VivienneR's reading in 2018
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This is my sixth year at Club Read (although a late start). As usual I'll be trying to read and reduce the number of books I already own. I'm planning a re-read of the Forsyte Chronicles this year. At one book per month, I should just make it.
I can also be found over at the 2018 Category Challenge.
Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy
Dead Souls by Ian Rankin
Ashes to Ashes by Barbara Nadel
The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott
Glass Houses by Louise Penny
A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré
The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin
The vanishing act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
The Summer before the war by Helen Simonson
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
1. The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
2. The Blackhouse by Peter May
3. Splinter the silence by Val McDermid
4. The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjöwall
5. A Mind to Murder by P.D. James
6. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
7. The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
8. The Corsican Caper by Peter Mayle
9. The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths
10. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
11. The Garden by Vita Sackville-West
12. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
13. Rowan and Eris by Campbell Jefferys
14. The Camel Club by David Baldacci
15. In Chancery and Indian Summer of a Forsyte by John Galsworthy
16. Sure and certain death by Barbara Nadel
17. The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey
18. The Circle by Peter Lovesey
19. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
20. Shroud for a nightingale by P.D. James
21. Curtains for Roy by Aaron Bushkowsky
22. The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton
23. How the light gets in by Louise Penny
24. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
25. Flying too high by Kerry Greenwood
26. Father Brown: Selected Stories by G.K. Chesterton
27. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
28. The Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw
29. To Let & Awakening (interlude) by John Galsworthy
30. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman
31. The Curse of the Narrows: the Halifax Explosion 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald
32. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
33. Season of Snows and Sins by Patricia Moyes
34. Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie
35. Noble Lies by Charles Benoit
36. The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning
37. Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl
38. Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer
39. Past Imperfect by Julian Fellows
40. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
41. Down to the Dirt by Joel Hynes
42. Conclave by Robert Harris
43. An Irish Country Cookbook by Patrick Taylor
44. Last Rights by Barbara Nadel
45. The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
46. I am a taxi by Deborah Ellis
47. Death of a Ghost by M.C. Beaton
48. The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
49. The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
50. Miss Mole by E.H. Young
51. The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
52. Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King
53. The White Monkey, and A Silent Wooing (interlude) by John Galsworthy
54. Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
55. An Unkindness of Ravens by Ruth Rendell
56. Some Buried Caesar by Rex Stout
57. The Cat Who Smelled a Rat by Lilian Jackson Braun
58. The Georgia Straight: a 50th Anniversary Celebration by Doug Sarti, Bob Geldof
59. A Small Case for Inspector Ghote? by H.R.F. Keating
60. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
61. Excursion to Tindari by Andrea Camilleri
62. The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
63. Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
64. Murder on the Yellow Brick Road by Stuart Kaminsky
65. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
66. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
67. The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
68. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
69. Blacklight Blue by Peter May
70. A Fistful of Collars by Spencer Quinn
71. Blood on the Line by Edward Marston
72. Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
73. Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
74. Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid
75. A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
76. Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
77. Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
78. Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill
79. Congregation of the Dead by Graeme Kent
80. The Silver Spoon, & Passers By by John Galsworthy
81. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
82. 1968: Today's authors explore a year of rebellion, revolution and change by Marc Aronson
83. Trudeau's Shadow: the life and legacy of Pierre Elliott Trudeau
84. Inferior: How Science got Women Wrong - and the new research that's rewriting the story by Angela Saini
85. What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies
86. Nutshell by Ian McEwan
87. Pushing Up Daisies by M.C. Beaton
88. Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale
89. The Black Tower by P.D. James
90. Rattenbury: the life and tragic end of BC's greatest architect by Stan Sauerwein
91. The Girl in the garden by Kamala Nair
92. Mask of Night by Philip Gooden
93. After the Fall: an illustrated novel by Victoria Roberts
94. Murder Being Once Done by Ruth Rendell
95. A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
96. The Accidental by Ali Smith
97. The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
98. Broken Harbour by Tana French
99. Death on the Downs by Simon Brett
100. Pompeii by Robert Harris
101. Swan Song by John Galsworthy
The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
It's been many, many years since the last time I read the nine-volume saga or watched the 1967 TV series, but the characters came back easily thanks to Galsworthy's defining characterizations. Written in 1906, while Victorian values were still of consequence, Galsworthy portrays a family trying to maintain those principles yet beset by events that might shatter their carefully constructed citadel. I enjoyed the re-read tremendously, just as much as the original reading.
The Blackhouse by Peter May
What a surprise! I was expecting the usual police procedural but instead got what amounts to a dark personal history and travelogue of the Hebridean Isle of Lewis with police activity taking a lesser part. The format was the most enticing part of the story that alternately recounts Fin Macleod's personal memories of growing up on the island with the investigation in which he is currently taking part. This is definitely the best from Peter May that I've read and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
Thanks to DeltaQueen50 for the bullet.
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
A fabulous first novel from Doris Lessing published in 1950. Her story tells of the struggles and downfall of a farmer and his wife in what is now Zimbabwe in the 1940s. The writing is outstanding, portraying the innermost feelings of the couple. Any feelings held by black natives are omitted, leaving them anonymous and unknown, as they were treated. The topic of racism is repugnant, yet the story, however repellant and bleak, is spellbinding. The book opens with the announcement of Mary's murder, and then goes to back to her beginnings, her life and details of the eventual breakdown.
Triple bullets from Deltaqueen50, mathgirl40 and AlisonY
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
This is the ultimate closed-room mystery - in this case, a closed monastery mystery. Penny can spin an enthralling story around the most interesting topic combined with Quebec history, and this time, Gregorian chant. Naturally Penny did not set the mystery in a real monastery, but featured Gilbertine monks, an order that existed at one time but became extinct. The Elysian setting of an isolated monastery in the Quebec wilderness, accessible only by boat or plane is what makes this book so special. It is an ideal location for the two dozen monks cloistered there, who have perfected plainchant, known as the Beautiful Mystery. Most of the characters at some point will question their faith, or have it tested. I can't wait to get to the next book in the series where I hope Penny and Inspector Gamache deals with the supremely evil Superintendent Francoeur.
