Monday, 3 October 2011

In Praise Of The Kindle And Locanda Cipriani

We bought a Kindle in March. We both enjoy reading but there was something of a reluctance to take the plunge with e-books and, although we have had the device for six months, we didn't download anything until  the week before we went on holiday.I still had plenty unread on the shelves so had no incentive to go digital and Marion loves the feel of books and was extremely reluctant to make the change. But with us travelling by air for the first time in ages, a case full of paperbacks would have played havoc with the baggage allowance. Marion is a great list maker and had a long list of novels that she had seen reviewed recently so we went onto Amazon and bought half a dozen. An added benefit was that we were able to download the Kindle App onto both the iPad and the iPhone giving us three copies of each book which meant that we could both read the same book at the same time which would have allowed us to talk about them if we had actually done so.

The experience was a delight. The screen is clear and the device is extremely light. Turning a page is simplicity and the book is always at the right page when you pick it up again. I reckon that using the Kindle allowed me to get through a novel in far less time than it would have taken me to read the same in book form. As a consequence I got through all six of Marion's book choices in the seven days we were away as well as a free Charles Dickens selection that I downloaded. 

Marion used the Kindle and I used the Kindle for iPad and iPhone. There is no question which is better. The iPad is much heavier and the screens on both iPad and iPhone are more difficult to read in bright sunlight. Having said that I still found using them a good experience. The latest Kindle is on offer at Amazon for just £89 and, at that price, anybody who enjoys reading should log on and buy one now.

So what did I read on that marathon readathon? All the books probably fall into the category of light reading and tending towards the feminine taste, both of which suit me fine.

Tim Pears' Landed tells the story of a young father separated from his wife and kids. It opens with a hard but idyllic childhood spent on the Welsh hillside with farming grandparents but life is turned upside down by a motor accident which wrecks the future. This is a very easy and highly descriptive novel which moves to becoming (intentionally) surreal in the closing stages. We would have preferred it without the surreality as both of us found the ending unsatisfying.

For me, another strange ending marred the excellent Glasshopper by Isabel Ashdown. A story of relationships and family told by the long suffering teenager Jake and his alcohol dependent mother Mary the book constantly flits between decades and demands concentration but that concentration is rewarded by an intriguing jigsaw that fits together beautifully and, I felt, should have ended when that last piece was put into place.

The Return Of Captain John Emmett is a bit of an Edwardian whodunnit (although there's no chance of you guessing the solution). It's entertaining and enjoyable. Perfect for a sun lounger.

The White Woman On The Green Bicycle was my favourite of the holiday reads. Set on the tropical paradise of Trinidad, the book evokes colonialism to perfection. It is the tale of a glamorous young couple who travel to the Caribbean for the husband's career. It's supposed to be a short term thing so the suffering young wife, who dislikes the place intensely, makes an effort to cope but watches in horror as her husband becomes a lotus eater who is totally bewitched by the island's charms. With strands of politics, relationships, racism, family and love, this is a complex and beautifully written novel that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

I felt that I could see what was coming in A Mile Of River from a long way off. If things hadn't turned out as expected it would have been a brilliant novel but as clues were flagged up almost in block capitals I was disappointed. A rites of passage tale of a young woman in the long summer drought of 1976. As I said, "brilliant" could be applied to the writing but not, sadly, to the plot.

Another very pleasant read, The Opposite Of Falling is a good love story with plenty to keep you guessing. I thought that the flying devices around which the whole thing revolves felt a little contrived but the characters are strong and believable and it's a very nice book.

And talking of nice things, I'd like to finish today with some words of praise for Signor Bonifacio Brass and his staff of Locanda Cipriani on Torcello. We had to leave the hotel at eight in the morning. This was before breakfast starts but on the previous evening one of the waiters offered to get up an hour early and come to the hotel and make breakfast for us. What fabulous service! We declined the waiter's offer - the poor lad wasn't knocking off until late at night and we had plenty of time to eat at the airport but when we got up, Signor Brass, the owner of the Locanda, made us coffee. That's the sort of attention to detail and hands on management that has made the place the massive success that it is. Success that is well deserved. You wouldn't get many hotel managers doing that, let alone owners. Thank you.