pamelad reads at least 100

Converses100 Books in 2022 Challenge!

Afegeix-te a LibraryThing per participar.

pamelad reads at least 100

Editat: gen. 7, 10:04pm

I'm Pam, a retired teacher of Chemistry and Biology. I have plenty of time to read and overindulged in 2021 with more than 400 books, three quarters of them historical romances. With their predictable plots and happy endings, they're an escape. I was looking for good bad books, but most of them were bad, bad books. I read them anyway, because Melbourne was in lockdown for a long time and I've embraced inertia. But no more! This year I'm going for variety: a range of genres, eras and countries.

Four of my favourite books from 2021 were Science fiction/Fantasy, a genre I hardly ever read: The Exploits of Engelbrecht by Maurice Richardson; The Man Who Walked Through Walls by Marcel Ayme; The Absolute at Large by Karel Capek; Locos by Felipe Alfau.

Editat: des. 25, 2021, 2:30pm

Sep - Oct

Editat: des. 25, 2021, 2:30pm

Nov - Dec

Editat: des. 25, 2021, 2:31pm


Editat: des. 25, 2021, 2:31pm

Spare 2

des. 26, 2021, 1:36am


des. 29, 2021, 8:24pm

Happy reading in 2022!

des. 29, 2021, 11:31pm

>11 hemlokgang: Thank you for the welcome and for setting up the thread.

>12 jfetting: You too!

des. 31, 2021, 11:01am

Best wishes for some great reading during 2022!

des. 31, 2021, 4:44pm

Best wishes for 2022 and for a great year's reading :)

des. 31, 2021, 5:57pm

>14 Eyejaybee:, >15 john257hopper: Thank you James and John. Wishing you many good books in 2022!

gen. 1, 2:56pm

1. Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss

Alice is the head of the history department at a Catholic Girls' school. After attending a school reunion where all her classmates are married with children and can talk of nothing else, she makes a plan to marry before she's thirty, in two year's time. The book is about her search for her future husband. There's a lot of tedious drinking, shopping and waxing, interspersed with some interesting insights into life as a middle-class Aboriginal woman. Being Aboriginal certainly adds a degree of difficulty to the man search, and there are some amusingly scathing caricatures of hypocritical white people who want to be Kooris, and establishment bigots. The book is disjointed and sometimes didactic, unfortunately. I chose it because this year I'm planning to read more books by Australian Aboriginal writers.

gen. 2, 5:26pm

2. My Dog Tulip by J R Ackerley is the story of the writer's great love for his dog, and hers for him. The writing is dry and witty in a very English way, which is a great part of its charm, so I was saddened to see that a tasteless, tin-eared editor had made pavements into sidewalks, which made me question how much else was changed. Did Ackerley really put Tulip in an elevator, not a lift? Did he really shout at a pack of dogs to scram?

I'd recommend this book anyway, despite the tragic editing. It's an oddity.

gen. 3, 12:40am

3. The Blue Sky by Galsang Tschinag is narrated by a young boy, the youngest of three children in a family of nomadic herders. They are Tuvans, indigenous people living in the High Altai mountains in the far north-west of Mongolia, sharing the land with the Kazakhs. Their way of life is dying as the Soviet system takes over. The two older children are removed to a boarding school in the city, and that will be the fate of this little boy too, but for now he's helping his family and managing his own herd of sheep with the help of his devoted dog Aryslan. The most important person in his life is his grandmother, an old woman cheated and left almost destitute by her own family and taken in by the boy's.

Editat: gen. 5, 3:55pm

4. The Religious Body by Catherine Aird is the first book in the Calleshire Chronicles, which feature Inspector Sloan and Detective Constable Crosby. A nun is found dead at the bottom of the cellar stairs. It wasn't the fall that killed her; she'd been murdered. Sloan's investigation is complicated by the religious practices of the nuns, who aspire not to notice most of what's going on around them and to trample any signs of individuality. Interesting.

A competent, traditional mystery from the sixties. It's available, along with the rest of the series, with Kobo Plus.

gen. 7, 4:11pm

5. Secret Rendezvous by Kobo Abe

A woman is taken away in the middle of the night by ambulance, although she is not ill. Her husband traces her to a huge, underground hospital and finds that she disappeared from reception before being officially admitted. No one is prepared to tell the man where his wife has gone. Is she lost or imprisoned in the labyrinths of the hospital? Is she dead? Has she escaped? Has she arranged her own disappearance? The man is employed by a bizarre individual, who seems to be half man, half horse, to find the woman. The man must report his investigation in a journal, which has to be written in the third person. The book consists of the man's three journals.

Secret Rendezvous seems to be operating on many levels. (I say "seems' because I'm not at all sure what I've just read.) There's the aspect of surveillance, with the hospital full of bugs and hidden cameras that send data to a central security system. There's an indictment of a hospital system where patients enter and cannot leave, doctors tout for business and recruit patients to specialties without reference to their symptoms, doctors and nurses use patients for their own entertainment and perform strange sexual experiments on them; the head of security sells the tapes for profit. There's a confusion of identities, an inability to know who people really are: a man who acts as though he is a horse, who is actually a doctor and the deputy director; doctors who are patients and patients who are doctors; a girl whose shape changes because of a bone disease; the man's wife, who might not be the woman he thought he knew. There's a thread about masculinity and erections, femininity and orgasms, and an awful lot of masturbation. Some reviews describe this as an erotic novel, but with all this sex being about violent experimentation and power machinations, it didn't seem that way to me.

Reading Secret Rendezvous was like being plunged into someone's nightmare. I felt the claustrophobia, the panic, the confusion and the powerlessness, but I didn't quite understand what was going on.

Editat: gen. 8, 4:33pm

6. We Always Treat Women Too Well by Raymond Queneau is a parody of No Orchids for Miss Blandish, a best-selling 1939 crime novel in which a passive, drug-addicted, suicidal young woman is raped and degraded by the depraved gangster who has abducted her. Queneau is not alone in his disgust, as this article by George Orwell shows.

Queneau transposes the action to Dublin in 1916, the Easter Rising, where a group of amateurish rebels has occupied the Post Office. They've cleared out most of the British workers unharmed, have shot two, and are settled in to return fire with the British and die nobly for their cause - an Ireland free of British rule - when they discover Gertie Girdle, who'd been hiding in the lavatory. Some of the rebels want to kill Gertie, but their leader thinks that brutalising an innocent female postal worker would tarnish their reputations, and that Gertie must remain alive and unsullied. After she is raped by one of the rebels, Gertie manages to ensure her survival by seduction, and she is hard to resist. She's the antithesis of Miss Blandish.

We Always Treat Women Too Well shouldn't be funny. The Easter Rising isn't funny; the violence is gruesome; Gertie is raped many times; there's even an instance of necrophilia. Perhaps it's the exuberance of the violence that makes it impossible to take seriously, plus the awareness that the bad taste is the point. The absurdity piles on: the ineptitude of the rebels with their catch-cry of "Finnegan's Wake!"; the fact that the Irish names and places all came from Ulysses; the British officer named Mountcatten.

We Always Treat Women Too Well was an entertaining read. As an introduction to Raymond Queneau it probably wasn't the best choice, so I'm planning to read another. I can't find a copy of his most famous book, Zazie in the Metro, so will go with The Sunday of Life.

gen. 9, 9:59pm

7. Mr Finchley Discovers His England by Victor Canning

For decades Mr Finchley has worked as a solicitor's clerk, and has never had a holiday. When the firm is sold, Finchley's enlightened new boss demands that he take a holiday and gives him three weeks off. Plump, bald, forty-five year old Mr Finchley, a man intimidated by his landlady, decides to go to Margate, an unadventurous seaside resort, but on the way he is inadvertently kidnapped by gangsters, and his exciting holiday begins. Mr Finchley travels around England on foot, by bicycle, by train and bus, and even in a smuggler's boat. He makes friends with the people who take to the roads: gipsies, itinerant workers, a travelling vicar, an artist, an escaped lunatic. He sleeps by the side of the road, in barns, in tents and even in a mansion. The naive and trusting Mr Finchley gets along with everyone.

This cheerful, gently humorous, optimistic little book was a best seller in England in 1934.

gen. 11, 4:36pm

8. The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher starts with a flashback to January 2000, when Charlie Devarin's mother was murdered. Charlie is back now in his childhood home, suspended from the police force for an altercation with an incompetent superior. His marriage broke down because he made no effort, spending his free time investigating his mother's murder and sparing too little attention for his wife and daughter. Now Charlie is in the early stages of a relationship with Anna, a juror on the rape case that led to his suspension, but he is still consumed by the investigation of his mother's murder. Charlie's father, Rhys, a retired policeman, is still suspected of killing his wife, and Charlie's brother Liam thinks he did it. Charlie wants to prove his dad is innocent of the murder, but he suspects that he is guilty of something else.

I've read better books by Garry Disher, but this was pretty good. It's as much to do with relationships as with crime. It's set mainly on the Mornington Peninsula, but is a stand-alone, not part of the Challis and Destry series. The Melbourne bits are set near to where I live, so the familiarity adds a layer of interest and enjoyment, and knowing the demographics of the suburbs Disher mentions tells me something about the characters.


Editat: gen. 12, 4:45am

9. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

Waugh's first novel, published in 1929, is an exuberant comic satire. Paul Pennyfeather is studying theology at Oxford in preparation for becoming an Anglican priest when he is caught up in the annual Bollinger celebration and expelled, through no fault of his own. In need of money he takes a job at a fourth-rate school in Wales where he meets Pendlebury, a former rector with religious doubts; Grimes, an old Harrovian whose public school background has saved him from jail, and worse; Philbrick, a butler with a shady past and a fabulously inflated present. These three reappear, singly and together, when least expected. One of Paul's students, Peter Beste-Chetwynde (pronounced Beast-Cheating) plays an important role because it is his mother, the beautiful, exciting Margot, who leads to Paul's decline and fall.

This is a very funny book. Paul is determined to behave as a gentleman, so he barely protests when ruthless people, many of them purportedly gentlemen, take advantage of him. The reader knows what is going on, but Paul has no idea.

This is a re-read. I gave Decline and Fall 5 stars on the first read, but have subtracted half a star this time because even though I enjoyed the book greatly and it made me laugh, I didn't remember having read it!