This book, the 8th in the series, could be read as a standalone.
This was my 3rd five-star book in January! That must be a record.
The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths
Excellent! I'm really enjoying this series set in mid-20th century Brighton featuring the Magic Men, a group of men who had served together during WWII and remained in contact. Edgar Stephens is now a policeman, Max Mephisto and Diablo are entertainers in variety shows. This story takes place in 1953 during the time leading up to the coronation when they believe there is the risk of some kind of attack.
I can remember being taken to variety shows in the 50s - although not much of the content. Griffiths describes their move to television, which in reality as well as in this book, was a big success, continuing for many years in the UK. I particularly enjoy the accuracy of the look back at the times, but Griffiths also writes a gripping, entertaining mystery. As well as the magic men, Max has discovered Ruby, a daughter whose existence he was unaware of, an up-and-coming magician with enough star quality to compete with her father. And the personalities of Stephens' sergeants, Emma and Bob, are developing into fuller characters. Great stuff!
Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
Trollope often relies on the conniving abilities of women, but here there is even more devious trickery from men, in this case, Sowerby and Tozer. Like Mark Robarts - someone who deserves a good shake - Trollope had similar money troubles so he writes with experience. I enjoyed the return of some characters from earlier books, like Miss Dunstable and the Proudies. Trollope makes the reader feel like they are old acquaintances. I find this Victorian upper crust saga supremely entertaining.
My version was an audiobook with a top-notch reading by Simon Vance who, granted with Trollope's influence, can impart the character's personality with their first words.
The Garden by Vita Sackville-West
Sackville-West's love of gardening and nature is apparent in all her writing, even her books on gardening have a poetic quality. In this collection of poetry, seasons in the garden symbolize the seasons of life. Written in 1946, there remains the distinct shadow of war.
“Then will the fine-drawn branches of the Winter
Stretch fingers of a lean but generous hand
Against a morning sky of cloud where mingle
Doves and flamingoes, over pented roofs
Of clustered homestead with its barns and lichen
Green in the rain but golden in the sun;”
“Here leap the leaves, where none before were seen;
Swords of narcissus and of daffodil,
A sheaf of blades, too flexible, too green
(It seems) to thrust their points; yet they appear
From nowhere in a night and with the morn are here.
Likewise the iris, that had sunk to ground
In sodden mass of infelicity
Lifts up her grass-green spear,
And these are signs of spring, that spurious spring
That comes in February to astound
And, against reason, make our hearts believe.”
Sure and certain death by Barbara Nadel
This mystery has an out-of-the-ordinary plot. In London, during the Blitz in 1941, Hancock, an undertaker of Indian origins - therefore considered an outsider even though he's a Londoner - is tasked with burying victims that have been mutilated and found in bombed ruins. But when he discovers his sister has something in common with them, he is anxious to prevent her from becoming another casualty. The method is somewhat gruesome, but the London patois and humour keeps events light. Nadel has done a top-notch job of describing wartime conditions.
I enjoyed this one a lot and will be reading more from Nadel.
Nice review of the Lessing.
>13 AlisonY: Thank you, I was off to a great start this year and then slowed down somewhat. Plenty of time to make it up.
>14 avaland: I'm looking forward to the other two in the Lewis trilogy. Even if they don't measure up to the first one, they will still be good.
Shroud for a nightingale by P.D. James
It is surprising that James remains so popular when her writing has so much dated snobbery and patronizing content. The student nurses are even referred to as "children" on more than one occasion, as if they were unruly 5-year-olds. And her characters are able to determine an individual's intelligence with just one look! James' writing style, so well-formed and genteel, obviously ameliorates the weakness. Certainly, if the reader can get past the defects and unlikeable characters, a clever mystery is the reward.
If anybody wants to read Doris Lessing they might as well start with her first novel. The Grass is Singing as you say is fabulous.
Curtains for Roy by Aaron Bushkowsky
When Alex's friend Roy told him he had cancer and only six months to live, they decide to go on a trip to the Okanagan, British Columbia's wine-growing region. While there, they stage a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream bathed in smoke from local wildfires. It was an offbeat story with everyone saying clever things and consuming a lot of wine.
The combination of a familiar locale, theatre, and humour should have made this a winner for me, unfortunately the absence of quotation marks made it difficult to know if the words were spoken or imagined, who spoke, or if it was simply narration. I spent a lot of time repeating sections to make sure I understood. If this book had included the usual punctuation I would have enjoyed it a lot more and rated it higher.
>18 VivienneR: I can’t remember what book I read a few years ago, where all of the sentences seemed to run into one another, and punctuation was lacking. I remember abandoning it, which I don’t usually do.
The narrator in the Bushkowsky book admitted early on that he sometimes (not all the time) spoke his thoughts out loud. So I was trying to separate real thoughts from spoken thoughts and from real conversation. And I think some of the conversation was imagined too. Yikes!
However, to this day, men still hold the majority of the highest ranking positions in libraries even though there are more women in the profession. The same might still be true in medicine and teaching.
James' knowledge of nursing procedures was impressive. On reflection, they seem almost Victorian, enhanced with the image of high starched caps, sensible shoes, and flowing cloaks.
I smiled at your mention of Hattie Jacques, who gave the Carry On films an element of gravitas as well as many laughs. And I love the term "rabid old Tory". I'll remember that one and use it!
The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton
Pretty far-fetched. Delaney, a rare books expert who hails from Kansas, had just arrived in Scotland a matter of hours when she was investigating the murder of her new boss's sister, someone she had never met. More surprising was that not one person told her to bugger off with her nosy questions. My version was an audiobook read with an excruciating Scottish accent. And someone should tell Shelton that it's Scotch whisky, never Scottish. She made a point of using the local terms for everything else except this one. Thin plot and poor characters in what appeared to be a promising cosy mystery.
