Friday, 18 May 2012

Latest Reading

Picked up in a Charity Shop at the weekend - mid 1950s
The Wonder Book of Railways
This is the 21st edition of this obviously much-loved book.  The pictures are a joy.  The Man Who Can helped me date it by supplying information on the engine it describes as the most recent of its class. He had a copy when he was a little boy (in the early 70s).  He also had a gigantic and very detailed train set in the roof of his parents house.  In his late teens he swapped this for his first car.

The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk
Published 1990
A fascinating book about the struggle between Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia, including Afghanistan and all the neighbouring fiefdoms as well as Persia and even Tibet.  Lots of young officers, (very young some of them) trekking out alone into uncharted wastes and mountains to check on what the other side was doing, trying to win allies among the people who lived in these wild places and charting new territories.  Britain was trying to protect its possessions in India and constantly feared an invasion by Russia either through Afghanistan, or from the Caucasus via Persia (modern day Iran).  Russia was always looking for opportunities.  This tussle lasted right through the nineteenth century and many, many people died. 
They are still dying. Helmund, Kandahar, Kabul, Jelalabad.  Same places, different generation, different reasons.

Parrot and Olivier in America
Published 2010
Shortllisted for the Man Booker Prize
A fictional account of two unlikely and unwilling emigrants to America in the early nineteenth century and their reactions to the American Dream.  The New World looking back at the Old.  Subtle and entertaining.