Monday, May 22, 2017

Down by the Sea

Stanley Middleton's Holiday is one of those novels where nothing much happens--or does it?

We first meet Edwin Fisher as he attends a church service during this seaside vacation. The dreamy description of the service, complete with shafts of sunlight streaming down, sets the tone of this novel in which the past and the present approach each other, sometimes mingling, sometimes circling warily before heading off again in different directions.

Edwin Fisher's holiday is really an escape from the turmoil of the end of his marriage to the volatile Meg. He's taken a room in the resort town where he vacationed years before. Returning as an established professor, he sees the town for the tacky spot it is--but isn't above enjoying the pleasures it has to offer, including pretty girls in bathing suits and the chance to rub elbows (and perhaps more, if he follows up) with the blue collar vacationers and their restless wives. His visit is complicated almost instantly by the appearance of Meg's parents, also on holiday and determined to make sure that he and Meg work things out.

Middleton has an ear for dialog and an eye for the small but telling detail. Against the background of resort foolishness, Fisher seems almost becalmed by his intelligence, his social status, and his memories of the events that brought his marriage to its current state. The English talent for understatement is splendidly on display here, both in Fisher's behavior and in Middleton's telling. That Fisher's quiet introspection can hold our interest confirms the success of Middleton's technique.

Excerpt (on the beach):

Fisher idly watched two young women who had settled near him.

Their preparations were priest-like; Pope approached truth in the 'Rape of the Lock.' First they laid the huge beach-towel, weighted its corners with their baskets and bags. This took time, circumambulation, calculation of the sun's position later in the day; both chattered with a kind of intensity, like a commentator into a handmicrophone, as if to ensure their inanities arrived at the listener. He had been amused for a quarter of an hour before he realised that he was the target, he was the morning's eligible young man, mark one. They did not look at him much, but made certain that they had his attention, by constant movement, barbs of conversation.

Curiously, as he examined himself, he felt flattered.

Note: This book counts toward my quest to read all the Man Bookers, the Color Coded Reading Challenge, and the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. It's also the  E location in the Where are You Reading Challenge.  Onward!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Goodnight Smokies

Last week we finally made it to Gatlinburg, making up for last year's cancellation. Ah, May in the mountains! The weather was perfect and the hiking was challenging for a flatlands girl like me.

Now I have lots of happy memories and lots and lots of pictures to process.

But not tonight.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Turning the Corner to Summer

We are fortunate to have this kind of everyday beauty already blooming and setting seeds in our neighborhood. We could use more rain after having a few showers yesterday--in the midst of a fearsome drought and wildfires across the state--but all told, I have no complaints about Mother Nature. She does things in her own time, and that's fine by me.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Well, Okay Then

She: How old am I going to be this year? Fifty-eight?

He: Yes, that's right; you're going to be 58.


She: Wow. How did I get to be so old?

He: Well, you still have some time left.

She: Before I'm old?

He: Before your birthday.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Beach (or Elsewhere) Reading

Thrillers aren't my usual genre, but I picked up Randy Wayne White's novel Deceived during a recent bookstore foray, motivated by the Florida Book Award. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience to zoom through this novel, buoyed by the pace of the narrative, the quirky characters, and the charming details of Sanibel Island and its vicinity, where I've spent occasional vacations throughout my life.

The main character here is Hannah Smith, fishing guide, part-time private investigator, island girl, plucky heroine, and love interest for another of White's characters, marine biologist Doc Ford. Hannah is savvy, brave, and resourceful--all of which are excellent qualities for someone who finds herself caring for her half-dotty, spunky mother, embarking on a love affair, investigating a historic artifacts/land grab scam and a shady new resident, figuring out who among her new acquaintances she can trust, and escaping from hair-raising situations like being attacked simultaneously by a duo of pit bulls and a gigantic person wielding an axe.

It's a thrill a minute, which made it very entertaining light-ish reading, perfect for holding your attention beside your favorite body of water. I blew through it in a couple of days . . . and it definitely took my mind off worrying and wondering while I spent a lot of hospital time waiting for lab results and procedure outcomes while Kayak Guy (quite unexpectedly) underwent a heart catheterization for a major angina episode. He ended up with a stent to open a blocked artery and a bunch of medications. I ended up with the perfect distraction.


"Anyone up there?" Then added a lie in case I had cornered an intruder. "The police are here! We're worried about you, Miz Helms."

The silence I expected was jolted by a new sound coming from outside the house; a distant noise that touched my ears as the random snaring of a drum. Then the sound deepened and took form, and I thought, Barking dogs! Dogs coming toward the house at a run; a slathering chorus I recognized from hunting with my Uncle Jake in the Everglades as a girl. It was the bellow of catch dogs that had picked up the scent and were on the heels of game.

Pit bulls. The Helms dogs had returned.

Dear god, I thought, remembering: You left the front door open!

Note: I read this as part of my quest to read all the Florida Book Award winners. It counts towards the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and as the letter S in the Where are You Reading? Challenge.