Since retiring from coping with new books I have found it a pleasure not to have to glance at any of them. One, however, Anne Tyler’s 20th novel A Spool of Blue Thread (Vintage, £7.99), was pure pleasure. A quiet family drama over four generations, set in Baltimore as usual, it was never obvious which way it was going. but patterns emerged in the end.
My interest in India is matched only by my ignorance, so almost everything in Ferdinand Mount’s Tears of the Rajas (Simon & Schuster, £25) came as a surprise to me. Through the careers of various enterprising relations, he tells the story of the British in the years leading up to the mutiny — or first war of independence as I now know it should be called. We cannot be said to emerge with great credit, but it is maddening how often someone had the right idea but not the power to enforce it. Gripping.
I reread The Vale of Laughter (originally published in 1967) by a forgotten American comic novelist called Peter de Vries because I remembered the opening fondly: ‘Call me, Ishmael. Feel absolutely free to. Call me any hour of the day or night at the office or at home.’ He must remain forgotten.