Father and Son by Sir Edmund Gosse

This is one of the most personal of biographies I have ever read. It was first published in 1907. It is also of its time a masterful document of religious thinking of the Non-conformist , puritan groups in England in the period from fifty years before. It is much more besides - a brilliant set of memories of early childhood and the way of thinking as a child. The stories of the relationships between each of his parents - the naturalist, non-conformist minister father, his incredible , stoic mother who died when he was only seven and the son himself in turn with them are breathtakingly told. The characters of his father and mother are wonderfully and tenderly observed. The writing is crytsal-like about religious feelings and the philosophy of the family members .

There is amazing material in this short memoir - ( It is a strong social history I wish I had read it when doing 19th British History) - highlighting the dilemma of the Creatonists with the new Lyell/Darwinian Natural Selectionists and their dramatic findings. Chapter five where the author Edmund Gosse described the almost personal destruction of his Scientist/Bible believing father when his compromising published work fails to gain the kudos he had hoped from his fellow scientists at the Royal Academy is perfectly realised and written.

Having said all of the above this memoir is also delightfully humorous at times and is so inciteful about the country folk in Devon where his father takes the young Gosse to live after the death of the beloved wife and mother. - to be near the sea where they can collect sea shore specimens. The chapel people here are wonderful.

If you have half an interest in the way our ideas have been formed over the last 150 years please read this superbly written shortish memoir and then please discuss.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This novel is a literary a well as a social satire . We are used to Austen as the first rate commentator and writer about social manners but in this one she is having fun in a different way. The author is spoofing the type of writer very popular at the time at which it was written , ca 1803. Catherine , the heroine, is addicted to Gothic romance novels and is on the lookout for any real life applications of the fantastic story lines of those novels - in applying this logic she makes the usual mistakes . But it is no way as serious a comment on the behaviour and thinking processes of self centred young persons as in Emma , for instance. I enjoyed it very much when i first read it . I would be delighted to hear what others think. I will be adding some further comments also a bit later.

Midnights's Children by Salman Rushdie

I am still reading this amazing book - will be finished in a few days time. Please feel free to comment and tell us your view if you have already read it. I was a little taken aback to have been reading it whilst the Mumbai terror episodes were before us in the news but on reflection it has been a positive experience for me and added to my understanding. The reason for this is that the book is such a wonderful evocation of the multicultural and multi religious strength and vibrancy of Mumbai , Once again I find that good fiction educates us as much as any other text can do. I look forward to sharing a few more specific thoughts on this magical book just a little later.