I read it again because I came across the television miniseries, which I liked, but on its own terms. Some characters are more exaggerated in the series than in the book, particularly Grimes; Pennyfeather is a simpering twerp; there's quite a lot of slapstick; characters are combined; Peter Beste-Chetwynde undergoes a personality change. I'd recommend the miniseries, but be sure to watch it before you read the book.

gen. 14, 5:01am

10. Dead Men Don't Ski by Patricia Moyes is the author's first book, so it's overly full of characters and plot, but a good start. It introduces Inspector Henry Tibbett and his wife Emmy who helps with the investigation. It's set in an Italian ski resort near the Austrian border, where Henry has come mainly for a holiday, but also to keep an eye out because something suspect is going on. It starts well, with a train trip from Victoria Station to Innsbruck, but once everyone has arrived at the resort, the book slows down and takes a while to get going again.

The ski resort is a classic setting, and I'm keen on trains.
The victim is an awful man. I hate it when the victim is someone I like. (The secret of High Eldersham is the worst ever example.)
Henry and Emmy are good hearted people.
It's a fair play mystery, with the author pointing out when all the clues have been provided.
No gore.
It was first published in 1959.

Too many characters and subplots.
Solving the crime depends on two enormously long timetables.
A melodramatic interlude that seemed to belong in a different book.
At 328 pages, the book was too long. It needed to lose some characters, subplots, and about 70 - 80 pages.

Overall, a good effort. I'll read another Patricia Moyes. There are lots of them, and many are on Kobo Plus.

gen. 15, 3:20pm

11. Death on the Agenda by Patricia Moyes

Henry and Emmy Tibbett are in Geneva, where Henry is the chair of an international committee with the goal of stopping narcotics smuggling. There's a security leak, and a translator is suspected. When he is killed, Henry is framed for the murder. Compared to Dead Men Don't Ski, the timetable was much shorter and easier to follow, so I managed to use it to guess the murderer. Henry becomes infatuated with another woman in this story, which seems out of character but is necessary for the sake of the plot. There's a bit of melodrama at the end.

I liked this one enough to continue with Patricia Moyes and have chosen Who Saw Her Die? because it was nominated for an Edgar.

Editat: gen. 20, 3:44pm

12. The Executor by Margaret Oliphant is a short story, the first work in the Chronicles of Carlingford.

Nasty old Mrs Thompson has died and her closest relative, Mrs Christian, is expecting to inherit. The Christians desperately need the money: Mr Christian is an invalid, and the family's breadwinner is his young daughter, Bessie, who teaches music. Instead, the inheritance goes to Mrs Thompson's long lost daughter Phoebe. If John Brown, the executor of the will, does not find Phoebe within three years, he receives the inheritance. Brown is a bachelor of 46, rude, brusque and selfish, but he's not so cold that he doesn't worry about Bessie.

I should have read this story before I read the bulk of the Carlingford Chronicles because it has been 5 years and I remember very little. Did Phoebe turn up? I have no idea. But there is still one book I have left to read, Phoebe Junior, so I've started it and might find out.

I've enjoyed the whole Carlingford series, including The Executor. Miss Marjoribanks is my favourite.

gen. 18, 4:10am

13. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is the story of Bertha, Edward Rochester's mad wife in Jane Eyre.

Bertha is born Antoinette Cosway, the daughter of an ex-slave owner and his beautiful, much younger second wife, Annette, not long after an act of Parliament abolished slavery in Jamaica and the West Indian Colonies. Cosway dies, leaving his wife, daughter and crippled son almost destitute. A few loyal servants remain, including Christophine, from Martinique, who has been with Annette since her marriage and is the most important, trustworthy person in Antoinette's life, but the household is surrounded by hostile, dangerous people who hate the Cosways for their slave-holding history. When Annette marries the wealthy Mr Mason, he fails to take her fears and warnings seriously, and refuses to move away, so when their isolated home is deliberately set alight and the crippled boy dies, Annette refuses to forgive Mason. Treated without sympathy or care, she slips into insanity, a forewarning of what will happen to Antoinette.

Rochester, who is never named, is a younger son who has come to Jamaica to marry Antoinette for her money. The marriage was arranged by Antoinette's step brother, Mason's son, and Rochester's English family. Antoinette wants a man to love her and take care of her, but Rochester isn't he. He's a cold, cruel, selfish man who loathes Jamaica and its inhabitants, including Antoinette. He feels he's been trapped into marriage, and blames the open-hearted, trusting Antoinette.

Rhys describes a lush, beautiful place, permeated with danger and corruption. Her Antoinette has much in common with other Rhys heroines: their search for someone to take care of them; the febrile gaiety that dies to be replaced by a passive surface underlain with torment. But there's more to Antoinette, and even when she's locked in Rochester's attic it doesn't die. Rochester shares the thoughtless selfishness of the men in Rhys's other books, but he's worse, with a layer of viciousness the others don't have. Rhys's writing is masterly and devastating: she creates a person, a feeling, a scene, in just a few words.

This was a re-read. I'd forgotten just how good it is.

Editat: gen. 18, 5:39am

#29 - sounds intriguing. I'll have to re-read Jane Eyre, I think

gen. 19, 2:57pm

>30 john257hopper: Best to read Jane Eyre before Wide Sargasso Sea, because you really need to give Rochester the benefit of the doubt to accept him as a romantic hero, and after reading the Rhys book you just can't.

gen. 19, 4:21pm

>31 pamelad: oh yes, I would re read Jane Eyre first, it's some 9 years since I read it.

gen. 20, 3:38pm

14. Snow by John Banville is the first book in the St John Strafford series.

It is 1957, just eight years since Ireland was officially declared a republic and two years since it became a member of the United Nations. Dr John McQuaid, the Archbishop of Dublin, has enormous influence and power and the country, according to Banville, is effectively governed by the church. The Protestant Anglo-Irish, once the ruling class, are in decline. This is the class to which Detective Inspector Strafford belongs, which makes him an unlikely policeman and an outsider, and is why he is sent to investigate the death of a priest at Ballyglass House, the home of the Osborne family.

The writing is good, unsurprisingly, and the background is interesting, but the plot is tired and some of the incidents are revolting. The Strafford series is an offshoot of the Quirke series, which Banville wrote as Benjamin Black. Quirk is on his honeymoon and will reappear in the next Strafford book, April in Spain, which I have on hold, but am in two minds about reading it. I've read every book in the Quirke series, so perhaps that's enough Catholic Noir.

Editat: gen. 28, 7:20pm

After Snow I wanted something light, so have been on an historical romance binge. We're in the middle of a heatwave and an Omicron outbreak, so it's a good time to sit inside with the aircon going, reading undemanding books.

Three Weddings and a Kiss by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss consists of four novellas, each by a different writer. I read two of them. The Mad Earl's Bride by Loretta Chase is part of her Scoundrels series. The earl's mother died insane and he has been told her illness is hereditary and that his terrible headaches are a symptom. A distant relative persuades him to marry to sire an heir. His bride-to-be would be a doctor if women could be, and the earl will provide her with an interesting case for study and treatment, and an inheritance that she will use for building a hospital. I enjoyed this one.

Promises by Lisa Kleypas is part of the Gamblers series. I quite enjoyed it, but have forgotten it already.

A Trick of Fate by Stella Riley is the first book in the Brandon Brothers trilogy, an off-shoot of the Rockliffe series. Max is the oldest Brandon brother. He first appeared in Cadenza in which his sister Belle married Julian, the virtuoso earl.

A stranger is pretending to be Max Brandon, purchasing all sorts of goods and services and sending the bills to Max. Frances Pendleton, Max's lost love, is caught up in the conspiracy. Can Max and Frances overcome the mistakes of the past and find love again? Who is the man masquerading as Max, and what does he want? This was a bit ordinary, not up to the standard of the best of the Rockliffe series, but quite readable. My favourite Stella Riley's so far have been The Wicked Cousin and Cadenza.

Under a Dark Moon by Stella Riley is the second book in the Brandon Brothers series. It features Adam, a man a few words who is known for carrying a sword. When Max resolves an embarrassing and potentially criminal situation for a friend, he comes to the attention of Goddard, who is some sort of spymaster. Goddard, who turns out to be an earl, recruits Adam and sends him off to Romney Marsh with the irritating Camilla Edgerton-Fox, Goddard's niece and a member of his spy team. There's a lot of plot in this one: smuggling, murder, kidnapping, spying, treachery and, of course, a slowly building romance between Camilla and Adam. Another ordinary but enjoyable read.

A True Lady by Edith Layton
I normally draw the line at pirates, but this isn't the time for realism. Christabel Stew is the legitimate daughter of a pirate captain and an English lady. Her mother is long gone, but Captain Stew has purchased governesses to educate his daughter so that she can go to England and become a lady. Stew kidnaps a young nobleman. Martin Snow, and forces him to marry Christabel, but he's the younger brother, not the older man Stew wants for his daughter. Christabel is happy to find the marriage isn't valid, because from what she has seen, a wife's life is miserable so she'd much rather be independent. But when she gets to England, she can't avoid Martin's brother Magnus, who is determined to protect her.

This was entertaining and silly, I liked it.

Saved by Scandal by Barbara Metzger is a humorous Regency romance. The humour is a bit try-hard in places, but overall it works. The plot is ridiculous, but realism isn't what I'm looking for right now, so that's OK.

Galen Woodrow, Lord Woodbridge, is left standing at the altar by Lady Floria Cleary. The marriage was arranged by their parents when the two of them were children and, while neither Galen nor Floria is enthusiastic, they've acquiesced to their parents' wishes. But Floria's head has been turned by a fortune hunter, so she elopes with him on her wedding day, leaving Galen humiliated. He decides to turn the tables be marrying a notorious singer. She turns out to be not at all the woman Galen expected.

Another cheerful, silly and enjoyable read.

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie is the second in the Chance sisters series.

In The Autumn Bride, Abby helped her sister Jane escape from a brothel with two other girls, Damaris and Daisy. The four girls have been unofficially adopted by the elderly Lady Beatrice and have become a family, the Chance sisters. This is Damaris's story. She escaped from China, where her father was a missionary, and was sold to a London brothel, but escaped before servicing any clients. There's a bit secret in Damaris's past, so she never wants to marry. Instead, she is working to save enough money to buy a cottage so that she can live a peaceful, solitary life. When Freddy Monckton-Coombs offers to buy her the cottage if she will pretend to be betrothed to him, she accepts against her better judgment.