It appears the quality of my reading is sinking fast this month!
"...And these are signs of spring, that spurious spring
That comes in February to astound
And, against reason, make our hearts believe.”
did resonate, after spending yesterday afternoon pruning apple trees and seeing snow today!
>25 VivienneR: Sounds truly dreadful.
"Scottish" whisky was unforgivable!
How the light gets in by Louise Penny
Outstanding! The entire series has been excellent but this one is the best yet. A few storylines were wrapped up but not without several bitten nails and a riveting climax. Penny has created fictional versions of a couple of big stories from Quebec, the Dionne quintuplets and the deterioration of bridges, that form the backbone of this novel of political and moral corruption.
There are always snippets of information sprinkled like jewels in Penny's novels, this time the quote from Julian of Norwich, 14th century Christian mystic "All shall be well". It pleases me that her description of snow is always kind. Complaints about snow are tiresome, while the actual element can be enjoyed, or at the very least accepted, as it is in Three Pines.
The title from the lyrics of Leonard Cohen's song Anthem, reminds the reader that all is not lost. I could hear his beautiful voice singing in the background throughout.
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in
-- Leonard Cohen
If you plan on reading Louise Penny, this is not the book to start with. Although each novel has its own investigation, Penny develops the story arc and characters over the series.
>33 AlisonY: I've been reading mysteries since I was a kid (Enid Blyton). I used to think I'd run out of authors, but LT has cured that.
Good to see you again.
Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton
Eighteen Father Brown stories. One of the problems many modern mystery writers have is that by setting their murders in a specific community it leads one to believe it a dangerous place. In the same way crime follows Father Brown wherever he goes. I love the way Chesterton writes; he can go from serious to breezy ebullience in one sentence. On the other hand, he is often quite long-winded. However, I'll be keeping this collection for a comfort re-read another time.
A good line from The Secret Garden: "As a soldier, he loathed all this secretive carnage; where were these extravagant amputations going to stop? First one head was hacked off, and then another; in this case (he told himself bitterly) it was not true that two heads were better than one."
I am enjoying Louise Penny's books more than ever. They seem to be getting better. I enjoy the literary ability of Penny, and all her characters are so well done, not just one or two, which is the norm in a mystery novel.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
McEwan can get inside the head of a character better than any author I know. Added to that is his uncanny ability to re-create time and place accurately. Espionage, MI5, Cold War, Northern Ireland, with all the 1970s political and cultural references. McEwan is an engaging writer with superb literary skill. Even though this is not John le Carré espionage, and not even my favourite McEwan, that doesn't prevent it from being a first-rate novel, and one with a fine twist in the tail.
The Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw
The dilemma faced by the doctor is whether he should cure his impoverished friend or a talented artist who is a cad (and also has a beautiful wife). Although very old-fashioned, this play was fun.
My favourite lines:
LOUIS. Well youre on the wrong tack altogether. I'm not a criminal. All your moralizings have no value for me. I don't believe in morality. I'm a disciple of Bernard Shaw.
SIR PATRICK. Bernard Shaw? I never heard of him. He's a Methodist preacher, I suppose.
LOUIS scandalized} No, no. He's the most advanced man now living: he isn't anything.”
I always enjoy dipping into his ranting prefaces, but I doubt whether I've ever read one all the way through - I think the one for Doctor's Dilemma (evils of private medicine, vaccination, vivisection, misuse of medical statistics, etc.) is nearly as long the play.
There was no ranting preface in this version, which I would have read and enjoyed! It would be worth seeking out a copy.
>47 Tess_W: Yes, it was fun. I believe I got mine from Project Gutenberg.
Following my plan to read The Forsyte Chronicles this year, this is the third book of the first trilogy, The Forsyte Saga.
To Let and Awakening (interlude) by John Galsworthy
Galworthy's characters and the setting are fabulous. The entire saga was a page-turner. Old and new passions are aroused when Soames' daughter, Fleur, falls in love with Irene and Young Jolyon's son. The saga concludes in 1920 with a marriage, and with Timothy's funeral; the introduction of the new generation and the end of the old. Can't wait to start on the next trilogy.
“The hymn was over, the prelate had begun to deliver his discourse. He told them of the dangerous times they lived in, and the awful conduct of the House of Lords in connection with divorce. They were all soldiers--he said--in the trenches under the poisonous gas of the Prince of Darkness, and must be manful. The purpose of marriage was children, not mere sinful happiness.”
I hope you give it a try. I'll watch for your opinion.
The Curse of the Narrows: the Halifax Explosion 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald
The description of the time right before the impact and explosion was poignant because it appeared to happen in slow motion. The crews on ships and the local population had so little warning, so little expectation of what was possible that a number of people stood watching as the biggest conflagration in history transpired. The devastation was compounded by the blizzard that followed. The chapter on the nature of explosions was the most interesting as it described why and how the blast and chain of events happened as they did. Some may prefer the more literary Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan, but this is without doubt an superb account of the horrific event that was mind-boggling in its scope.
>57 AlisonY: McEwan's books are all so different! Sweet Tooth reminds me of John le Carrè yet is very different.
>58 NanaCC: Colleen, you will enjoy both of those. As I told Alison, I have found McEwan's books to vary a lot (by topic) but are well worth the read.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
This is a passionate, moving memoir about racism. It's a heartbreaking, but common story, of poverty, excessive police surveillance, everyday prejudice, and hopelessness. There are many conditions of black lives that are not commonly known, making this book a must-read, but not an easy one.
Along with friends, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Khan-Cullors founded Black Lives Matter in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Season of Snows and Sins by Patricia Moyes
Set in Switzerland, in a picturesque ski resort, this novel was first published in 1971 by Irish author Patricia Moyes.
