Another reading recommendation picked up from listening to Radio Four’s Book Club, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings follows a group of six young Americans who meet and become lifelong friends at Summer Camp – that American institution and rite of passage that glowed with glamour and exciting opportunities when gazed at from the Birmingham suburbs of my teenage years.
The novel focuses on two of the friends, Julie ‘Jules’ Jacobson and Ethan Figman. Jules, who discovers a passion for performance at the camp, learns the hard way that even with talent (and more talent than she has) the stage is a hard place to forge a career, especially without family money behind you. Ethan is the one member of the group with true talent, and his gift for animation and storytelling brings riches and opportunities beyond belief.
But at the heart of the novel are the events of one night in their late teens when one of the group alleges rape by another, and the consequences that flow for the couple themselves and for the six friends.
Falco and heavily pregnant Helena travel to the Iberian peninsula to investigate a possible olive oil cartel, and the murder of a freelance investigator in Imperial employ and the potentially fatal attack on Falco’s arch enemy, and Palace Spy Master, Anacrites.
We get to see life in the provinces – warmer ones than those visited by Falco and Helena in previous adventures, but not as warm as their desert adventures en route to Palmyra. Still, at the extremities of Rome’s reach, there’s still plenty of social snobbery, politics, patronage and money making in play amongst the privileged elite.
Nux comes along to wreak her habitual happy havoc, and makes a cracker of an entrance before even leaving the civilised world of Imperial Rome:
“Hello, Nux.” Nux farted quietly, then turned round to survey her rear with mild surprise.
Falco and best mate Petro tackle organised crime on Rome – heists, kidnappings and child ransoms, brutal murders.
On the home front, Falco tackles the noble Helena about his suspicions as to the consequences of one particularly hot and steamy night in Palmyra…. And meets her elder younger brother, Aelianus – and his disapproval of their self declared marriage.
Amidst all this, we meet Nux, a lovable stray pooch who gets all the best lines:
“Watch yourself, furry! One false move and I’ll turn you into bootliners!”
No, not another Falco (although I did think it was when I borrowed it!)
If anything, I enjoyed The Course of Honour more than any of the Falco series I’ve read so far. (As does Kate Macdonald, I now recall.) It’s Lindsey Davis’ telling of the life and loves of a Roman woman, Caenis. Born a slave, she is trained as a secretary and by good fortune finds herself scribing for Emperor Claudius’ mother, Antonia. In due course, Antonia makes Caenis a freedwoman.
On a sedate train service heading towards Cardiff, after another lovely weekend in Pembs, this time combining the 14th Everest Trek Get Together with the start of Steffi’s birthday celebrations.
Friday featured generous G&Ts followed by curry and then the onward drive Newgale and the Van. Dave and Gwyneth had met us in Newport with the usual smooth station rendezvous and a drive West that was somewhat wetter than desired.
The damp theme resurfaced on Saturday this time accompanied by strong winds – the forecast had promised heavy rain and winds over the 50mph mark, and proved accurate. The morning was slightly less bad, and we ventured out along the road to the cafe/paper shop. Huge waves and steady rain kept almost everyone else inside. The return walk, into the wind, took 6 mins longer than the outbound leg. A day in the caravan seemed the sensible option, with D&G driving back to the Duke of Cambridge to watch Wales romp to victory in the Six Nation final. We celebrated that and Steffi’s birthday minus 3 days with ginger tiffin, tea and sparklers.
Steffi and I ventured out to watch sunset from the beach, catching a final shower en route but one that delivered a wonderful full rainbow over the caravan park. Beautiful sunset, the sea still strong.
Back in the van, present opening followed together with further toasts, of champagne this time, accompanied by crisps from the pub. We dined on Steffi’s special soup, Cardigan bread, hummus and carrot sticks, cheese and biscuits.
Leisured breakfast on Sunday. No rain and crystal clear skies out over St Brides Bay. A beautiful walk along the beach, busy with walkers and dogs. Lovely.
Back to Mayhem for continued celebrations with more champagne and a slap up Sunday lunch cooked by Maurice and Maria. Yes, we did visit the Aisles of Aldi en route. It’s tradition.
Hazel and I caught the 15.54 from Whitland, changed onto the GWR service at Swansea and are whiling away the journey back to London listening to podcasts / watching downloads. Currently at Cardiff where our naturally quiet carriage now has a lady putting the world to rights on a phone call…