I liked kind, witty, charming Freddy and strong, honest, dependable Demaris. They really deserved a happy ending. I thought this book was an improvement on The Autumn Bride, and enjoyed it.

I'm bogged down in Phoebe Junior, so am having a break. The debt sub-plot put me off, but I'll skim those bits. Also bored by Palladian with its whiney characters, but I am half-way through and it's short, so I will finish it. Now reading Nevil Shute's Trustee from the Toolroom.

Editat: gen. 28, 7:21pm

15. Palladian by Elizabeth Taylor

After her father's death Charlotte the orphan takes a job as a governess for a young girl. Charlotte, reader of novels, is determined to fall in love with her employer, the effeminate and scholarly Marion. The crumbling manor also houses Tom, Marion's alcoholic cousin, Tom's pregnant sister Margaret, a brusque and competent doctor, and Tinty, mother of Tom and Margaret and Marion's incompetent, anxious housekeeper. An assortment of servants includes the malicious old Nanny, who wants a refrigerator. There's a mystery about Violet, Marion's beautiful, dead wife.

The author amuses herself by sneering at her unpleasant characters and making references to literary classics. I recognised Wuthering Heights, Northanger Abbey, Rebecca and Jane Eyre. and have forgotten a few more. Apparently the book is a literary pastiche. Many reviewers found it funny. I did not. It was lifeless and dreary.

16. Trustee from the Toolroom by Nevil Shute

Keith Stewart is doing a job he loves: making miniature machines and writing about them for a magazine. He doesn't make a lot of money, so his wife works full-time in a shop. Keith's sister and her husband die in a ship wreck in the South Pacific, leaving Keith as guardian to their daughter and making him the trustee of her inheritance. Unfortunately they took all their money with them on the boat, so for Keith to be able to give his niece the education her parents wanted, he has to recover her inheritance, and being strapped for cash, he has to go by the cheapest route.

I liked this book. Keith is an unassuming, modest man who has made a lot of friends through his articles for the magazine. People he has never met help him on his way. There's a lot of eye-glazing information about mechanical things, but skimming it just makes the book a bit shorter, and you don't have to understand the details to get the gist. There are no nasty people in this book! Everyone is kind and cooperative. (There's one iffy female character, but I decided to forgive Shute for her because he was an elderly engineer from an earlier generation, so essentially clueless.)


Editat: gen. 29, 6:05pm

Four historical romances, none of them out of the ordinary.
The Cad by Edith Layton 2.5*
Red Jack's Daughter by Edith Layton 3*
The Return of the Earl by Edith Layton 3*
The Dreadful Duke by Barbara Hazard 2*

I've decided not to count the historical romances in the 100, so have re-numbered my list.

Editat: feb. 1, 3:30pm

17. The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi is set during the Meiji Restoration. During 250 years of Shogun rule Japan was closed to foreigners and society was feudal. A coup in 1868 restored the emperor, and Japan began opening to the west. The book covers 30 years, and focusses on the lives of women in a changing Japan.

Tomo Shirakawa is married to an important government functionary, Yukitomo. He is becoming notorious for his lecherous behaviour and his reputation is at risk, so he sends his wife to Tokyo to find him a concubine. Tomo buys fifteen-year-old Suga from her parents, who need money to restore their ailing business. Tomo makes a guarantee to Suga's guilty mother that she will look after Suga, should Yukimoto tire of her, but Tomo herself is at risk of being discarded because the rules that once protected wives and placed them above concubines are eroding. Tomo strives to maintain her family's reputation as her husband's behaviour becomes more and more unconscionable.

Excellent book, highly recommended. The translation is clumsy and lets the book down, but I became so engrossed in the lives of the characters that I stopped noticing.

feb. 8, 3:13pm

18. Phoebe Junior by Margaret Oliphant is the last book in the Carlingford series. Phoebe Junior is the daughter of a Dissenting minister and the former Phoebe Tozer, daughter of a grocer. Phoebe's mother went up in the world by marrying a minister, and her husband has continued to rise. He is now the minister of a well-off London congregation, one of whose members is the self-made millionaire, Mr Copperhead. At a ball hosted by Mr Copperhead and his genteel second wife Phoebe meets Ursula May, from Carlingford, and attracts the attention of Copperhead's thickheaded son, Clarence. Ursula, Clarence and Phoebe meet again in Carlingford, where Phoebe is staying with her ailing grandmother and Clarence is studying with Ursula's father, the Anglican minister. Other important characters in Carlingford are Reginald, Mr May's son, and Northcote, who is filling in for the pastor of Salem Chapel.

The book started well and ended well, but the middle dragged. There's an important but dreary forgery sub-plot, and many social evenings at Mr May's house which annoy Carlingford because Anglicans and Dissenters don't usually mix, partly because of religious enmity, and partly because Dissenters are lower on the social scale.

I enjoyed Phoebe Junior for the complex characters, whose motives are mixed. The good people don't always behave well, and the less admirable characters sometimes do. I also appreciated Oliphant's humour. Unfortunately I found the debt and forgery plot thread tedious (as I do with Trollope - the signing of notes, the drama of the notes becoming due) and could have done with fewer musical evenings at Mr May's house. Compared to Miss Marjoribanks, Phoebe Junior is a plod.

feb. 8, 3:15pm

19. I've finally finished Best European Fiction 2010. It took a long time because I read it straight through, including the stories I disliked, which were the disjointed dreamlike stories and the metafiction. I enjoyed the political satires and some surreal oddities. I'd recommend it, but be prepared to pick and choose.

feb. 10, 1:19am

20. Black and Blue: a memoir of racism and resilience by Veronica Gorrie won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Prize for Indigenous Writing.

Gorrie's book is divided into two parts, the first, Black, about growing up Aboriginal in Victoria. Gorrie's grandmother was stolen from her family, sent first to an orphanage in Melbourne, then to work as a servant. In turn her own son, Gorrie's father, was taken from her and it took for years for her to get him back. She lived on a mission, Lake Tyers, in East Gippsland, where public servants would make raids and take the children away. Gorrie sets down the facts, no drama, and her directness is devastating. It's the same style throughout the book: terrible, terrible things, plain on the page.

In the second part of the book, Blue, Gorrie is a police officer in Queensland. She thought she'd be able to help her people, but was a token, a victim of racism herself. After ten years she left, crippled by PTSD. This insider account of police culture in Queensland is shocking, but it's not a surprise, and not limited to Queensland.

This is a short, gripping book. Highly recommended.

feb. 12, 4:54am

21. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is set in Scotland in the last days of the Jacobite Rebellion, after the Battle of Culloden. The father of seventeen year-old David Balfour has just died, leaving the boy an orphan. David sets off to find an uncle he's never met, a rich miser, who lives at the Balfour estate, Shaws. When it becomes clear that David is the rightful heir to Shaws, Uncle Ebenezer tricks David into visiting the docks and David wakes up on a ship bound for California, where he will be sold as a slave. On the ship he meets Alan Breck, a fugitive highlander. The pair survive a shipwreck and travel together across Scotland, becoming loyal companions despite their many differences. David is a Whig, a supporter of King George, a bit of a prig and determined to act honourably. Alan Breck is a Jacobite, none too honest and possibly a murderer. By travelling with Alan, David risks being caught by the British and hanged. There's no such thing as a fair trial in the Scottish highlands.

I enjoyed Kidnapped and learned some more about the aftermath of Culloden.

feb. 12, 7:14am

#42 - I enjoyed that when I read it back in 2013 :)

feb. 12, 3:16pm

22. A Young Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov

In 1916 the newly graduated Bulgakov was sent to a tiny isolated village hospital where he was the only doctor. These stories, based on his experience, were published during the twenties in medical journals. The last one, Morphine, describes a young doctor's morphine addiction.

Highly recommended.

>42 pamelad: Have you read Treasure Island too? I thought I'd read it, but confused it with Robinson Crusoe, so it's still on my list.

feb. 16, 12:43am

23. The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazan was first published in Spain in 1886. It is set in 1868, the time of the Liberal Revolution that brought the vote for men over 25. The Carlists, backed by the aristocracy and the Catholic Church, opposed the Liberals. Towards the end of the book there's an election, wildly violent and blatantly corrupt, described in slapstick detail. An abbot and a priest are right in the thick of it. A great contrast to these hunting, drinking, fighting clerics is the newly ordained Father Julian, whom we meet in the first chapter, on his way to the House of Ulloa to provide guidance to the Marquis, the head of the House of Ulloa.

The pious, well-meaning, unworldly Father Julian is shocked by the unsavoury situation at the manor. His attempts to provide spiritual guidance to the marquis and to stem the corruption and disorder that surround him create new disasters. On his very first evening, Primitivo, the corrupt majordomo and the father of the serving girl who is the marquis's mistress, pours alcohol down the throat of his three-year-old grandchild. It's Gothic, and as you read on you're thinking, "Something terrible is going to happen," as though that's not terrible enough.

This is an extraordinary book, particularly considering that it was written in 1886. It's a gleeful satire of the corruption of society and the decline of the aristocracy in rural Spain. It's lively and funny, with characters a great deal larger than life. Highly recommended.

feb. 17, 3:00pm

24. The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey won the 2021 Miles Franklin Award.

Erica Marsden has moved to a tiny seaside town to be close to her son Daniel, who is in a nearby jail. Daniel's criminal irresponsibility caused innocent people to die, and since the crime Erica has entered a fugue state. She reminisces about a labyrinth in the grounds of the mental hospital once run by her father, and decides to build one in her yard. With the planning and construction of the labyrinth, Erica gets to know her neighbours and returns to the world.

Not a lot happens in this book: it's about Erica's state of mind, with lots of dreams and flashbacks. Not really my sort of thing, but it was short, and an easy read. Recommended for people who like contemplative, beautifully written fiction where not much happens.

Editat: feb. 18, 9:39pm

25. The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford

I've started Love Sex Death and Words by John Sutherland and Stephen Fender which is a book to dip into. There's a literary snippet for each day of the year. On 15 January, The youngest novelist in English literature dies, aged 89. She's Daisy Ashford, who wrote The Young Visiters in 1890 when she was nine, found it in a drawer in 1919 and passed it on to a friend, from whom it travelled to the writer Frank Swinnerton, then on to publication. It's a delight, a comedy of manners with Daisy's original spelling. Daisy must have read many of books intended for adults, and listened to many adult conversations. She understood a lot, but it's the misunderstandings that make the story hilarious. It's only 42 pages long. Read it for a pick-me-up.