Jane Weston, a sculptor has invited her friends, Detective Chief Superintendent Henry Tibbett and his wife Emmy to spend the Christmas holiday with her in her small alpine chalet. During that time her hired help, Anne-Marie, is charged and convicted with the murder of her husband, a ski instructor to movie stars. Tibbett, suspecting there is more to the story, begins an investigation. The story is well-done but it has all the ingredients for an even better movie.
For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins,
The days dividing lover from lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
—A.C. Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon
I have to add that I love the cover.
Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie
Sir John Franklin set out with two ships and the pick of the Royal Navy in 1845 to try to find the North West Passage, expected to be an alternate route to the Orient. Franklin was an experienced Arctic seaman, but this time did not return. Lady Franklin worked tirelessly to ensure that searches for the ill-fated ships continued and that her husband's name would be remembered for his achievements, not for this failure. In the following decade, as many as forty major expeditions set out, by sea or overland, some funded by Lady Franklin’s influence or her own considerable wealth. They didn't find the ships but added significantly to the knowledge of the Arctic. The Franklin legend and search became obsessive. The mystery was so captivating that the general location was registered as a Canadian national historic site.
Three known graves were exhumed by Dr. Beattie and his research team from the University of Alberta, the results of which was published with the same title in 1987. The news made international headlines. Beattie was able to determine the probable cause of death was tuberculosis and lead poisoning, the lead having leached from the improperly sealed canned food, a new innovation in 1845. His findings filled in many more details of the mystery. Nearly two hundred years later our yearning to know more persisted and in 2008 the Canadian government commissioned a team to resume the search for the ships. In 2014, in the shallow waters of Queen Maud Gulf, off King William Island, they discovered Erebus and in 2016, Terror.
Franklin's name has become news once more as global warming has opened the Northwest Passage, discoveries continue, and sovereignty is at stake. Canada would like to protect the waters by having it designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of internal waterways, not an international strait.
This is a revised edition of Beattie's bestseller published in 1987 with additional information and a foreword by Wade Davis. Margaret Atwood's entertaining and knowledgable introduction is exceptional for the images she creates, and for her descriptions of how public perception of Franklin changed with the passing of each decade, each century. His reputation in the early years was particularly influenced by Lady Franklin's exhortations. She would have liked this book.
I have to add that I knew Dr Beattie and members of his team who were researchers with the Boreal Institute for Northern Studies where I worked in the library (University of Alberta). It was interesting to revisit and catch up on many familiar names.
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellows
Fabulously wealthy Damian Baxter, once a social climber, is dying without family or heir. He contacts the narrator, the best friend of his youth before they crossed swords, to task him with finding the mother of a child he believes he fathered in the sixties. Armed with the names of possible mothers, the narrator sets out to meet and interview them. The situation is tricky because they were all one-time friends, aristocrats and debutants hobnobbing at Britain's grand houses. Naturally, memories and frictions of the past are rekindled for the narrator, the potential mothers, as well as for Damian.
As a social historian Fellowes is unmatched. He is remarkably astute when examining changing generational attitudes and trends and his attention to detail is flawless.
This is neither a lament for times past, nor a criticism of the culture but a sociological study in the style of Downton Abbey, illustrating the cultural changes for the British upper classes (Fellowes calls them "toffs") in the second half of the 20th century. Very well done, beautifully written.
Down to the Dirt by Joel Hynes
A Newfoundland coming of age story; this is gritty, ribald and bawdy. Haynes is adept at injecting black humour in the lives of these young rabble-rousers and allowing the reader to feel some sympathy for the toughest of them, Keith Kavanagh. Written with a candour that reveals authenticity, Hynes has given Newfoundland something special. An excellent debut novel published in 2005, made into a movie in 2008.
Conclave by Robert Harris
A conclave of 118 cardinals to elect a new pope may not sound like material for a thriller, but Harris has created a gripping novel about that event. Besides providing a lot of interesting information about the process and of its history, the writing is brilliant and will hold the reader's attention to the last page. Five stars!
An Irish Country Cookbook by Patrick Taylor
Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly and his practice in Ballybucklebo, Northern Ireland was made famous by Taylor's Irish Country series. This is a collection of authentic Irish recipes from housekeeper Maureen "Kinky" Kincaid. They are interspersed by stories about O'Reilly told by his partner, Doctor Barry Laverty. This is as entertaining as a cookbook can get.
Taylor's book is a must for fans. Like me, you probably know all those Irish recipes already. One more book won't hurt. :)
Last Rights by Barbara Nadel 4★
When I read the fourth book in this series I was won over. This is the series debut about undertaker Francis Hancock, shell-shocked in the first war, now trying to survive the London Blitz in the second. Hancock, whose father was English, his mother (Duchess) Indian, is an appealing, complex character. He feels obliged to investigate a death because he happened to meet the victim in the blackout shortly after his stabbing without realizing it was a mortal injury.
Compared to the first book Sure and Certain Death, there is more in this one about life in war-torn London, more about Hancock's opinion about war and peace, and more about the old-style undertaking business. The plot reflected the mixed ethnicity of London and features a building on Princelet Street now known as Europe's First Museum of Immigration and Diversity. Nadel's sense of time and place is excellent. As the first book in a series it was excellent and I intend to keep reading.
I am a taxi by Deborah Ellis
This Canadian book combines a beautifully told story with an education on what it is like to live in Bolivia with widespread corruption. Twelve-year-old Diego's parents were on a bus where cocaine was found taped underneath their seat. Although uninvolved, they were both imprisoned. For the mother, this meant having her children imprisoned with her. Diego, allowed to come and go, runs errands for prisoners for a small fee - a taxi. This helps his mother with the cost of renting the cell and buying food because nothing is supplied in Bolivian prisons.
