Every now and then you just can’t find the right thing to read and this has been my problem in the last couple of weeks. I picked up Nicola Krauss’s The Invention of Love on a strong recommendation from a friend, and found the tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale irritating. Then it was Binnie Kirshenbaum’s The Scenic Route, which started feeling like a less intellectual version of the Krauss book; nominally about a a love affair but it kept cutting away from the affair to the narrator’s family history. I liked the tone and if my own writing hadn’t hitten a rough patch I might have had the stamina to keep going with the Kirshenbaum.
Instead I read Ken Follett. He does what he does very well and I don’t think I had read this before (wouldn’t I have remembered Rommel in the desert, muttering about Tobruk?). The writing is literate enough to be inoffensive and the plotting is conventional but solid. Cairo during WW2, a German spy and an English intelligence officer locked in a struggle, etc. etc. Pyramids, a belly dancer with corrupt sexual practices, a beautiful young girl, naturally, caught between the two men.
The good guy won. My mind wandered during the denouement so I can’t remember exactly how. I’m still on the prowl for total distraction. Maybe Dick Francis is up next.