Editat: feb. 20, 3:52pm

26. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

At the start of WWII, an elderly man, devastated by a family tragedy, leaves England to go fishing in the Jura, a region of France near the Swiss border, close to Geneva. He has underestimated the impact of the war and imagines that he will be safe there, but the Germans are advancing. A couple staying in the same hotel have made their home in Geneva, and intend to stay there, but there is a threat of invasion so they ask the old man to take their two children back to England. He agrees, foreseeing only minor inconveniences, but the war overtakes them, and the journey becomes perilous. Along the way the man picks up four more children who are in danger.

I enjoyed Pied Piper. It's an old-fashioned story about good people doing the right thing. It was published in 1942.

Editat: feb. 21, 4:16pm

27. The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca de Queiros

I started Nan Flanagan's translation years ago and gave up, because the I thought the book was dull and confusing, but in Margaret Jull Costa's new translation it is witty, satirical and lively. A rich benefactress encouraged Father Amaro to enter the priesthood, and now he resents his vow of celibacy, which he deems a ridiculous demand of a young, strong man. On Amaro's transfer to the provincial town of Leira, the local Canon, for his own convenience, arranges for Amaro to board with a widow and her daughter, an arrangement Amaro accepts, despite his misgivings. Inevitably, an attraction develops between the daughter, Amelia, and the priest. Amelia has lived amongst a crowd of hysterically pious women, and has little experience of the world. Amaro is led astray by the corrupt clerics of Leira, the Canon in particular.

First published in 1875, The Crime of Father Amaro is an example of naturalism and realism, admired at the time by Zola who compares de Queiros favourably to Flaubert. De Queiros was a Liberal, opposed to the alliance of Church and the aristocracy that had led Portugal into decay.

Highly recommended.

feb. 24, 3:54pm

28. A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup

A selection of the poisons Agatha Christie used in her novels and short stories. For each poison Harkup describes the biological action, the visible symptoms, how to test for it, where to obtain it (fortunately most poisons are not nearly as easy to find these days), and real-life crimes it has been used in. She refers to the stories and novels and, when there are spoilers, warns the reader and gives the option of moving past them. She comments on Christie's scientific accuracy, which turns out to be, within the limitations of the scientific knowledge of the times, mostly excellent. The account of thallium poisoning in The Pale Horse has even saved lives.

Some knowledge of biology and chemistry is an advantage because, even though the author's explanations are clear enough they make only superficial sense.

feb. 27, 7:19pm

29. Kings of Georgian Britain by Catherine Curzon

This short, breezy biography of the four Georges is gossipy and sardonic. The writing is laden with contemporary clichés, of which my favourite is "the media." An easy read, but little depth.

Editat: març 1, 3:56pm

30. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths is the first Ruth Galloway book, a series that has many fans on LT. Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, specialising in bones, so when the local police need an expert to determine the age of a skeleton unearthed during an archaeological dig, they call on Ruth. Two little girls have disappeared, ten years apart, and Ruth gets caught up in the investigation and with the detective in charge, Harry Nelson.

31. The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
I enjoyed The Crossing Places so much that I immediately started the next book in the series, The Janus Stone, which is available in the Open Library. It was only available for an hour at a time, and I was nearly at the end when the OL wouldn't let me have it for another hour! (Usually I only read OL books that can be borrowed for 2 weeks, because the hourly borrow is fraught with peril, but I was really keen.) Early this morning I checked again, found it was available, and finished it. Another enjoyable read. I like Ruth and Harry, the wry humour, and the archaeological settings. This time, the headless skeleton of a child is unearthed on a building site where a Victorian mansion is being demolished to be replaced by 75 "luxury" flats. The house was once a Catholic children's home, so people leap to conclusions about wicked nuns and paedophile priests, but Harry doesn't. (After John Banville's Snow this is a relief.)

març 2, 3:20pm

32. The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

The erosion of a cliff exposes a cache of skeletons which may have been buried during WWII. The investigation of the old crime leads to more deaths and puts Harry and Ruth in danger.

Another good read, but after three Ruth Galloway books in three days they're becoming same-same, so I'll have a break before number 4.

Editat: març 3, 4:09pm

33. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

I told myself to have a break before the fourth Ruth Galloway, but didn't listen. An archeological dig has unearthed the coffin of a medieval bishop, an ancestor of the wealthy Smith family that owns the museum where the ceremonial coffin opening is about to occur. Ruth arrives early and finds the museum curator dead next to the coffin. The museum also harbours a collection of bones that another Smith took from the graves of indigenous Australians over a century ago.

There are too many plot threads in A Room Full of Bones, and too much waffle about the Dreaming where a perilously ill Nelson gets lost, and is saved by Cathbad who dances around a bonfire and takes drugs so as to find Nelson and guide him home. An Aboriginal man, Bob, who plays the didgeridoo, has moved into the house next door to Ruth. (Perhaps his kangaroo is still in quarantine?) He and Cathbad are members of a group that has pledged to return the bones to their home. Are the multiple deaths and illnesses due to an aboriginal curse? Or are they linked to a drug smuggling ring? Or perhaps a radical animal welfare group?

This fourth book wasn't up to the standard of the previous three, but I enjoyed it anyway and have already started the fifth.

ETA Griffiths talks about aboriginal chiefs and tribes, as though she's confused indigenous Australians with Native Americans. Clans, Tribes and Mobs

març 4, 2:24pm

34. Dying fall by Elly Griffiths

The murder of an old university friend of Elly's is linked to the discovery of bones that might belong to King Arthur. Elly, Nelson and Cathbad all end up in Blackpool investigating the crime, which seems to be linked to a racist King Arthur cult. I'm still enjoying the series but think there are too many Druids and that it's time for Elly to stop pining for Nelson.

març 5, 3:02pm

35. The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

Ruth has uncovered the skeleton of a woman with a hook for a hand, notorious for killing children left in her care. But was she really guilty? Frank, an American historian who is keen on Elly, thinks not. The hook-handed woman stars in an episode of a TV show about women who kill, with Ruth providing the science, and Frank providing the history. Meanwhile, Nelson is investigating the death of a baby and suspects the child's mother, whose two other children also died as infants. Is she linked to the two child abductions carried out by the person who leaves notes signed by The Childminder?

I'm still enjoying the series, and have started the next book.

març 5, 3:25pm

>56 pamelad: - you're racing through these ;). I could never read so many of a series back to back, I must say.

Editat: març 7, 3:52pm

>57 john257hopper: Seven Eight in a row is enough for now, and the remaining six aren't in the library, so I'd have to buy them! It's time to read some books I already own.

36. The Ghost Fields and 37. The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

Ghost fields are fake air strips, built to mislead the Germans in WWII. Ruth is called in when a body is found in the cockpit of a wrecked plane, uncovered during excavations for a housing estate on land that once belonged to the Blackstock family. There's something evil hanging around the Blackstocks, and when another person dies, the Blackstocks are the main suspects. But which Blackstock? Ruth is about to find out.

The woman in blue appears like a vision to Cathbad, who is minding a friend's cat in a house that opens onto a graveyard. Cathbad, being a Druid, is predisposed to believe that he has seen the Virgin Mary, but the woman is only too mortal. She is found strangled. Ruth becomes involved with the case when an old university friend, who is now an Anglican priest, consults her about some threatening anonymous letters.

The Ruth and Harry non-romance continues. I'm fed up with it, and firmly on Michelle's side. How long can Griffiths drag this out?

març 7, 4:10pm

38. An Appeal to the World: The Way to Peace in a Time of Division by the Dalai Lama

This short book is set out in the form of an interview with the questions asked by Franz Alt. I think the answers may be filtered too much through Alt's perspective, so will look for another book by the Dalai Lama. The main message of this book is that ethics come before religion. The Dalai Lama talks of shared ethics and values.

Editat: març 8, 4:26am

39. The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

McTiernan is Irish, settled in Western Australia since 2011. This police procedural, second in a series, takes place in Galway. A young woman is killed by a hit and run outside a private research institute on the grounds of a university. In her pocket is a swipe card belonging to the granddaughter of the biotech billionaire, whose company owns the institute. The woman who discovers the dead girl is the partner of Cormac Reilly, the detective sergeant who takes on the case, unwisely as it turns out. Reilly is also investigating another case, in which a passive woman seems unable to accept that her husband has attempted to murder her and their children.

There is a theme of terrible parents whose neglected, brow-beaten children grow up without support: two evil mothers, a vile grandfather and a murderous father. The biotech company, which is central to the plot, is riven with corruption. All in all, dark days in Galway. So while I thought this was a competent crime novel, and that Dervla McTiernan is worth looking out for, it's not what I want to read right now. Everyone's unhappy all the time.

març 18, 5:23pm

40. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman started off well, with Ove reminding me of people I know, but his curmudgeonly character developed no further and he became a caricature. All the characters were caricatures with no lives of their own, in the sense that the author was obviously present, manipulating them. I was disappointed in A Man Called Ove, a best seller that has received excellent reviews, finding it inauthentic and sickeningly sentimental.

març 20, 5:25pm

41. The Rector's Daughter by F M Mayor

Mary Jocelyn, a thirty-five year old spinster, spend her life looking after her elderly, academic father, Canon Jocelyn, a selfish old man unable to show affection or to appreciate his daughter's qualities. Mary's invalid sister has just died, and Mary is bereft, even less able than usual to deal with her father's irritability and dismissiveness. Her burgeoning friendship with Mr Herbert, also a clergyman, and the son of an old friend of her father's, gives her hope of a happier future.

Nothing much happens in The Rector's Daughter, which is a character-driven novel. Even the unsympathetic characters eventually reveal their complexity and their awareness of their limitations. It's all very sad.

