Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Books I'm Reading: The House on the Strand; Light Years

I haven't been reading lately as much as I customarily do. Too many distractions, I suppose. I've been much more deeply engaged in listening to music recently. It could be that – although the two aren't necessarily incompatible. 

My mother died in January. In the last ten days or so of her life I spent a lot of time in the hospital at her bedside. I brought a couple of books with me, picking up whatever was to hand. I'm not sure why, but I chose a copy of Daphne Du Maurier's classic The House on the Strand (a 1974 University of Pennsylvania Press paperback edition) that was on one of my bookshelves (as it happens, a copy my father left behind at the time of his death). I first read The House on the Strand in high school when I was going through a phase of reading a great deal of fiction by English writers, many of whom were suggested by my grandmother and my mother (school teachers both, my grandmother a teacher of English literature in high school; I read a great deal of Thomas Hardy at the time), so it is was perhaps an appropriate choice. 

I didn't remember much about the book, but it's held up pretty well, I'd say. Although a certain suspension of disbelief is required to accept the idea of a potion that transports people back in time, the transitions are written rather deftly and I enjoyed reading it again. The only Thomas Hardy novel I've re-approached as an adult is Return of the Native, which seemed rather na├»ve to me on re-reading. I recently re-read Moby Dick, which I enjoyed as much the second time around as the first. 

The other book I read during my mother's final days was Light Years (Icon Books, 2015), by Brian Clegg. I have a habit of subjecting myself from time to time to books about physics in the hope of better understanding some of the great peculiarities of the quantum world, but there always comes a point at which the mind boggles and I'm left feeling worn out and confused and like I've made no progress. Still, I like to keep trying. This was among the easier such books I've read, though, because it was essentially a survey of the history of human thinking about light and it was only at the very end of the book that the ideas became challenging. It was engagingly written and worth the time, I thought. It was at the very least a useful distraction. So far, these are the only books I've read in 2023. I will try to do better in the coming months....

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