Glorious weather (apart from a 48-hour storm last weekend), so lots of walking. This gave me plenty of time for audio books including all 38 hours and 11 minutes of The Mirror and The Light (played at x1.5 speed) plus a 9 hour drama re The Plantagenets (what a belligerent lot they were!) I feel a new reading project coming on, and yes, it has something to do with times of the plague!

I also finished my re-read of The Eighth Life and the third installment of Jason Lutes epic graphic novel of the Weimar Republic, Berlin. (Review to follow on The European Literature Network). New graphic comic strip collections from Tom Gauld and Denis Snider to lighten the mood. Throw in two short story collections – a mixed-bag quality wise from Daphne Du Maurier, and another mixed-bag content-wise from Oksana Zabuzhkho (review to follow) – a capsule collection of poetry from Wordsworth, and an admittedly not very thrilling 2* thriller from Dorothy B Hughes (such a disappointment after the fantastic Expendable Man ) and you really have a liquorice allsorts kind of reading stack!

One which incidentally included an impromptu cruise around the Black Sea: Georgia (The Eighth Life), Russia (Catherine The Great with Helen Mirren, miniseries on Now TV!) , Ukraine (Your Ad Could Have Been Here), Romania (Sword).

Book of the Month? Tough choice as the books I read this month are in competition with The Eighth Life, now one of my all time top 10. However, it was a re-read, so is not eligible. But it does demand that another 5* masterpiece to don the sash …

Reviews and Features

The Birds and Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier 3*

Department of Mind-Blowing Theories – Tom Gauld 4*

The Eighth Life – Nino Haratischvili 5*

I Will Judge Your By Your Bookshelf – Grant Snider 4*

Meet the publisher (Corylus books) and the translator (Marina Sofia) with mini-review of Sword – Bogdan Teodorescu 4*

The Golden Store – William Wordsworth 5* (Book of the Month)

Reviews Outstanding

The Mirror and The Light – Hilary Mantel 3.5*

Your Ad Could Have Been Here – Oksana Zabuzhkho 3.5*

Virtual Literary Events

17 in total courtesy of the Jewish Literary Week, The Big Book Weekend, The Online Lit Fest and, of course, Hay Digital. Interspersed with these festivals were events by publishers and various institutes highlighting Ukrainian, Dutch and German literature. (My dreams came true when the Goethe Institute broadcast an interview between Shelley Frisch and the Helen and Kurt Wolff prize-winning translator Philip Boehm.)

I know this is a needs must scenario, but I really hope that when “the great shenanigans” (copyright Simon Savidge) is over that this online cultural richness does not cease. The technology is both extant and proven. There’s no need for most of the book-loving community to be cut off from all that London buzz, just because we are not there …

Plans for June

I know lockdown is easing but I’m not sure whether I am ready to change the routine of the past 10 weeks. One long local walk a day, one masked and gloved visit to the supermarket per week. But then I have the choice. I am retired. Though I will visit other walking locations just as soon as the 5 mile radius restriction is lifted, provided the good weather holds. (Scotland) Where are you? How free or locked down are you still?

Reading-wise 20 Books of Summer begins on Monday, as does Seagull Books Fortnight. I’ve read 2 books in preparation (they will be included in June’s wrapup) and I want to read another couple for the event. Apart from that I have no idea how I’m going to organise my 20 book stack. I’ll give it some thought inbetween the 3 Hay Digital events I’m attending today.