{Book Club} Smut, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? & Black Dogs

So after reading, and enjoying Bee's mini book reviews, and finally having some time to read books I actually *want* to read, I thought I'd give it a try! So here's what I've been reading recently...

Smut, Alan Bennett 

Okay, so I have a slight obsession with Alan Bennett. The History Boys is my favourite thing in the whole world ever, not to put too fine a point on things. So it figures that I would love this book. This book is like a meringue - light, sweet but with texture. It is perfectly observed and perfectly British.

The book actually consists of two short stories (you could probably read it all in one sitting should you so choose, which doesn't make it the most economical I guess - totally worth it though IMO). I preferred the first, the characters were much more likeable and the twists and turns were really a delight.

This book may be called 'Smut' but it's not really all that smutty. It's just beautiful. That's all I can say.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson 

If you've read any of Jeanette Winterson's fiction I hope you were as baffled and charmed as I was when I read 'Sexing the Cherry' and 'The Passion' (the latter is the better of the two, if you ask me). This however, is not fiction, and for the most part you remain pretty squarely in the land of the real. In fact, a little too much at time for the more sensitive among us. Winterson (I want to call her Jeanette, what's the etiquette here?) had a childhood that would not be out of place in one of those misery lit books - abusive mothers, nights locked in a coal cellar, and a life controlled by religion (which doesn't take too kindly to her lesbian relationships...). That's summing up rather glibly however, as there is so much more nuance than I can possibly hope to capture. And despite the typical tropes of misery lit, there is a lot of hope and happiness to be found - a testament perhaps to Winterson's own strength of character and determination to embrace the joys of life.

Full of the little phrases that make you think twice (is love measured by loss?) which characterise a lot of Winterson's work, this is a joy to read - even at the times when it makes you uncomfortable. A true story about real people - with all their flaws and foibles, you can't help but get swept along. Thought provoking, I just really wanted to hug her by the end.

Black Dogs, Ian McEwan 

My obsession with Ian McEwan is slightly different to my obsession with Alan Bennett. With Alan Bennett I want him to be my (extra) grandad and to eat shortcake whilst he tells me stories. With Ian McEwan I am torn between my love and my hatred for him. Maybe hatred is a strong word, but you get my point. On the one hand, McEwan's fiction is affecting, stunning and all-consuming. On the other, he is a sick bastard. I once tried to read 'The Innocent' and had to leave it halfway through because it was too disgusting - and that is not something I have ever had to do (I do wish I could have found out what happens though!). And yet, on the other hand, Atonement left me in shock and awe.

And with that, Black Dogs falls somewhere in between the two. Food for thought, is really the only thing I can say about this book. A love story told through the eyes of the son-in-law, the book muses upon politics, science, spirituality and relationships. I actually didn't enjoy this book as much as the other two (but I remain excited about McEwan's new release 'Sweet Tooth'). I still can't get my head around the book and I am unsure what McEwan was trying to say. Has anyone else read it? What did you think?

What have you been reading recently?