It's strange - just before the new year, I tend to feel very purposeful and optimistic. I'm convinced that I will have the energy to get up to all sorts of things in the year to come and not get stuck in a rut like during a goodish part of the year that was. And then January comes along, and most of the energy vanishes, just like that. Typical.
This time last year, I was going through a real low patch, and I'm determined I won't let it happen again. But the January blues can very easily descend on you if you don't find a convenient cultural pick-me-up to get you through it. Last year they were worsened by post-Downtonian withdrawal syndrome, which I'm suffering from this year as well, albeit not to the same degree. An engrossing book or TV series would be just what I need - easier said than done, though.
Book-wise, I've already had my first disappointment when starting on Affinity by Sarah Waters, which I thought was a sure thing, bearing in mind what a page turner Fingersmith was. Frustratingly, it started out with pages and pages of scene-setting in a Victorian women's prison. What I appreciated with Fingersmith was its ability to get on with the story and not get bogged down with too much "look, I really know this period, me" local colour. I'm sure Affinity improves, but I have no patience for it right now, when I'm in need of a quicker reading fix.
Next out was Death at Wentwater Court, a light-hearted country-house mystery by Carola Dunn set in the Twenties. For a book in this genre, however, there turned out to be precious few twists, both mystery-wise and character-wise. The damsel in distress is revealed to be just that - a damsel in distress, and spineless with it, not a scheming minx as I was half hoping. Agatha Christie it ain't: the cynicism in her characterisation can annoy me sometimes, but I longed for a dose of it here. Still, it was a sweet tale, and at least I managed to finish it.
Right now I'm reading a gentle romance, The Memory Garden by Rachel Hore. And yes, it's pleasant - I've waded through many a worse book. I wish it could be a bit more engaging, though. It used to annoy me when, say, film reviewers complained about a rom com's "predictability". Well, duh, I thought, you don't watch a rom com for its original storylines - just tell us if it was heart-warming and witty, because that's what we really want to know. However, I must reluctantly admit that I'm starting to see the reviewers' point. When romantic pairings are all too obvious from the word go, then the obstacles thrown in the lovers' way can seem rather contrived.
The novel's heroine is a little drippy for my taste, too, though I tell myself I should give the poor woman a break after all that she's been through. She seems to take offence at the slightest thing that her likely new love interest does or does not do, and then she mopes around and feels "lonely" in her Cornwall cottage. She has months off work, she's got a contract for writing a book about something she's interested in, she's rented a cottage in Cornwall, she can sleep in mornings - honestly, is a spot of loneliness really something to worry about in the circumstances? I'm reminded, though, about how ubiquitous the Feisty Heroine is getting, when my reaction to a somewhat messed-up heroine is one of irritation. Isn't it only human to be over-wary before starting a new relationship and a bit pathetic at the same time? All heroines can't be of the fearless huntress variety. Still, remembering all the complications one is used to encounter in a love story, I can't help thinking: you're single, he's single, just do it, will you?