#57: When the Lights Went Out by Andy Beckett. My fascination with recent British history brings me up to the 1970s, a decade I remember all too clearly. Beckett's one sentence reference to the Protestant Workers' Strike in Northern Ireland reminds me all too easily of reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason by candlelight while studying for my finals. As history, it is interesting simply because so much of what it covers was stuff I lived through and remember. As a history book it is perhaps less satisfactory because it is about 30% journalism: many of the key players in the decade are still alive (or were when Beckett was researching the book) and rather too much of the book is taken up with descriptions of going to visit them, what they are like now, the character of their homes, and so forth. I don't think this provides quite the context for judging the decade that Beckett reckons it does.
#58: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad. I have a rather tentative relationship with Conrad. There is no author I have started to read and given up on more than Conrad, including this novel which I first tried to read probably in the 1960s. Revisiting it now, I don't really see why I had so much trouble, except that the prose is rather denser than my usual taste and the story, for all its colour and exotic locale, is remarkably slow moving. I enjoyed it more the further I got into it, with the final section where Jim gains redemption but loses his life, the best of all for my money.
#59: The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by D.G. Compton, which I re-read because I'm writing a chapter on the film adaptation for a book, but it's such a good book I should return to it more often, as I explained here.
#60: Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov, reviewed for The New York Review of Science Fiction. A comic caper that is so thoroughly plotted that it feels hermetically sealed. There's a lot of clever stuff in the construction but it feels totally lifeless.