His friend convinces him that there are ways of making more money although neither of them know exactly what it entails or what they will earn. They find themselves in the jungle forced into slave labour for the cocaine trade.
Ellis writes a convincing story, that shows more than one way of life in Bolivia. The US “War on Drugs” in 1968 led to targeting indigenous growers of coca leaves, a crop that has cultural and health importance, and indirect support for corrupt regimes. Coca farmers were left without an income when their crops were destroyed. This exciting story, although sad, is a valuable book for middle school readers. The characters are excellent, believable.
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
The story is a study in slow motion compared to the last couple in the series. I never really cared much for Peter Morrow anyway, so couldn't develop much curiosity about his no-show. There is altogether too much time spent hand-wringing and over-thinking all the possibilities of what Peter's art means. It's difficult to appreciate the exhaustive art interpretations when it cannot be viewed. I've enjoyed others in the series but found this one disappointing.
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
As an author of children's books and expected to be knowledgable about childcare, Stephen Lewis participates by daydreaming through meetings of a government committee tasked with creating an official childcare handbook. At the time he is suffering from cataclysmic despondency following the abduction of his daughter. Each of the chapters open with an excerpt from the handbook, eventually printed without the authority of the committee, a risible document that combines a voguish modernity with Victorian severity.
McEwan examines many forms of the child, time, and responsibility: Stephen's desolation for the missing child; the time elapsed as she grows older; his friend Charles' return to childhood; his concern for a young homeless woman; and his mother's memory of choosing to have a child or termination.
McEwan's writing is superb. He is genius at providing the detail that will complete a picture in the mind of the reader. This is a book that will stay in the memory.
It just happened that after I finished this one, the dramatized version was on TV starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It stayed very close to McEwan's story, which I appreciated.
Miss Mole by E.H. Young
Miss Hannah Mole is a single woman of a certain age who earns her living as a housekeeper, companion or governess. But this isn't the usual story of such a person. Miss Mole is witty, outspoken, with a unique sense of fashion. It becomes obvious that there is more to tell about Hannah's life. Is it her sense of fun that leads us astray? There is definitely a secret. Little by little, crumbs of information are revealed but Young keeps the reader - and her characters - guessing to the final pages.
I thoroughly enjoyed this Virago Modern Classic and will be on the lookout for more by E.H. Young who had an interesting life herself.
The Grave's a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley
What could be better than Flavia and Dogger on a boating trip. Naturally, Flavia finds a body. This one is a fine return visit with the endearing young chemistry whiz. Glad to see her sisters are behaving better towards her now.
The White Monkey, and A Silent Wooing (interlude) by John Galsworthy
The fourth book of the Forsyte Chronicles (and the first of the trilogy A Modern Comedy) takes the reader to the Twenties, when life has changed a great deal for Soames and for everyone. For all his faults he is upright and honest and I still can't help liking him. It is ironic that his daughter's love life has some similarities to his own: just as he wanted Irene and couldn't have her, Fleur wanted Jon and couldn't have him. But Fleur is much more fortunate than her father because of her marriage to Michael Mont who is devoted to her. Galsworthy has again captured the essence of class and culture in the disillusionment following The Great War, comparing the dire poverty of many without jobs to the shallow frivolity of the wealthy. The title is taken from a painting of a white monkey that Soames has given the Monts for Fleur's Chinese room, a fitting portrayal of the era: a monkey who eats the fruit, discards the peel, without giving a thought to the meaning of life, while staring out at its audience daring them to disagree.
In the interlude, A Silent Wooing, Jon meets Anne Wilmot. The beginning of a new thread in the story.
An Unkindness of Ravens by Ruth Rendell
Unlike modern police procedurals where there are overlapping cases being investigated, Wexford and Burden have a single case, and apart from Burden's wife being pregnant - with an unwanted girl - there are no side stories. Although this makes for a mystery that is straightforward and easy to follow, the conclusion was rushed and the reader is suddenly inundated with details of a finding far removed from the path of the investigation and without being shown how it was uncovered. Using a repudiated theory of Freud's was pretty hard to swallow, and would have been in 1985 too, when the book was published.
Skip this one, it's annoying and not up to Rendell's usual standard.
My niece, her husband and four children are coming to visit us this weekend, all the way from Australia. So I'll be shopping, cleaning, preparing food etc instead of reading or loitering on LT. (I'll never get caught up on threads.)
They have been in DisneyWorld and decided just because they were on the same continent to drive from Vancouver to the Rockies, dropping in to visit us on the way! The weather has turned unexpectedly sunny and warm and we are all keeping our fingers crossed that there is enough snow left for a snowman or a snowball fight!
We had a wonderful visit with the Australian relatives! They not only got to have a snowball fight and build a snowman but every minute was filled with things they would never experience in their suburban home. Thanks to my son who knows what will entertain anyone, it was non-stop fun at his country location. Hiking, climbing, fireworks, shooting (at targets), campfires, operating a drone, feeding chipmunks, wheelbarrow rides, they loved it all. The photo is of my four-year-old grand-niece feeding almonds to a chipmunk.
The Georgia Straight: a 50th Anniversary Celebration
A wonderful look back at Vancouver's entertainment and counterculture newspaper The Georgia Straight for the past fifty years, from 1967 to 2017 that includes reproductions of covers and a summary of the contents for each edition.
The introduction written by Bob Geldof, entertainment editor from 1971-73, gives a good idea of what life was like in Vancouver of the seventies and what the Straight achieved:
"Surely it was the Straight that told told the students of BC's campuses to organize and support the Greenpeace movement? surely it was the Straight that, outlandishly for the first time, raged for rights: gay, women's, First Nations and on and on."
Although more conventional now than in the early days, it is still the essential source of all entertainment news and listings in Vancouver.
Fortunately they weren't just visiting the boring old couple!
They may be pesky but they are waaaaay cuter than our garden visitors. I'd love to see a hummingbird in the wild.