The book was first published in 1924 and Mary has some interaction with the apparently callous and superficial "bright young things" of the Bloomsbury group, but her dutiful diffidence seems the product of an earlier time. She appears to forego her own wishes in order to punish herself. Why on earth did she move in with Aunt Lottie? I appreciated Mayor's writing and the depth of her characters, but ran out of patience with miserable Mary.

març 29, 7:54pm

42. Claudine at School by Collette

Published in 1900 under her husband's name, this is Collette's first book. Claudine, a precocious and self-aware girl of fifteen, is in her last year at the local girls' school. She fancies herself as far superior to the daughters of farmers and shopkeepers who are her fellow students, and who need to pass their certificate in order to study at the teacher training college. Claudine will not need to work, and is already nostalgic about her last year in this provincial village before her departure for a new life in Paris.

Claudine is absolutely full of herself, a horrible child with a jaundiced eye and an ironic sense of humour. The school is a swamp of licentiousness, with the headmistress and the junior mistress carrying on their liaison in full view of the students, a school inspector who propositions the more attractive students and receives sexual favours from the schoolmistresses in exchange for promotion. Claudine herself is attracted to the junior mistress and to a fellow student. It all becomes a bit too much, but fortunately Claudine's sense of humour adds some leaven, and the descriptions of life in the village are fascinating. I was also very entertained by the scathing descriptions of the school curriculum, particularly the highly amusing arithmetic problems.

Claudine at School is an odd book, possibly because of Willy's demands for salacious additions to Collette's work. I enjoyed it for the picture of French provincial life, its humour and the writing itself. Antonia White, who wrote Frost in May has translated the book into British English which flows well, but the translation of colloquial French into British slang might annoy some readers. I didn't mind.

abr. 2, 5:36pm

43. Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes

Giles Gott, some sort of Oxford academic, is putting on a performance of Hamlet at Scamnum Court, the seat of the Duke of Horton who is the head of the Crispin family. Gott is presenting the play in a form as close as possible to the way it would have been staged in Shakespeare's time, so the lengthy descriptions of the stage layout, while tedious and confusing, are relevant to the plot. Not much else is. There's a great deal of academic waffle, which confuses rather than elucidates, a large cast of potential murderers who are almost impossible to remember, and a complicated plot that hinges on a ludicrous motive. As a detective story this is a failure. Fortunately there is only one conversation in classical Greek, and it's short.

abr. 5, 7:06pm

44. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Gogol Ganguli's parents emigrated to the US from Calcutta in the 1960s and settled in a Boston suburb. Over the years they create a Bengali network, a substitute for the families they have left behind in Calcutta. Gogol and his sister Sonia grow up between two cultures, the US culture of their school friends and the Bengali culture of their parents. Gogol's American friends, in particular his two serious girlfriends, accept him despite his Bengali upbringing, and fail to see that it is integral to him. Gogol himself spends years fitting in with his American friends and their families and aspiring to be like them.

This thoughtful and compassionate book is well worth reading. I liked the writing style, the descriptions of the Bengali community, and the insights into the difficulties of living between two cultures, not quite belonging to either.

abr. 7, 5:40pm

45. Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd
An undemanding historical mystery set in Regency England. The heroine is the twenty-six year-old daughter of an extraordinarily selfish rector, who relies on her to bring up his younger children and manage the household, but treats her with disregard. The hero is a wounded army major, confined to bed, who saw something suspicious through the window one night when he couldn't sleep. They work together to investigate. I enjoyed it, so read the next in the series, Death Comes to London.

abr. 8, 8:51am

>64 pamelad:. I was interested to read your comments about this. I hugely enjoyed some of Michael Innes's novels published under his real name of J I M Stewart, and in particular his series A Staircase in Surrey set in an Oxford college closely modelled on his (and my own) alma mater of Oriel. As it happens, the second book in that series, Young Pattullo is one of my favourite novels ever.

However, I remember being recommended to read Hamlet, Revenge by my English teacher at school, probably more than forty years ago now, for the insights it might render into Hamlet, which we were then studying. I struggled to read it then, as I have done a couple of times since. Indeed, i have never managed to finish it, although I did enjoy several other works by Innes featuring Appleby, his rather upper crust policeman

abr. 9, 5:57pm

>67 Eyejaybee: I read most of the Appleby books many years ago and enjoyed them, but I'm wary now of the combination of humour and murder, which seems callous, and annoyed by Appleby's upper crustiness. Perhaps the snobbery is tongue in cheek? Doesn't matter.

The A Staircase in Surrey series is available on Kobo Plus, so I've downloaded The Gaudy.

abr. 11, 4:05pm

47. Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd
48. Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

Two undemanding Regency mysteries. I like the main characters, the intrepid Lucy Harrington and the irascible Major Robert Kurland, but the plots are silly.

abr. 16, 4:48pm

49. Plumb by Maurice Gee

This New Zealand novel won the 1978 James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

I have known much disappointment in my children, seeing so many of them disappoint themselves. although they have moved on the margins of my life, each has known his path to the centre, and all have come, all have taken comfort in their need. They have brought little comfort to me, but that is no proper complaint.......And the thorns that prick me now are the thorns of remembrance. Children, followers. Along that other way, where I found so few to accompany me, and for distances so short, I reached my goal.

George Plumb, a Presbyterian minister until he was sacked for heresy, jailed for sedition during the first world war, father of twelve, is reflecting on his life. He sees himself as an exceptional person, a man of integrity, determined to follow his own path no matter the consequences, but his story reveals a much smaller man. He surrounds himself with sycophants and believes that to associate with him is a privilege.

The story shifts back and forth between the past and the present. In the beginning, George and his wife Edie are united in their religious beliefs and goals, but they spend less and less time together. George spends his time talking at his acolytes, or isolating himself in his study, reading and thinking. Edie single-handedly looks after the children and the house, with no spare time, very little money, and not enough to eat. With every word George reveals himself to the reader as a monstrously selfish, ineffectual man.

I was impressed by Maurice Gee's writing, the depth of the characters and the multiple levels of the narrative, but I found the book hard to read because of the awfulness of George Plumb, who is based on the author's own grandfather.

Editat: abr. 22, 4:02am

50. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths has an elaborate, artificial plot intertwined with a nineteenth century horror story, The Stranger . Its author, RM Holland, used to live in a house that has become part of a comprehensive school where the heroine, Clare Cassidy, teaches English. Clare is writing a biography of Holland, pursuing the mysteries of his wife's death and a potentially missing daughter. She teaches a creative writing class, in which she often talks about The Stranger , and has named her dog Herbert after the dog in the story. Clare keeps a diary, which is integral to a plot in which people close to Clare are murdered. The crimes are investigated by Harbinder Kaur and her stolid colleague, Neil.

I quite liked this ridiculous, overly literary crime novel. The characters are well-drawn and engaging, the narrative is leavened with humour, and the artificiality creates a distance from reality. At the moment I'm looking for escapism, not reality, so The Stranger Diaries filled the bill.

I'm half way to the 100!

Editat: abr. 23, 5:15pm

51. Chocky by John Wyndham

Twelve year-old Matthew Gore has been carrying on intense conversations with someone or something that can't be seen. His parents are worried, with his mother concerned that Matthew is mentally ill. His father, however, realises that Matthew is inhabited by a benign alien and counsels acceptance, which is what I loved about this book: a sensible middle class man deals with alien possession as though it's just one of those things a parent needs to be able to manage.


A warning about the Kobo ebook. It's so full of typos, repetitions and missing sections that it's unreadable. I ended up finding a copy in the Open Library.

abr. 27, 7:24pm

52. Death Comes to the School by Catherine Lloyd
53. Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd
Two bland, undemanding Regency mysteries. Good for falling asleep.

54. The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

The three evangelists are historians, short of cash, who move into a dilapidated old house together because the rent is low. Matthias lives on the ground floor because his area of interest is pre-history; Marc, the medievaelist inhabits the ground floor and Lucian, whose interest is the Great War, lives on the top floor. Vandoosler, Marc's uncle and godfather, a disgraced police commissioner sacked for letting a murderer go free, lives in the attics. He's the one who has christened the historians the evangelists. So this is an artificial set-up, which is all to the good because a distance from reality is what I'm looking for right now. The plot is similarly unrealistic: it's the humour and the characters that make the book worth reading. . A tree appears unexpectedly in the garden of the house next door, and Sophia, the retired opera singer who lives there, asks the evangelists to dig a trench to find out what's under it. When Sophia disappears, the evangelists and Vandoosler investigate.

I liked The Three Evangelists so will read the next book in the series.

abr. 28, 4:00am

55. The Story of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerloff

Gosta Berling, a Protestant minister in 1820s Sweden, is defrocked for drunkenness and takes to the road as a beggar. Close to death, he is rescued by a rich woman known as the major's wife, and taken to her manor house, Ekersby, where he joins twelve more of the major's wife's pensioners. The pensioners do no work: they spend their lives drinking and carousing. Despite their dependence on the major's wife's generosity, the pensioners make an agreement with an evil man to banish their benefactor and take over the home, farms and tin mines that she has managed so well. A year of disaster follows.

Gosta Berling's Story is a collection of short stories, most of them linked to the charming, feckless, destructive Gosta Berling. The descriptions of the countryside through the changing seasons are dramatic and lyrical. Disastrous floods destroy farms and cottages, but in the short, lovely summer everyone celebrates. People behave with unselfish kindness and violent malice. The local pastor cheats his congregation of their land and possessions, then watches the peasants starve. Men beat their wives and daughters and women punish themselves. But every inhabitant searches the hills for days when a feeble-minded young woman is lost.

The stories are not realistic: they are legendary tales of divine reward and punishment written in declamatory, biblical language, with an underlying vein of irony and humour.

The Story of Gosta Berling is well worth reading, but I recommend small doses. I read the 1898 Pauline Bancroft Flach translation after giving up on the 2009 Paul Norlen version. The Norlen translation was much blander, with contemporary American expressions, and I had to keep re-reading sentences that didn't make sense the first time.

abr. 29, 5:59pm

56. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

It's 1940. Ten year-old Noel Bostock has lived with his godmother Mattie since he was a baby, but now she's suffering from dementia and Noel is about to be set adrift. When he is forcibly evacuated from London he ends up with Vee, who does whatever she can to make ends meet, sometimes legally, sometimes not. Vee supports her lethargic nineteen-year-old son Donald, and her parasitical mother, who hasn't spoken since the fifteen-year-old Vee announced that she was pregnant. But it isn't bleak: it's very funny, and sharply observed. Vee and Noel become con-artists; Donald capitalises on his ill health to save young men from the call-up; Vee's mother writes complaining letters to politicians and Arthur Askey. And Noel is a delight, a precocious little professor with an idiosyncratic moral code learned from the eccentric old suffragette Mattie.

