As you will know I am named after the flower of the winter season, ‘a show-stopper with its tropical and exotic look! It has the … most spectacular blooms of all houseplants’ and so on and so on. Well, if the name fits… However, even my bloom and exoticism is finding it hard to eclipse the stygian gloom that has settled over the south-east of the country for the last, well forever. Impenetrable grey cloud, seeping dampness, murk and mire cloaking the streets, all very fine to read about in a Dickens novel but very dispiriting in reality. A bit cheerless for an opening paragraph perhaps, but hopefully you are lucky enough to own a beautiful Amaryllis plant yourself and life will seem a lot brighter and besides these letters were never meant to provide self-help!
I am sure you are all clamouring to know what books this year will have the Amaryllis seal of approval… In the very near future, I am certainly looking forward to the new Julian Barnes, The Only Story, and the new Jim Crace, The Melody. But it is the ones I don’t know about that I am really excited about, those that aren’t trumpeted about in the press, or which turn up in a second hand bookshop, or which look unpromising only to reveal pages of gold… Some of them will be brought to the light in our book groups and the February choices are looking very promising but I shan’t tell you what they are yet as we still have to meet for our January reads.
I have decided that this year I will be ending each missive with two of my books of the week (although I only write this every 2 weeks so really it will be my books of every 2 weeks but that doesn’t sound as good). This ‘week’ I have chosen Rebecca Stott’s memoir In the Days of Rain and Sisters by Lily Tuck.
In the Days of Rain describes Rebecca Stott’s own memories of growing up within a very strict strand of the Plymouth Brethren in the 1960s and the part her father played and ultimately withdrew from in the increasingly suspect and totalitarian group. Compulsive as the story is, it is the quality of the writing that captures the tensions of living in such a sect and the wonder of life outside.
Sisters was a delightful surprise: a witty and original account of the second wife’s obsession with the first… It is short and episodic but elegant and captivating.