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
This novella is set in 1944 when a nine-year-old mute boy, a refugee from Nazi Germany, arrives in Sussex with his only companion, a parrot who utters numbers in German. When a man dies and the parrot is missing an old man who lives in the village - a beekeeper who may or may not be a retired Sherlock Holmes - is persuaded to solve the mystery. Although a slim volume, the story is an unconventional mystery and more complex than this brief description. Chabon's writing is beautiful.
You are welcome to my fisher and bear (although the bear has taken down the bird feeder, we haven't seen it with our own eyes yet. There has been one each of the last few years.
I don't think I've ever seen a fisher but I have some startling bear stories from around here.
I enjoyed Robert Harris so much that I immediately went on the hunt for more. Pompeii is on my list.
Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
Haupt, a lifelong bird watcher, rescuer, and researcher wanted to study a starling, probably the most hated bird, and certainly not a protected species. Knowing a nest with its chicks would be destroyed, she "stole" one of the chicks and took it home, where it became a beloved family member. She combines her experience with the story of Mozart, who it is said, heard a birdsong closely resembling one of his compositions when he was passing a pet shop. He bought the bird on the spot, a starling who became a family pet named Carmen. Whether this story is accurate or not is debatable, but it illustrates the attraction that even a lowly creature can inspire. Haupt's book about a bird from the despised species contrasts with one of the most treasured composers.
Her story of Star is fascinating on its own, by weaving it with interesting information about Mozart makes it even more appealing.
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
An excellent debut from Tudor. This coming-of-age story that alternates between 1986 and 2016 was told by Eddie, a twelve-year-old in 1986, about his group of friends whose life stories and secrets are revealed as the story progresses. Their childhood practice of leaving messages for each other using chalked stick men was used to indicate the location of a dismembered body. This is a tantalizing, dark story, whose plot is revealed gradually. My interest was captured and held from the first page to the last.
I was led to this book by a bullet by DeltaQueen50. Now I'm looking forward to more from Tudor.
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
After considering my last book by Penny a dud, I enjoyed this one a lot more. After some anxiety that Robert Bathurst's narration wouldn't live up to the high standard set by the late Ralph Cosham, my fears were unfounded; he did an excellent job and became Gamache very quickly.
Although the story was rather far-fetched, it was taken from actual events in Canada making it all the more chilling.
There was one puzzling detail: when he found the huge gun, the little boy Laurent was riding his bicycle in the forest, a pretty challenging activity! And if it was a well-established path it's hard to believe the weapon would have remained hidden for years.
Apart from that, Penny has a remarkable ability to combine prosaic details of villlage life with the considerable menace of the plot and make it sound natural. So, while in the middle of a gripping story, the parsnip and apple soup served in the bistro sounded particularly good.
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
Full of suspense, a real page-turner - although there are some brutal scenes of sexual and physical abuse. The girls covered up everything well, but after a lifetime of careful decisions their past came back to haunt them and they started making bad judgement calls.
Set in British Columbia, I wonder how the people of Cache Creek feel about this book even though Stevens spells the town "Cash Creek".
It's more of a thriller/horror story than the mystery that I expected but that won't prevent me from reading more by Stevens.
>131 NanaCC: Three sisters, broken lives, I think the cover is very appropriate. Not so much creepy as suspenseful and quite savage - it was like Scandi crime with a Canadian twist. I liked the way the sisters supported each other. I don't have siblings so have no experience of that.
Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
In comparison with Miss Fisher's tv series, this was disappointing. The story lacks details, suspense, and credibility, absences that can be overlooked on the small screen where Essie Davis captures the attention. In this story Phryne appears to be more of a Lady Bountiful than a detective, adopting two girls without a second thought. Greenwood adds a serious aspect to her novels, but in this case the evil quality of the crimes was in conflict with the "cosy" genre. It's tricky, if not impossible, to pull off both at the same time.
A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
Orwell, by all accounts, was a tremendously interesting person who could talk - or write - about any topic. These excellent essays bear out that theory. Each one is fascinating whether it is about politics, nature, literature, or anything else. Orwell's writing is eloquent and articulate. In my opinion these essays are flawless.
I’ve read all of these essays previously, and they will probably be read again in the future.
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
A captivating family story set in Mumbai, from India-born Canadian author Rohinton Mistry. It shares elements many families experience no matter where they are: a young man forbidden to marry a woman of a different religion; a step-sister who cares for no one but herself; a sick elderly father; low income. In this microcosm of society the stress of trying to deal with it all causes some of the characters to falter, yielding to temptation, repeating old prejudices. Beautifully written, this is a book to linger over. Highly recommended.
Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks
A combined biography of Churchill and Orwell that is well worth reading. Like the author, both men were war correspondents: both left a lasting impact. I always thought it was a shame that Churchill was re-elected in 1951, although he craved the job, he was too old to have the same influence. Ricks agrees. Just as it was a pity that Orwell didn't live long enough to appreciate the tremendous legacy he handed down.
When the National Review, a conservative magazine, compiled a list of the most significant non-fiction books of the 20th century, Homage to Catalonia and The Collected Essays were in the top ten, Orwell being the only author to achieve the honour of having two books listed in the group. At the top of the list was Churchill's WWII memoirs. Ricks intentionally includes this significant information twice, at the beginning and again near the end.
Ricks, an American, is able to take an objective, cosmopolitan view of the two Britons, and writes with clarity and frankness - a style of which both his subjects would approve. Whether the reader is familiar with either man or not, it's an intensely interesting book and in fact difficult to put down. Highly recommended.
I've just recently re-read The Collected Essays, a five-star experience, and now plan to re-read Homage to Catalonia. By coincidence, I've also just finished Painting as a Pastime by Churchill, not part of his fight for freedom, but a battle nevertheless.