I really enjoyed Crooked Heart and have started the next in the Noel Bostock series, V for Victory. The first Noel Bostock book is Old Baggage, which none of the local libraries have, unfortunately, but I'll keep looking.

maig 1, 4:58pm

57. V for Victory by Lissa Evans

Another winner! It's 1944 and Noel and Vee are living in Mattie's house in London. Many Londoners have been bombed out and there is a shortage of accommodation so Noel and Vee are scraping a living by taking in boarders, whom Vee has chosen for their potential as tutors for Noel. The blitz is still going on, and we see the death and destruction through the experiences of an air raid warden, a young woman with a connection to Noel's godmother Mattie. Normally I don't read WWII books by contemporary authors because they are too often sentimental and exploitative, all cosy neighbourliness and "spirit of the blitz", but Evans' characters are a mixture of good and bad, and in her descriptions of the tragedy and devastation of the blitz she avoids being mawkish. The war is the background, and in the foreground is the story of Vee and Noel, two deserving people who are very fortunate to have found one another.


Editat: maig 2, 2:02am

58. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga

In the Rhodesia of the sixties life is hard for black people, particularly women. Tambu has to leave school when the crops fail, because her father is willing to find only enough money to educate her brother. It was her father's fault that the family was living in poverty: the crops failed because he did no work; he spent his money on drink. He relied for money on his older brother, called by the courtesy title Babamukuru, headmaster at a mission school, who had risen in the world through education and scholarships provided by white missionaries. When Tambu's brother dies, her uncle agrees to pay for her education and takes her into his household. The whole family worships Babamukuru and he accepts it as his due. It's genuine worship with dancing, bowing, ululating, and endless praise.

There are five main female characters in the book including Tambu. Her mother sleeps on a mat on the bedroom floor while her husband sleeps on the bed, and is bound to a miserable existence with her feckless, promiscuous husband by almost continuous pregnancies. Lucia, the sister of Tambu's mother, is a wicked woman who has no proper reverence for the men in her family and stands up for herself and her sister. Babamukuru's wife is a teacher who never sees her salary, which goes straight to her husband to be spend as he sees fit. She placates her husband with baby talk, obeys his commands and tries to prevent him beating her daughter. Babamukuru's daughter, Nyasha, lived in England with her parents while they were studying for Masters' degrees, and has not learned how to be subservient, enraging her father who expects that his every word is obeyed. In order to get an education Tambu has to please her uncle, please the missionaries, excel at her studies and not lose her identity: barely possible, but she is determined. Her cousin Nyasha cannot make the same compromises.

This excellent book about women's lives in the last days of Colonial Rhodesia is well worth reading.

Editat: maig 7, 3:43am

59. Farthing by Jo Walton

It's 1949. The war is still raging in Europe but England has been at peace since 1949 1941, when a group of aristocrats negotiated a peace treaty with Hitler. Britain is rife with anti-Semitism, but as yet it is not official policy to kill Jews. A few days before an important government meeting, a last-minute house party is convened at Farthings, the country house belonging to the Eversley family. Lucy Khan is an Eversley. She has been virtually disowned by her mother for marrying a Jew, David Khan, so when she and David are invited to Farthing for the house party, David believes that a reconciliation is possible and urges Lucy to accept. A government minister is murdered, and the evidence points to David.

Fortunately for the Khans, Inspector Peter Carmichael, the policeman in charge of the case, keeps an open mind. If David is arrested, guilty or not, he will be convicted and hanged, so despite official pressure, Carmichael searches for the truth.

Farthing is part alternative history and part a traditional country house party detective story, told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Lucy Khan and Inspector Carmichael. It was an interesting read and I almost liked it, but it's not not the sort of thing I want to read in the middle of an election campaign. It's all too plausible.

Editat: maig 8, 7:30pm

60. The Fallout by Garry Disher

The sixth book in the Wyatt series. A career criminal, Wyatt plans his jobs meticulously but if his instincts tell him that something is wrong he will ditch the job, no matter how far along. An ex-colleague believes that Wyatt set him up, and is seeking revenge. The story starts with the bush bandit, a young man who holds up bank branches, successfully so far. He turns out to be Raymond Wyatt, a nephew Wyatt last saw at his violent brother's funeral, when Raymond was ten. The impulsive, egotistical Raymond has a few different jobs on the go, and his carelessness could put Wyatt at risk.

There is a multi-threaded plot: a sunken treasure; a jail break; an art heist; a potential love affair; an investigation into police corruption; an insurance fraud. In the end the threads come together, but the resolution is neither expected nor tidy.

Disher is my favourite Australian crime writer but I prefer his other series to this Wyatt one, because Wyatt's a criminal. Even so, Wyatt engaged my sympathy, and I enjoyed this taut, well-written thriller.

The Fallout is the second book in The Wyatt Butterfly, which also contains Port Vila Blues, which I read years ago, before LT.

maig 11, 4:32pm

61. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart, the second book in the Noel Bostock series, was published first. Noel, the main character is a ten year old boy cast adrift on the death his adoptive godmother Mattie, a strong-minded, enthusiastic, eccentric suffragette. Old Baggage is Mattie's story. It begins in 1928, fourteen years after the suffragettes suspended their campaign, with all women over 21, not just property owners, about to be given the vote. Mattie realises that she is marking time and needs to find another cause, She starts a girls' group, the Amazons, with the aim of helping the girls to become healthy, educated, intelligent, independent people who will use their votes wisely.

I enjoyed Old Baggage, but not as much as the other two books in the series.

maig 14, 5:16pm

62. Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe is the first book in the Lizzie Vogel series. The last book won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, a British award for comic writing. Its shortlist had led me to Lissa Evans, whose Crooked Heart and V for Victory I really enjoyed, so I was cautiously optimistic about Nina Stibbes. Not in the same class, unfortunately, so I doubt I'll read the Bollinger winner, Reasons to be Cheerful.

At the start of the book, which is set in the late sixties, the Vogel family is leading a posh life with a housekeeper, chauffeur, and plenty of money, but things collapse when Mr Vogel falls in love with a male employee. Nine-year-old Lizzie, her unnamed older sister and her little bother Jack move with their mother to a big house in a village. Their neighbours dislike them because being divorced is not respectable, and because in the building of their new house long term tenants were evicted. Their housekeeper refuses to work for them because they are too far away and their mother is "temperamentally unsuited to housework" and is dealing with her unhappiness by drinking, spending a lot of time in bed, and writing plays. Lizzie and her sister decide that what she needs is a new "man at the helm", and make a list.

I didn't much like the idea of the book, had little sympathy for Lizzie's irresponsible mother and found the children's precociousness both irritating and implausible, so not a success!

maig 16, 5:15pm

63. The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein was my choice for the "a classic that scares you" category in last year's Classics Challenge (in the Category Challenge group), but I was too scared to read it. I was expecting impenetrable, repetitive, experimental prose, as punishing to read as Ulysses, but shorter. Fortunately, my fear was misplaced. I made my way through the book with minimal confusion, and was often amused.

Alice barely gets a mention because this is the autobiography of Gertrude Stein, a woman secure in her own superiority, who has met only two geniuses apart from herself: Alfred North Whitehead, the author of Principia Mathematica, and Picasso. The story begins in pre-WWI Paris, where Gertrude Stein (she always calls herself by her full name) is living with her brother and collecting art by unknown painters who include Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Juan Gris. This, to me, is the most interesting aspect of the book: reading about the people, yet to become famous, who pass through Gertrude Stein's salon. I was entertained by the gossip, including Sherwood Anderson's and Gertrude Stein's scathing assessment of Ernest Hemingway, and by Gertrude Stein's inflated self-praise, which surely isn't meant to be taken seriously? I was less entertained by sections that consisted of little more than the names of people whom Gertrude Stein had met, and bored by the discussions of Gertrude Stein's literary manifesto and the the publishing history of her works.

Overall an entertaining read and a slice of history.

maig 18, 8:16pm

64. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

I liked this second book in the Thursday Murder Club series for its breezy humour, but it is even more tidily heart-warming than The Thursday Murder Club, despite the high death count. I'm just not a fan of light-hearted killing. The characters are becoming caricatures so it's easy to keep a distance, but still!

maig 26, 4:15pm

65. The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

A while ago there were some enthusiastic reviews of The Flatshare on LT so when I saw it as a Kindle Daily Deal, I bought it. A light, enjoyable, contemporary romance, it features two nice people who deserve their happy ending.

Editat: maig 31, 6:12pm

After reading a review of Elizabeth Cadell's Any Two Can Play I decided to give Cadell another try. I'd written her off after Parson's House. So now I've read four in a row, all of them light, humorous, British romances, first published in the fifties and sixties.

66. The Corner Shop is a standalone, with a supremely competent heroine who runs her own secretarial agency. When she investigates a client so impossible that even her best staff can't last more than a day in his employment, she becomes involved in an art heist that turns out to have links to her own past, and a very unlikely love affair. I enjoyed it.

I followed up The Corner Shop with the Wayne Family series, which is available on Kindle Unlimited.

67. The Lark Shall Sing is the first and best. Lucille is the eldest Wayne sister and after the death of her parents she has become used to being in charge of her younger brothers and sisters. The family's house has been rented out for a year and the Wayne siblings separated, but when Lucille informs them that she is selling their family home, they all make their way home. Three of them manage to pick up helpers along the way: a famous actor; an Italian brush salesman; a retired girls' school matron. I enjoyed this cosy, cheerful, humorous, unrealistically tidy read.

68. and 69. The Blue Sky of Spring and Six Impossible Things are the second and third books in the Wayne Family series. I read them because they were there. Pleasant, undemanding. The Blue Sky is not quite as cheerful as the others because the heroine is a bit gloomy and confused and people are left disappointed, but things are tidied up in Six Impossible Things.

Editat: juny 2, 5:53pm

70. Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes is from the series British Library Women Writers 1930s.

Polly, a middle-class housewife with two small children suddenly finds herself in the body and life of Lady Elizabeth, a childless, married woman much higher up the social scale. It's only temporary, and Polly returns to her life to find that Elizabeth has been in her place, playing with her children and puzzling her husband. From time to time, unpredictably, Elizabeth and Poly swap bodies, surprising friends and family with odd behaviour caused by the different rules they've been brought up with, and their unfamiliarity with the people and places surrounding them.

