As I was eating my breakfast cereal this morning (no advertising here so I'll refrain from telling you just what but it wasn't Kellog's) I breathed a sigh of relief. I had reached the end of the book I had been reading for several days. I had been by turns both irritated and interested by this book, which comprised parts of letters sent home from "somewhere in France" by a World War I soldier, linked by the narrative of his son who also expanded on the background to the letters. I had hoped that the book would give me a more personal view of that war than we have so far been given by television programmes and newspaper articles. And I suppose it did do that, hence the interest, but the language frequently irritated me. I got the distinct impression that the soldier was using words and phrases - and grammar, too - that he would not have generally used in conversation. The result seemed at times stilted and almost pedantically correct - and yet at the same time almost childish. It occurred to me that he was trying his utmost to better himself, to step into a higher stratum of "society" than his upbringing as the son of a shopkeeper would suggest as his level.
I am not generally given to reading books of an improving nature or for the purpose of self-education. At my time of life there is precious little hope of improving me (some might say that i don't need improvement) and I have little need of further education. No, my reading is for pleasure, to help me escape from the humdrum world. This means that my literary diet is light, fictional works, although there is the occasional leavening of a Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy. Very occasional. I've just read the latest offering from Michael Connolly and the most recent in the Ladies No 1 Detective Agency series (although if you read one of these you have read them all) and I have lined up awaiting attention Robert Goddard's latest and a friend has lent me Peter James' most recent Roy Grace novel, the series set in Brighton, so things should be set fair for the next week or so.