Sputnik Caledonia by Andrew Crumey

I had high hopes for this novel of a seventies Scottish childhood, dreaming of a spaceflight, which leads onto exactly that but in a dystopian proto-socialist future. The opening section was touching, sweet and regularly amusing – right on the money. But I’m afraid the descent into fantasy – of the sort I never got into in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale –  just didn’t do it for me. The believable characters seemed to disappear as quickly as the protagonist’s childhood innocence and, reader, I am sorry to report that the book is currently languishing in the small but notable ‘abandoned’ section of our bookshelf.

It’s back to the non-fiction world for me now, with straight-ahead military history in Lloyd Clark’s Arnhem, the oft-told but never tired story of the battle of the bulge in 1944 and 45. I don’t feel there’s anything wildly new to the book but the pacey narrative and increasing sense of doom haunt every page. I’m halfway through so far, more soon.

Late November of course means the thoughts of the avid bookreader turn to what to buy, and what to wish for, for Xmas. High I think on my list are Mary Kay-Wilmer’s The Eitingtons and Christopher Andrew’s history of MI5 although in both cases I’d prefer the paperback, my probably irrational but longstanding hatred of hardbacks being what it is. A lesser-known title on the list is Joe Moran’s On Roads, published by Profile earlier this year. I’m of the opinion that there remains to be written both some key fiction and also a (perhaps psychogeographic; perhaps a less rural but essentially Sebaldian travel / memoir / historical) piece of non-fiction about motorways in particular and motorway service stations too. I think I doubt that Moran’s book is quite that but we’ll see. I must read Jon Savage’s history of punk (or indeed Simon Reynolds’) soon too – any reader of this blog keen to get me a Christmas present could bear that in mind… I guess the train nerd living inside me will need sating with Christian Wolmar’s history of how the railways changed the world, Blood, Iron and Gold, too. Get thee to thy local indie bookshop, Santa.

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