This was a charming, gently amusing, good-natured book. I enjoyed it.

juny 3, 6:29pm

71. Anna and Her daughters by D. E. Stevenson

After successfully re-trying Elizabeth Cadell I decided to give D. E. Stevenson another go. Like Cadell, Stevenson wrote a lot of books, and although I liked the Miss Buncle and Mrs Tim books, the others I read were dull. These days though, I like a book about nice people where not much happens, and that's what you get with D. E. Stevenson.

On the death of her husband, who left very little money, Anna moves back to the small Scottish town where she was born and buys a cottage. She has three daughters, the beautiful and selfish eldest, the less beautiful and easily led middle one, and the unbeautiful, intelligent youngest, from whose point of view the book is written. The eldest moves to Edinburgh, and everyone is happier when she is away. Her return for a visit causes lasting disruption and misery because she appropriates the young doctor who was he special friend of the middle daughter and the love interest of the youngest and messes up his life. Fortunately, as in a Victorian novel, she dies, possibly of galloping consumption. A harsh punishment!. But life goes on and everyone who deserves it find happiness.

I am now reading Gerald and Elizabeth.

juny 4, 11:02pm

72. Gerald and Elizabeth, 73. The House of the Deer, 74. Rochester's Wife by D. E. Stevenson

Gerald and Elizabeth are half siblings. Elizabeth is a famous stage actress and Gerald is an electrical engineer who has been sacked from his job in a South African diamond mind after being accused of stealing diamonds. Elizabeth's mother suffered from melancholia, and her mother's sister is in a mental institution so Elizabeth has decided never to marry. Walter, the man Elizabeth is never going to marry, sorts out Gerald's problems and helps Gerald sort out Elizabeth's. Walter is such a paragon that when he and Elizabeth decide to marry she says that she would be proud to obey him. I was horrified. I was jolted by an episode of anti-semitism, a piece of contemptuous stereotyping.

The House of the Deer is the sequel to Gerald and Elizabeth. Gerald is hanging around in Scotland shooting deer, an interlude that has little to do with the plot, (something to do with robberies organised by The Planner) but introduces him to the woman he falls in love with and crowds of endearing Scottish people. Jolted this time by contemptuous dismissal of Black people and use of word n.... Thinking by now that D. E. Stevenson is very iffy and should not read another book, but..

Rochester's Wife

Kit is a young doctor who has travelled the world and fears settling down, but takes a short-term position as an assistant to an elderly doctor. He falls instantly in love with a young woman, Mardie, who is married to a madman. Their love is doomed! Stevenson's depiction of mental illness is remarkably unsympathetic, which does not surprise me at all.

Because Stevenson's nice people share her prejudices, they're not as nice as she wants them to seem.

Editat: juny 6, 7:36pm

75. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling is a worthwhile read, despite its drawbacks. The ten reasons are all to do with looking at the data instead of forming opinions based on fear, prejudice, assumptions and outdated facts. The book begins with a quiz, with questions on topics including girls' education, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, life expectancy, population growth and distribution, and vaccination rates. Rosling gave the test to many groups of people around the world, including bankers, scientists, doctors, journalists and students. Each question had three alternatives, and the results for every group were significantly lower than choosing answers at random. (Rosling persists in describing this as knowing less than chimpanzees, which is extremely irritating.)

Each chapter addresses a factor that skews our judgement. Some factors are statistical: comparing averages instead of looking at the data spread; looking at totals instead of rates; assuming a straight line relationship; looking at numbers out of context. Others are emotional: urgency, blame, negativity. At the end of each chapter he gives a factfulness summary: how to recognise when something is skewing your judgement and how to return to the data.

I found Factfulness to be positive, thought-provoking and worthwhile, and would recommend the book. There were quite a few minuses though, and I barely made it past the introduction, where Rosling is burbling on about circuses and sword swallowing and relentlessly big-noting himself. The big-noting continues and the tone is patronising, but in the end it was worth persevering.

juny 7, 4:40am

>89 pamelad: sounds really interesting Pamela, and much needed in this day and age, despite the irritations you describe.

Editat: juny 20, 2:12am

>90 john257hopper: Here's another useful one. Like The Life You can Save, which covers some of the same ground, it describes what we can actually do.

76. The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically by Peter Singer

This was a good follow-up to Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think because it addresses ways in which people are trying to make the world better. It begins by describing and analysing the actions of some effective altruists in terms of saving more people: to work in a low-paying job that helps people directly, or to work in a high-paying job that is less ethical but allows for large donations to effective charities; people who make altruistic kidney donations; choosing the charities that can do the most good. As in The Life You Can Save, Singer makes the case for donating to charities that help people living in extreme poverty. It costs $50,000 to train a guide dog for one blind person in the US, but $25 can save a person in a much poorer country from blindness. Effective altruists are guided by logic rather than sentiment.

For completeness, Singer even examines possible risks of human extinction and the likelihood of reducing them: asteroid strike; nuclear war; pandemic of natural origin; pandemic caused by bioterrorism; global warming; nanotech accident, tiny self-replicating robots multiplying until the entire planet is covered in them' physics research producing hyperdense matter; super-intelligent unfriendly artific1al intelligence. For some of these, it is difficult to estimate the risk, and even when the risk is able to be determined, the way to reduce it is not. As an illustration, Singer weighs up the possible cost of preventing an asteroid strike against estimates or the financial value of a human life. Personally I'm not planning to worry about human extinction, but logically, according to Singer's utilitarian goal of saving the greatest number of lives, it has to be considered.

Singer's prose is as utilitarian as his philosophy: clear, simple and direct. A useful and thought-provoking book.

juny 20, 8:54am

>91 pamelad: great summary and recommendation Pamela, thanks again.

juny 24, 6:58pm

77. Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English by Christopher Davies

Interesting topic, but the book is dated and humourless, with long lists of words that have taken the author's fancy and an odd diversion into the mechanics of toilet cisterns. It's useful to know that a teamster is a truck driver and that oatmeal and porridge are the same thing and I think the book would have been more interesting if the author had confined himself to words that are puzzling, confusing or ambiguous, rather than self-evident. Do British people still say et for eat? There are appendices of Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African words, and judging from the Australian one, they're generations out of date.

juny 29, 7:42pm

78. Post After Post-Mortem by E. C. R. Lorac 1936

As the book begins, Mrs Surray is admiring the beauty of her garden and reflecting on her family. Her children are so successful, and her house so perfect, that Mrs Surray worries that there is nothing left for her to do with her life. But then her daughter Ruth is found dead, apparently a suicide. Ruth was an intellectual, which is problematic for women because their constitutions aren't strong enough to cope with the demands of their brains. This is the amusing thing about E. C. R. Lorac: she knows how people are meant to be and she judges them harshly. In others of her books I've been amused by villains who wear too much mascara, or don't know that it's proper to wear tweeds in the country. There a few potential suspects: an insomniac psychiatrist brother; a womanising explorer who dumped Ruth for her younger sister; a publisher who is always on the spot when disaster happens.

I liked this book for its faults and after ten books by Lorac feel that I'm building up a picture of the author.

jul. 2, 7:38pm

79. Murder in the Basement by Anthony Berkeley 1932

The eighth book in the Roger Sheringham series is unusual in that the first part is taken up with identifying the body of a young woman, found buried in a basement. Chief Inspector Moresby and his underlings carry out a lengthy and painstaking investigation, which is leading nowhere until an X-ray of the exhumed corpse furnishes a clue. Once the woman its identified it turns out that Roger Sheringham, author and amateur detective, actually knew her. Of course! The trail leads to a boys' prep school, a hotbed of petty politics and intrigue.

I enjoyed this short, jaunty British crime novel and have found a few Anthony Berkeleys I haven't read on Kindle Unlimited and Overdrive. Next up is Jumping Jenny.

80. Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley

Another woman who deserves to be murdered! She is Ena Stratton, an enraged, hysterical exhibitionist, mad enough to inflict misery on everyone she knows, but not quite committable. She ends up dead at her brother-in-law's party, a fancy-dress celebration of famous murderers, complete with gallows. The guest of honour is Roger Sheringham, author and amateur detective.

Berkeley is experimenting with the form of the detective story. We know who contributed to Ena Stratton's death, but Sheringham gets it wrong and creates havoc by manipulating the evidence and coaching the witnesses. It looks as though the man he's trying to protect, who is not the murderer, could be trapped by Sheringham's machinations. The story bogs down in the middle, where Sheringham spends too much time talking about fitting suspects into scenarios, but overall it's an entertaining read.

On the evidence of Murder in the Basement and Jumping Jenny, Anthony Berkeley was very much a misogynist. I had to put that aside to enjoy both books.

jul. 3, 9:14pm

81. Four Gardens by Margery Sharp

This is a gentle book about a very nice woman, Caroline Smith, a traditional wife and mother with an uncommunicative husband of whom she is quietly fond, and two adult children to whom she is devoted. Caroline is kind, diffident and intelligent, with a great deal of common sense.

The story begins at the turn of the last century, when Caroline Chase is seventeen. She lives in Morton, an outer suburb of London which consists of the town, where the common people live, and the common, where the upper classes live. The town and the common do not mix socially, and never intermarry. When Caroline, from the town, meets Victor, from the common, when both are exploring the garden of an abandoned manor house, she knows that they can't be friends in public but hopes anyway. She marries Henry, a man of her own class, capable and ambitious. Henry's eventual success enables him to move his family to a manor house in the equivalent of the common in a neighbouring suburb. All through the book we see the class system through Caroline's perspective: she knows her place, but is determined to fit in where she has to for the sake of her husband and children.

The stages of Caroline's life are delineated by gardens: the overgrown garden of the abandoned manor; the tiny backyard of the house in the town part of Morton, where she grows vegetables; the beautiful, formal garden at the new manor house, with a gardener who ignores her; the garden with which the book ends.

