Thursday, 30 June 2022

A good read afloat

Our recent cruise gave me the opportunity of catching up on my reading – lots of reading, in fact. I normally have a book or two on the go at home, but “on the go” often means taking an age to complete, as a busy home and a still hectic work life (despite a cut in my hours), doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading. In fact, I consider I've achieved something, if I manage to read the odd chapter or two. This is a shame, especially if the book I’m reading is a gripping novel, or even a half decent one, but apart from when I'm in bed, there seems very little spare time for ploughing my way through a book.

I am a sucker for not going to bed at a decent time, and not getting enough sleep. Mrs PBT’s isn’t much better, although, it’s slightly different for her, as she doesn’t have to get up as early as I do of a morning. So, by the time I’m tucked up in bed, I’m lucky if I manage to get through the odd chapter prior to “lights out.” The obvious solution would be to go to bed earlier, but as I’m the person who locks up at night, I usually wait for my nearest and dearest to head up the wooden hill, before following suit. should be viewed against the fact that reading is a sure-fire method of drifting off into sleep.

Consequently, most books take me an age to finish, and this is where relaxing on board a cruise ship, comes into its own. There is something about just sitting there, up on deck, in a sheltered spot, watching the waves slip by as the ship glides effortlessly through them. Time seems to stand still, so what better excuse is needed, than getting your nose stuck into a good book, and totally losing yourself in its pages?

I took a couple of books with me, when we boarded at Southampton two and a half weeks ago. One was a lengthy and classic work of fiction, whilst the other was a recently published book about beer, and our relationship with it. It was a Christmas present, but one that until the cruise, I never managed to find time to read.

The first book, was one I’ve been making my way through  for the past year or so. I made some headway with it on our cruise to Liverpool and back, last September, but the most recent 12 night voyage, provided the perfect opportunity to get some pages of this novel, under my belt, and finally allowed me to put it to bed, so to speak, as I actually finished it on the final afternoon of the cruise.

The book in question was Anna Karenina, by the 19th Century Russian author, Leo Tolstoy.  It is a novel, which is nowhere near as well known as Tolstoy's most famous work - War & Peace, but after looking at a number of online reviews I discovered that the former, is far more readable and approachable than the latter. 

The book runs to over 800 pages, so is quite a weighty tome, and whilst Anna Karenina has a rather a tragic ending, Tolstoy tells an enthralling story that reveals much about the lives of a small, but fictional group, who are members the upper echelons of Russian society. The principal characters flit between city life in  St Petersburg and Moscow, before heading off to their estates in the country, and the life of one of the key players is said to reflect that of Tolstoy himself who, whilst a Count and landed gentleman, was someone who cared deeply about the countryside, and the people who lived and worked on his estate.

Despite its length, I found Anna Karenina easy to read, and this is largely thanks to the efforts of the two translators who corroborated on this latest edition of the novel. The only real difficultly I found was dealing with the names of the characters; a situation complicated by the Russian custom of having both  formal, and familiar version of their names. In addition several of the female cast, followed the convention that was in vogue at the time, of adopting anglicized versions of their names. Thus Katrina is known as Kitty, Darya is known as Dolly, and Elizaveta is referred to as Betsy, but only to their immediate families and close friends.

The other book I took with me is not a novel, but instead is an informative volume about beer – naturally. It was a Christmas present and is a publication that came highly recommended. Entitled “A Year in Beer - The Beer Lover's Guide to the Seasons," the book is written by Jonny Garrett, a London-based beer writer, author and filmmaker, who has picked up numerous awards for his work. One of these was for UK Beer Writer of the Year 2019.

Being back home, and back to work as well, I'm making slow progress, but the book is well laid out and, as its title suggests, follows the changing seasons, and the influence they have on the beers that are brewed and those that are drunk. Somewhat surprisingly, the season it starts with is winter, primarily because this coincides with the start of the year.

I'm drawing this post to an end now, as I'm sure you will appreciate I've got a book to read and it's getting close to my bedtime!



retiredmartin said...

I will read Anna Karenina myself, now !

Paul Bailey said...

I'm sure you will enjoy the novel Martin, once you've got your head round the strange convention the Russians have with names.

The book makes me wonder what sort of country, and society, Russia would have been like, had the Great War and the Bolshevik revolution, not occurred.