Painting as a Pastime by Winston S. Churchill
Churchill took up painting with watercolours in 1915 when he left the Admiralty and found the change from intense executive activities to the measured counsellor's duties in the War Cabinet left him gasping "like a sea-beast fished up from the depths". Needing a complete distraction, he at first tried his children's paint box before acquiring a complete outfit of oil paints. After the initial feeling of standing "shivering on a spring-board" he plunged in, in brave Churchillian style.
He enjoyed colour and saw beautiful variations of it in the most commonplace subjects. In this short work he describes the progress he made and the success of the project. Churchill achieved the same relaxation that many find with meditation, with the bonus of a material creation. A number of his paintings are reproduced in the book and the cover is a detail from a painting of his home, Chartwell.
“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.”
Congregation of the Dead by Graeme Kent
Kent is known for his Kella & Conchita mystery series set on the Solomon Islands. This book, set in 1942, focuses on a handful of British and Australian coastwatchers on the Solomon Islands trying to keep the Americans informed of enemy activity. It's hard enough to work together but when an American pilot comes down he complicates things even more, in an unexpected way. It reads more like a YA adventure story featuring the crucial struggle for the Pacific.
"The coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal. And Guadalcanal saved the Pacific."
The Silver Spoon, & Passers By by John Galsworthy
Jon's brother-in-law, Francis Wilmot shows up in London, delivering messages of Jon's love to Fleur, raking up the old feelings of jealousy in Michael. Then follows a society scandal after one of Fleur's parties. One of her guests maligns Fleur in Soames' hearing. He calls her a "traitress" and insists she is shown the door. The fuss that follows is bad enough, but when Soames tries to help he only makes things worse. Poor man, he can't get anything right. He would do anything for his daughter. Things are not going right for Michael either. His support for Foggart and his crackpot theory is well-meant but has the risk of turning him into a parliamentary laughing stock. Michael is such a good person, he tries to help as often as he can but his aid usually goes amiss. Fleur wants to heal her wounds with travel, to go round the world, but as parliament is still sitting Michael is reluctant to leave, however, he manages it that Soames will be her travel partner.
The interlude, Passers By jumps to Washington where Michael has joined Fleur and Soames for the final part of their round the world trip. By chance, Irene, Jon and Ann are staying at the same hotel. Soames suffers as much as he ever has on seeing Irene but his main concern is that Fleur should not meet her first love and endure similar pain.
Galsworthy takes the reader right into the twenties, when life was good for some, and bleak for many. The post-war depression was taking a toll. Although it has soap opera qualities, this is another solid literary episode in the lives of the Forsytes and their extended families while bringing up some interesting policies of the times.
Above all things by Tanis Rideout
After the fall: an illustrated novel by Victoria Roberts
Bird sense: What it's like to be a bird by Tim Birkhead
The book of proper names by Amélie Nothomb
The cure for death by lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Enduring love by Ian McEwan -- bullet from AlisonY
The gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The girls by Lori Lansens
The god of small things by Arundhati Roy
The history of bees by Maja Lunde
History of the rain by Niall Williams -- bullet from RidgewayGirl
The last picture show by Larry McMurtry
A lesson in secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
Looking good dead by Peter James
Mrs Pollifax and the second thief by Dorothy Gilman
Nothing more comforting: Canada's Heritage Food by Dorothy Duncan
That part was true by Deborah McKinlay -- bullet from clue
The tomorrow-tamer by Margaret Laurence
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
White teeth by Zadie Smith
Is There Anybody Out There? - Non-fiction, Biography and Orphans
1968: Today's authors explore a year of rebellion, revolution and change by Marc Aronson
Aronson's collection of essays pays tribute to events of 1968. It is interesting to read the authors' stories and to note the correlation with their topic of choice. The stories are wide-ranging and about well-known events, Vietnam dominates. In some instances, it seems we have not travelled far or learned much. When American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave the Black Power salute from the podium at the Mexico City Olympics, it was the beginning of a story that is sadly still being written.
It seems 1968 was a year unlike any other, bringing change not only to our lives but to our thoughts. The format is inviting, the memories, some painful, some nostalgic, always interesting.
Trudeau's Shadow: the life and legacy of Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Published in 1998, this collection of essays by journalists was compiled to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Pierre Elliott Trudeau's election as Prime Minister of Canada in 1968. Although now very dated it is a good look back at the heady days of 1968 and the years that followed.
This fitted well with the above ER win by Aronson, in fact it is surprising that the Trudeaumania of 1968 was not mentioned there.
Inferior: How Science got Women Wrong - and the new research that's rewriting the story by Angela Saini
Exasperating! Not referring to Saini's writing but the topic. Men have said women have less intelligence because their brain is smaller. Naturally it's smaller, so are our bodies, compared to males. In fact, as Saini points out, brain size doesn't indicate intelligence or a whale would be a genius. Researching any topic is cheaper when only one sex is scrutinized. Naturally, males are predominantly chosen, yet results are quite different for females and sometimes the male-only research has brought disastrous consequences such as with the drug thalidomide. Men have claimed that women are unsuited to science, math, engineering, etc., but women have been, and in some cases, still are, prevented from going to school and even when they are at school, prevented from learning these topics, never mind the unthinkable - consideration of a career. And more. I'd like to think new research is making a difference but the truth is it will take a long time for science to grow out of these entrenched attitudes and opinions while existing scientists are still around.
In this world, then, it may seem strange that we're laboring under the same old stereotypes that have been around for centuries, that we're taking so long to make sexual equality a reality when the power to do it is entirely in our own hands. The cloudy window of the past has so distorted how we see society that we find it hard to imagine it any other way. This is why science matters for every one of us. The job ahead for researchers is to keep cleaning the window until we see ourselves as we truly are, the way *Ashley Montagu tried to do, and so many pioneering researchers have done and continue to do today."
*Note: In 1953, Ashley Montagu, a (male) anthropologist, published the revolutionary book The Natural Superiority of Women.
