The nights are long, the days are cold. You don’t need a better excuse to stay in with a book. Here is a non-fiction book and a novel for your consideration.
I’ve always wished to be a ‘science’ person. Unfortunately, I was born with a inability to do any mathematics more complicated than long-division, which was not helped by the painful way science was taught in school. Day one of physics in second year and we learned about rulers, which seemed so excruciatingly dull that I gave up on the subject completely. In a move which may seem incredible to international readers, I completed my Leaving Cert exams by focussing completely on the humanities. No-one said a word.
However, I’ve always been fascinated by the world around me, both natural and man-made. How do cars move, and planes stay up, and how does wi-fi work? How can scientists tell us what the t-rex looked like, and when continents broke up? I’ve picked up tidbits here and there, but my knowledge is still, sadly, somewhat limited.
Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything has gone a long way to redeem some of that ignorance. First published in 2003, it has been somewhat overtaken in places by events (the Higgs Boson, of course, was found earlier this year) and it is hard to follow at times, especially if you’re not mathematically minded. But Bryson’s knack for spotting quirky characters and salient facts shines through. It’s also worth reading in order to remind ourselves what a miracle our existence on this accommodating planet is. It’s easy to forget, when you’re confronted by late buses and morning traffic and modern mundanity, that we live in a world of wonders, but this book is a good illustration of how lucky we are to be here at all.
Now, a few words on Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. This novel has been a runaway success, and deservedly so. Full of more twists and turns than a mountain pass in Donegal, the story follows married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. Both lose their jobs in the New York media, and move back to Nick’s hometown in the Mid West, to help him care for his dying mother. Nick opens a bar with his twin sister. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. And it soon becomes apparent that Nick has secrets.
A taut, unnerving thriller, it illustrates the power of the media (“it’s always the husband” is a constant refrain throughout the book), and the secret nature of relationships. Can we ever know what someone else is thinking, even the person we choose to share our lives with? While the writing at times is a little clunky, the tale Flynn weaves is truly unputdownable.
As to whodunnit? Let’s just say, if faced with a marriage like this, even Bridget Jones would gladly accept her spinster card and half a dozen cats.
Til next month book fans!