…which may not be a title you might expect to see on the Ramblings, as I do as a rule try not to skim through a book – I feel I should really read it properly or not bother! However, there were a couple of titles which I flicked through recently and it was an odd experience!

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

Mr. Kaggsy, bless him, presented me with this one as a possible holiday read (not that we went anywhere, but while I was on the summer break from work I *did* read quite a lot…) It’s a book I’ve actually considered a couple of times over the years, and with my interest in all things from the Slavic regions I thought it might appeal…

I *wanted* to like this book, but I really struggled. The writing is in the present tense, which I rarely like, and the narrative was just – well, a little flat for me. I didn’t engage particularly with the characters and the plot was silly but I didn’t find it funny. I ended up skipping to the end just to see the resolution, and was surprised to find that when the reason for the rift and the issues between the sisters who were the two main characters was revealed, it was actually quite a dark one. This left me thinking that perhaps the book could have had more done with it, but in the end it was far too superficial and not for me, so I’ve popped it into the ever-growing ‘donate’ box for when I can get the charity shops to collect again.

On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming

I’ve seen this particular title pop up on a number of blogs I follow, and looking at the reviews generally it seems to divide readers. It’s a memoir by author Cumming focused on the time her mother was briefly abducted from the titular beach for a short period when she was three years old. The mystery has haunted Cumming and the book follows her searches into her family history to find out what *really* happened and the mystery behind it. She reveals all manner of family secrets as well as surprising complicity in events from local people.

Usually I find this kind of thing interesting; for example, Richard Beard’s “The Day That Went Missing” was a similar kind of read, delving into lost or forgotten elements of the past. However, “Chapel Sands…” just didn’t gel for me; the plot was interesting, but perhaps not that unusual for the time; and the reveal was too slow. I found myself recognising and resenting the devices the author was using to build the mystery, and I ended up becoming frustrated and skipping through it.

Additionally, Cumming built into the narrative meditations on art and photography (which is relevant as both she and her mother are artists); however, I felt this worked less well than in a book like, say, “Paula” where Sandra Hoffmann’s explorations of her family photographs meshed brilliantly with the type of narrative she was constructing. Cumming’s book didn’t integrate those elements well for me and they ended up jarring, getting in the way of the storyline; and I felt ultimately the book fell between two stools. I know others have responded to this one much more positively, so it may just be me. Mind you, I *was* reading a library e-book on the tablet, so that might not have helped…


So a couple of not very successful reading experiences, which is most unusual for me as I do try to pick books I’m going to respond to or enjoy or get something from. At least I didn’t waste too much good reading time on them…