What's Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies
Clever, entertaining, and highly intelligent, Davies ticks all the boxes, and can even produce an occasional guffaw. After the death of Francis Cornish, which occurs at the end of the first book of the trilogy, a friend wants to write a biography but is concerned that some scandalous details might emerge that would be better left unsaid. So to avoid a ludicrous "trumpery book" (the first guffaw) his life is reviewed by recording angel, the daimon Maimas, with help from the angel of biography, Zadakiel. This was pure Davies, poking fun at almost everyone, mainly the art world.
You would like Inferior. She uncovers some very interesting information. And I believe it the Robertson Davies book was your suggestion on the RandomCAT thread. Handily, it was on the shelf waiting. Much appreciated.
Nutshell by Ian McEwan
What a skilled piece of writing. Imaginative, creative, original, suspenseful, funny, completely unbelievable and yet persuasive. To have the near-term unborn baby tell the story is a stroke of brilliance. This is my favourite McEwan so far and one of those rare books that when finished I want to start again at page one. I'm sure I missed the meaning of a lot of the clever lines and references to Hamlet so a second reading definitely in the cards.
I've not got much reading time at the moment, but am about a third of the way through Black Dogs and feeling a bit meh about it. Hoping a McEwan twist is lurking just around the corner!
I'm looking forward to my next McEwan which will be Enduring Love. So far Black Dogs hasn't tempted me because from what I've gathered, the title refers to the name given to depression, not an attractive prospect. I'll watch for your opinion.
Rattenbury: the life and tragic end of BC's greatest architect by Stan Sauerwein
In 1892 Francis Mawson Rattenbury arrived in Vancouver, a city with a population of 14,000, to make his name as an architect. He was to became one of British Columbia's most famous architects, creating many famous buildings still prized today, including the BC Legislative Building and the Empress Hotel in Victoria, the Vancouver Court House, later the Vancouver Art Gallery, and many other landmarks.
In 1923 he met Alma Pakenham a beguiling 26 year old. His wife Florrie, refused to give him a divorce so he openly invited Alma to their home. Eventually this ploy changed her mind. Later when Rattenbury's fortune was in reverse, he decided to leave Canada and return to England. Alma was a serious spendthrift and at a time when money was scarce, she had to have a chauffeur. Stoner, the young man chosen for the job became infatuated with Alma and eventually the relationship developed into an affair.
When Ratz was found with a severe head injury both she and Stoner were charged with murder. The dual court case provided lurid details for the staid Bournemouth community for weeks. Eventually, after 47 minutes deliberation, the jury found Alma not guilty and Stoner guilty. After spending some time in a nursing home, Alma borrowed money from a nurse and left to go out for a while. Her body was recovered from the Avon River with six stab wounds, assumed to be self-inflicted. Stoner's death sentence was reduced to life in prison after an appeal. There is still some doubt about who wielded the mallet that killed Ratz.
This short book provides all the details of Rattenbury's life in a workmanlike writing style, but for anyone interested I can recommend Terry Reksten's book Rattenbury.
The Girl in the garden by Kamala Nair
A family drama set in India tells the story of an expat mother and her daughter who go to India, ostensibly to visit family, leaving the father behind in Minnesota. The story is told by Rahkee, the eleven-year-old daughter, who discovers family secrets, at first puzzling, then sad, as she realizes what they will mean to her life. Nair captures the setting and culture in this story that would be appreciated by a YA audience.
Mask of Night by Philip Gooden
The plague has closed many theatres in London and William Shakespeare and his players have been invited to perform Romeo and Juliet in Oxford to a pair of warring families, presumably as a lesson. There are a few mysteries that puzzle player Nick Revill, foremost being a method to prevent contagion when the plague spreads to Oxford. The disease opens up new opportunities for frauds feigning sickness and robbers who take the valuables with the bodies. This was a fun read and also an interesting account of daily life in the final year of Queen Elizabeth's reign.
The Accidental by Ali Smith
Chapters are told alternately by members of the Smart family. Each one is candid, distinctive, yet prosaic. They deliver their narration in stream of consciousness style, recording each thought, memory, no matter how trifling. The collective accounts provide the complete story of events in the summer of 2003 as if from under a microscope. I can appreciate the quirky ingenuity in Smith's writing but ultimately found the novel unsatisfying and more like a writing class exercise. I wanted more interaction, fewer bodily functions.
Tana French is one of my favorite authors. Her books are just as you describe. I’m waiting for her new book, which I believe someone said is not part of this series. I’ve been contemplating rereading the series from the beginning. I enjoyed all of them.
I've enjoyed French's books too although I haven't finished the series yet. It's a series that deserves a re-reading at some point. Thanks for the heads-up about the new book. I'll watch for it.
Pompeii by Robert Harris
A terrific, thought-provoking story set in Pompeii as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius takes place. Harris can certainly hit the spot.
>180 VivienneR: I enjoyed Pompeii when it came out somewhere around 2003. Got to go to Pompeii in 2005, all very fascinating (and hot—even in November!)
Swan Song by John Galsworthy
Written in 1928, this is the sixth book of the Forsyte Chronicles, the third, and probably the best, of A Modern Comedy trilogy. An appealing feature of this series is that Soames often remembers the old family members so that they are not forgotten, their influence, if not their presence, is still part of the saga. Experiencing the passage of time has always been one of the most captivating parts of the story. Now in 1926 the General Strike has almost brought the country to a standstill. This gives Fleur, one of the generation known as the Bright Young Things, a chance to shine in a new capacity by running a canteen for volunteer workers. This is where she spots Jon and the old yearnings are reborn in her. Jon proves to be weak as water and I have no sympathy for him. We have always known that Fleur is spoiled but she shows her true colours in this one with devastating results. Of course, Soames knows his daughter well and although he tries hard, he is helpless to change the course of events. The dramatic ending was very moving.