I know summer doesn’t officially start until the weekend, but it certainly feels like it has already arrived. It is sunny, slightly breezy, and still not too humid this morning, but it is expected to get much warmer by the afternoon. Good thing I've already been out for a long-ish walk and picked up a delicious Date Bar, which I will be having with my tea as I write this post. I’ve made a special tea this morning, called Pu-Erh Exotic. I learned about pu-erh tea when I read Lisa See’s The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and have found a place close by that sells it. This one is described as a “Pu-Erh tea with a special fermentation (92%), orange blossoms, cornflower petals, raspberry petals (and) flavourings”. Normally I don’t like flowery or fruity teas, but this one, which is a black tea, is delicious! Thinking about my special tea, my freshly baked Date Bar and the not-yet-unbearably-humid weather, I’d have to say that this is a practically perfect morning.
OK, on to the book I finished reading yesterday. These past few months, I have really enjoyed checking out the books that have been sitting unread on my bookshelves, some for years. This week I decided to try a novel that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (it says so on the cover), Lost Souls by Irish novelist Michael Collins. The beautiful cover of my edition, an ethereal child with angel wings walking through the trees into the light, was a deciding factor in my choice. Set in a small town outside of Chicago sometime in what I’m guessing is the 1980s, this novel is told from the point of view of Lawrence, a middle-aged cop who, on Hallowe’en night, discovers the body of a three-year-old girl lying dead in a pile of leaves by the side of the road. She is still wearing her angel wings, and this image haunts him as he tries to find out what happened. But this small town is no different from many others in fiction and in life, and Lawrence is drawn into a plot to cover up what appears to be a hit-and-run, since the main suspect is Kyle Johnson, the high school star quarterback who will lead the team to victory and put this town on the map. Greed and obsession, lies and deception abound as Lawrence struggles to uncover the truth despite being blocked at every turn. This was the most depressing book I’ve read in years. It was like spending four days inside a classic country song, you know, the one where the man loses his wife, his farm and his dog. But while it was, in my opinion, excessively heartwrenching, it was compelling enough to keep me interested right to the end. I really wanted to find out what happened, who killed the little girl and why so much tragedy had to befall this small, unnamed town and threaten to destroy what little was left of the already-ruined life of Lawrence, a good man caught up in a bad plan with the wrong men. It was a psychological study of the man and the town, reminding me of my favourite book, The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck, also set in a small town and exploring what happens when a good man is drawn into the corrupt plans of greedy men, but it was told in the style of a hard-boiled crime novel, which detracted from the seriousness of the theme. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but my conclusion is that this book was just OK - I will not seek other books by this author, and this one is headed for one of the Little Free Libraries in my neighbourhood.
I’m happy to take a break from reading my own books, and have picked up ten books from my public library last night, so I have plenty of reading material to choose from over the next six weeks… so many books, and surprisingly, so much time! (just a bit of a problem staying focused these days, a symptom of the pandemic perhaps?... others have admitted to experiencing the same thing, which makes me feel better)
That’s all for today. Stay cool, stay well, have a cup of tea and keep reading!Bye for now…