChrisJ said...

Have to add these two books to my must read list, as long as they are not science fiction.
I did wonder if you were being a bit too optimistic with your spring blog , but didn't want to discourage you.
What's a netsuke?

ChrisJ said...

Don't worry about answering my question. I looked it up on Google. Need to learn more about these.

Gwil W said...

I didn't read every page twice with Richard Askwith's Feet in the Clouds but I'm reading the book twice. It's really that good. That's my book tip for what it's worth. I think you'd enjoy it Pat.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I can't recommend it too highly -
as the book progresses you know what awful things are coming and yet you have to read about them - it is one of the most moving books I think I have ever read.

Lori at Jarvis House said...

We don't have Rooks on Long Island, but there are pleanty of Crows and Starlings. I also have a Hazelnut tree, but we are behind your season, so no catkins yet. The Winter Jasmin hasn't opened, way too much ice and snow left here.

Robin Mac said...

I am slow in catching up with your blog, but I saw Thubron' book in our library this morning and have already started reading it - not sure if I will be able to stick to one chapter a day! Cheers.