No one, neither Robinson Crusoe on his desert island nor Captain Bligh on his 4,000 mile voyage to safety in an open boat, has had such a life threatening adventure as Mark Watney in Andrew Weir’s accomplished novel, The Martian [London: Del Rey, 2014]. Mostly told in the first person log of the man who was left for dead by his five astronaut fellow crew men when their mission to the red planet had to be swiftly aborted in a dust storm. They saw him go down, pierced by the spike of a radio antenna and knew he couldn’t survive. Amazingly, they made it off the planet and set off on their long return voyage to Earth.
If you like the idea of literary pastiche, then Val McDermid’s 21st century revision of Northanger Abbey [London: HarperCollins, 2014] could be for you. Distinguished crime writer and light of the British literary scene, McDermid has reimagined the story of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney as young people of the present day, speaking a patois of their own and totally dependent on their smart phones and access to Twitter and Facebook.
Set for publication in April 2017, Michael previews this account – by himself and fellow shipmates – of the aircraft carrier HMS Warrior‘s participation in Operation Grapple, Britain’s first successful thermonuclear bomb tests in the Pacific in 1957, and the goodwill voyage in the Pacific and to South America which followed. (The text of this vlog is below.)
Not for the first time, I have been reading The White Rabbit [London: Cassell & Co, 2000] by Bruce Marshall. Probably the first time was not long after it was first published in 1952 when memories of the recent war were still green. Marshall recounts the wartime experiences of Wing-Commander Yeo-Thomas, a long-time resident in France, fluent French speaker and a director of the couturier Molyneux which itself has been set up by a former British army officer after WW1. His experiences were nothing short of horrific and it is a testament to his mental, never mind physical, powers of endurance, and his ingenuity, that he survived to tell his tale through Marshall’s trenchant biography.
Some seventy years older than his British counterpart Adrian Mole, elderly Dutchman Hendrik Groen pokes fun at the complicated life and lifestyle of the growing geriatric generation [London: Michael Joseph, 2016].