When re-reading blows your mind

Coral-Glynn-by-Peter-CameronGood God, that title sounds very click-baity. sorry about that.

Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron
I read this novel back in January 2015. All I could remember about it was that I really liked it, but I couldn’t remember one plot point nor any other thing about what was actually printed between the covers. So when I was perusing all the many audio books that the wonderful Simon Prebble has narrated I couldn’t resist the urge to buy his reading of Coral Glynn. I hesitated at first because I had read the book so recently it seemed like wasting money. But I got over it and hit the ‘buy’ button. I’m so glad that I did. I ended up loving the book even more than I remember (and this time I remember what it is about).

The eponymous Coral Glynn is a home nurse for a dying elderly woman and is a bit of an adult orphan with no friends and family. In her more hopeful moods she mentions a friend in London, but when push comes to shove she isn’t willing to test the tenuous bonds of that relationship. There is a housekeeper who hates her in a way that reminds me of Mrs. Danvers and the possibility of an unreliable narrator. In many ways Coral seems to be too damaged or just really poorly equipped emotionally to deal with the world.

When you read Coral Glynn (and you will read Coral Glynn), you will be surprised by how much Cameron manages to pack into this slim volume. Even more surprising is the fact that, although there are bit players, none of the characters seem one-dimensional. They are all wonderfully and tragically believable. It isn’t a perfect book. There were one or two moments that faintly bothered my common sense meter, but now I quibble.

Sometimes I feel like I compare every book I like to those of my favorite authors (e.g., Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner to name two). I felt the urge to do that with Coral Glynn but didn’t want to bring up the connection, until, that is, I came across this review by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan who does exactly that. She also throws in Elizabeth Taylor, and as I allude to above, Daphne du Maurier. I think I would throw Muriel Spark into the mix as well.

I will leave you with one of my favorite things from Corrigan’s review:

I was in my local independent bookstore last week, enjoying the endangered pleasure of wandering around and snuffling through interesting-looking books, when I overheard two women talking in front of the new releases section. “I need a new British novelist,” one of them said. Ladies, I should have spoken up, but the moment passed and, besides, it was too awkward to explain that one of the best British novelists writing today was born in New Jersey.

8 thoughts on “When re-reading blows your mind

  1. M Denise C May 9, 2016 / 7:49 pm

    I can’t believe you don’t remember a thing about a novel you read not that long ago!


  2. BookerTalk May 10, 2016 / 3:12 am

    Must be good if you equate it to people of the Brookner calibre.


  3. biggardenblog May 10, 2016 / 8:01 am

    Thank you, Thomas, for this: I have had similar experiences with books I know I absolutely loved reading, but oddly enough can’t remember anything about. I recall learning (and it’s something I still routinely do), that it is folly to check a calculation (or some other work) by the same means it was done in the first place: if it’s a column of £.p, for example, add them bottom up instead of top-down. So too, I now see, with reading. It may be more profitable to revisit the same work through a different medium. I’m so glad I follow your blogs – it was a mention of Anita Brookner that first caught my attention!


  4. serenknitity May 12, 2016 / 2:46 am

    Love your reviews – and adore Maureen Corrigan too. *adds yet another book to teetering TBR pile*
    Am with you on rereading too – can barely remember plots of great books, but still remember the enjoyment, so I suppose that’s something.


  5. myvermontkitchen May 13, 2016 / 2:09 pm

    Thanks so much for the recommendation, Thomas! I downloaded and am now listening. Funny, though, since you like older literature, this reads more like something written in the 1950s than 2012! :-) And Simon Prebble is fantastic, I’ll have to find other books he has narrated.


  6. dhanff May 25, 2016 / 6:28 am

    On your recommendation I read the book. For something written so recently it seems so retro. If it wasn’t for the fact that things turn out differently than expected (and characters are more than they seem) I would say this book was written in the time in which it is set. I certainly read the book quickly but wasn’t overly impressed. Maybe the audio experience would have been better.


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