Amis and Munro

No, not a new firm of solicitors, but my rapidly chosen reading for a long railway journey. I'm heading up to Durham for a conference, I need portable paperback fiction for the four hour train journey, so I dive into Telford Library and grab Martin Amis' The Zone of Interest, and Alice Munro's The Lives of Women and Girls.

Oh boy. I couldn't have come up with a greater contrast if I'd tried. I was, i'll admit, an early Amis fan. Money had an irresistible energy and wit that means you could put up with the nastiness for the sake of the ride. but not this. This was dry, turgid, clever in a remote kind of way but lacking any humour or warmth. Somebody from The Scotsman said on the cover that this was Amis' masterpiece. Not for me, it wasn't.

The Munro, on the other hand, was a delight. It calls itself a novel, but it's linked short stories, and that's what she does best. (Apart from the central character being the common link, there's not much long-term continuity, or structure spread across the book as a whole). What you get are wonderful moments, clear observation of people in action, in love, out of love, and dry, rueful reflections on what we're like and how we behave. The miles sped by.