A Whole Life – Robert Seethaler

This has been on the bookshelf for ages – it was actually chosen by my son to give to my husband for Christmas. But it looked interesting so once he’d read it it was snagged into my “to read” pile. Not a compelling plot, but a slow reflection on life and the changes that took place through the twentieth century.

I read this whilst on a ski holiday in the Alps, drinking in the worms-eye view on the sweeping change that came with the development of cable cars and ski holidays, and ultimately year-round tourism. Plus the depth of grief, along with the sense of space in the mountains, which drive the development of Egger’s character.

I have ordered this in the original German to read in that as well.

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Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli

I failed both general relativity and quantum mechanics at university, although the few lectures I sat through in the physics department made much more sense than those in the maths department. Sadly it was the maths department that set my exam! So I enjoy reading about physics as long as I don’t have to memorise tensor calculus as part of it, and obviously picked this up as it is such a popular book on cutting edge physics.

It is very simply seven lessons in physics: each of which takes a well-known issue in modern physics and explains it in lay terms for everyone to understand. From my nemisis, general relativity to black holes and free will, the complexity is cut through a the basic principals explained. Of course if you think you understand some of these principals, you almost certainly don’t, but its nice to have a grasp of what is going on.

A collection of short essays, it comes in at 79 pages of content, so not a big commitment to anyone who wants to understand more of physics. And it is all clear and very well written/translated (from Italian).

Mr Darwin’s Gardener – Kristina Carlson

Mr Darwin’s Gardener is not, as one might imagine, written somewhere safely in a rural English county. It is instead a translation from Finnish. A good translation as it happens, but not what I expected from the title.

Also I didn’t really think the link to Darwin was needed at all. We never see him, he is just a device to explain Thomas’s atheism, which seemed unnecessary. In fact, given that this novel is trying to explore the beginnings of the decline of Christianity in rural England, it almost weakened the premise.

As a small exploration of human nature, it works perfectly. Firstly we see the ability of community and gossips to image the worst, and to react in a mob-like manner. But then people work out their own way to succeed despite this backdrop, and in some ways the community ties provide strength to those within it, and consider Darwin’s household part of their own.

Have you recently read something that didn’t turn out to be what you expected?