Nothing much happens in Four Gardens, but the writing is so good, the characters are so well-drawn and the social observations are so acute, that it is well worth reading.

jul. 5, 7:37pm

82. The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin

Charlie Berlin is the only survivor of a bombing crew shot down over Germany. He barely survived incarceration as a POW, but is now back at his old job, a police constable based at Russell Street Police Headquarters. Charlie is barely hanging on: he's managed to replace his benzedrine addiction with a less damaging dependency on Scotch, but is troubled by flashbacks and blackouts. Charlie's unsupportive superiors send him to Wodonga to investigate a series of payroll robberies carried out by a team of masked motorbike riders because he's dispensable. They'll be happy to get rid of him when he fails to solve the case.
While Charlie is in Wodonga, a young Chinese girl is found beheaded, and Charlie is put in charge of her murder investigation, which saves the corrupt Wodonga from having to do any work.

Geographical Information: Wodonga is a country town in northern Victoria, across the Murray River (border between NSW and Victoria) from the NSW town of Albury. These days it's about a 3.5 hour drive, but it would have taken a lot longer in 1947.

What I liked

Lots of nostalgic details from late forties Australia. I was a child in the fifties, when some people still hade ice chests and gave their kids Hypol, and the night man collected the pans of sewage from the back lane.

The historical information about life in Wodonga in the aftermath of WWII, with the police driving superannuated staff cars, farmers adapting military vehicles for use on their farms, the Bonegilla army base being converted into a camp for European migrants.

The Melbourne sections, which are set in parts of the city that I'm very familiar with.

What I disliked

Miserable cop; too many flashbacks; disconnected plot threads; a gorgeous newspaper photographer throws herself at PC Miseryguts; both crimes suddenly solve themselves.

Editat: jul. 7, 11:51pm

83. Winner! LT said I'd love Leo Bruce's Our Jubilee is Death and I liked it very much. I can't remember ever reading a Leo Bruce book before, which is a strange omission, and am pleased to find that there are so many of them. They're available on KoboPlus, which is another win.

Carolus Deene, schoolmaster and amateur detective, is contacted by his cousin who, while walking along the beach, has come across the head of the famous detective story writer, Mrs Lilliane Bomberger, who has been buried vertically in the sand. Mrs Bomberger is an awful harridan who delights in controlling and humiliating anyone who comes into her orbit. Unlike Anthony Berkeley's Roger Sheringham, however, Deene believes that no degree of nastiness justifies murder, and he shows a good deal more sympathy towards his characters. This is a humorous crime novel, but not a callous one, with some amusingly pompous, oblivious characters making themselves seem more and more ridiculous with every word they utter. The charlady doesn't quite work, but Mrs Bomberger and the hotel receptionist are very funny.

This is a classic detective story with plenty of motivated suspects and a final explanation in front of the police and other interested parties. It was first published in I959. I recommend it.

Editat: jul. 10, 12:49am

84. The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp

The three Sylvester women are big, blonde, beautiful and ebullient, married to big, dark, handsome men who never waste a word. The family farm in Devon is a cheerful, sunny, happy place until Stephen, the fourth and smallest Sylvester, makes a trip to Plymouth and returns with a thin little fiancee. It's the 1870s, and every summer the narrator, an eleven-year-old girl from London, a distant cousin, looks forward to her two month stay at the Sylvester farm. She writes lovingly about the sunny parlour, the crab-apple tree outside her bedroom window, and the brusque and affectionate Sylvester women. Everything changes when Fanny, Stephen's fiancee arrives. On the eve of her wedding she goes into a decline, takes over the parlour, demands quiet and makes everyone miserable except the narrator who, with a childish lack of judgement, has become Fanny's supporter. But in the end the narrator, a good-hearted busybody who doesn't understand what's going on, precipitates a crisis.

Another well-written, enjoyable book from Margery Sharp, with beautifully drawn female characters.

Editat: jul. 10, 8:01pm

85. Case for Three Detectives by Leo Bruce 1936

Dr and Mrs Thurston are hosting a country house party, attended by a neurotic novelist, a lawyer, a hard-drinking sportsman and the narrator. There is crowd of servants with unusually murky pasts, and a very peculiar vicar, so when Mrs Thurston is found murdered there are plenty of suspects. Shortly following the murder, three famous detectives descend on the Thurston house: the Lord Peter Wimsey stand-in, Lord Simon Plimsoll; Amer Picon, who bears a strong resemblance to Hercule Poirot; Monsignor Smith, who shares many characteristics with Father Brown. Our narrator Townsend, well-versed in the rules of detective fiction, conscientiously acts as Watson (or Hastings) to all three, as they apply their giant intellects to the murder. Also investigating is the red-faced, beer-drinking, dart-playing plebian, Sergeant Beef, who is sadly underrated by the other investigators.

This is an amusing locked-room mystery, particularly for fans of Golden Age detective stories. I've read every book that Lord Peter Wimsey and Poirot appear in, so was very much entertained. I'm not such a fan of Father Brown, and the obscure, mystical utterances of Monsignor Smith suggest why I would have given up on him, but I've borrowed The Innocence of Father Brown to check on his portrayal.

The story sags slightly when the four detectives produce their theories, but overall it's an entertaining read.

jul. 17, 9:02pm

86. and 87.

Martha in Paris and Martha, Eric and George by Margery Sharp

Books 2 and 3 in the Martha series are novellas. Martha was introduced in The Eye of Love, which I read years ago. At the time the two other books in the series weren't readily available, bit now that they are, I'd recommend reading them in order. All three are available on KoboPlus in volume 2 of The Margery Sharp Collection.

Martha in Paris and Martha, Eric and George

Martha, who was a child in The Eye of Love and determined to learn to draw, is now eighteen and showing such potential that a family friend, Mr Joyce, sponsors her for two years' instruction in Paris under a famous artist, referred to only as le maitre. Everyone assumes that Martha will be safe from seduction in Paris because she is overweight, unattractive, completely uninterested in other people, and focussed solely on her art, but she meets Eric, a British bank clerk who possesses a very desirable porcelain bath, so Martha falls into the habit of visiting Eric and his mother every Friday. When Eric's mother goes back to England for a few days, Martha sees no reason why she should miss her weekly bath and turns up on Eric's doorstep.

Even a pregnancy doesn't distract Martha from her art. She manages to keep it secret, and on her way back to England deposits the baby with Eric's concierge. Eric has no idea how to find her. His mother is delighted to have a grandson without the inconvenience of a daughter-in-law.

Ten years later Marth is a successful artist, back in Paris for an exhibition, when Eric tracks her down and presents her son, George, who looks just like the unfortunate Eric.

These are very funny books. I loved the capable, ironic French women, the amoral pragmatism, the dry and detached humour. Martha is utterly selfish, a user of people, attached to no one except Mr Joyce. She refuses to sacrifice herself to domesticity and turns the tables on Eric, leaving him to cope with the stigma of an illegitimate child and the disruption to his career. A witty feminist message from the early 1960s.

jul. 17, 9:57pm

88. The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo is the second book I've read by this author. I enjoyed it more than The Honjin Murders.

The head of the Inugami family has died, leaving a complex will that leads to murder. Inugami had three daughters, each to a different mistress, and showed neither them nor their mothers any interest or affection. His daughters married and each produced a son, one of whom stands to inherit the bulk of the Inugami fortune should he be chosen as a husband by the beautiful granddaughter of Inugami's mentor, a priest who saved him from starvation and death. This is a ludicrously artificial mystery, but very entertaining. It was first published in 1946, when soldiers were returning from the war. A disfigured returned soldier in a rubber mask plays an important role, as does another returned serviceman who hides his identity with a muffler. (Is a muffler a scarf? In Australia it's something to do with the car exhaust.) There are lots of interesting cultural bits and pieces.

This Kindle book, and The Village of Eight Graves which I have also bought, is available for less than $2.

jul. 20, 5:13am

89. Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout is the third Lucy Barton book, and not quite up to the standard of the other two. William, Lucy's ex-husband, tells her she is a joyous person, but there aren't many signs of that. She's quite dreary and so is he.

Lucy's second husband has recently died, and William's second marriage is shaky. The two of them have remained friends and can rely on one another, so when William receives some surprising news about his mother, he shares it with Lucy and asks for her help. It's a very inward book, with Lucy reflecting on her upbringing, her marriage with William, and the difficulty of ever really knowing another person.

ag. 1, 9:56pm

90. Silence by Shusaku Endo

Silence is an historical novel about religious faith and the conflict between East and West. It is set in seventeenth century Japan, when Catholics are being pursued, tortured and killed in the attempt to eradicate Catholicism from Japan. Decades earlier, Portuguese Jesuits had brought their faith to Japan and spread their message to hundreds of thousands of brutalised, starving peasants, who are now maintaining their religion in secret. The priests are dead, along with thousands of their followers, tortured for refusing to deny their faith, but rumours have reached Portugal that Father Ferreira, leader of the mission, has apostacised to save his life. Two young Portuguese priests, Rodrigues and Garrpe who were students of Ferreira and cannot believe his betrayal, make their way to Japan with great difficulty in order to find Ferreira. The main protagonist is Rodrigues, whose faith is tested when the peasants who would protect him are tortured for their loyalty while God remains silent.

A thought-provoking book that addresses serious questions. Recommended.

ag. 2, 7:15pm

91. Monk Dawson by Piers Paul Read

Two seven-year-old boys meet on their first day at a private Catholic boarding school run by the Benedictines and, despite having little in common, remain friends. Eddie Dawson is a lonely, earnest boy who wants to spend his life helping people. Bobby Winterman, the narrator, is far more worldly. While Bobby goes on to Cambridge, Eddie is recruited by the Benedictine abbot and studies for the priesthood, but life in the Benedictine order teaching the children of the wealthy is not suited to his reformist zeal, so he leaves the Benedictine order to become a secular priest in London. Bobby recruits him to write crusading religious articles for a newspaper, and Eddie, now Father John, eventually runs foul of the church hierarchy. His increasing doubts drive him from the priesthood and he is scooped up by a beautiful widow. From here on it's difficult to have much sympathy for Eddie Dawson because of the narrator's bleak, jaded perspective. Dawson marries a kind-hearted young woman whom he treats with disdain because she doesn't measure up to the beautiful widow. His unkindness seemed out of character.

I found Monk Dawson interesting for its perspective on the upheavals in the Catholic church in the aftermath of Pope John's reforms. Monk Dawson, however, is a cypher, a bundle of inconsistencies. I really disliked the superficial judgements on the female characters and the cynical nastiness of the narration. Everybody is awful except for Dawson's wife, who is rejected for her poor cooking, fat legs and badly-decorated flat.

This was a quick read. The ambiguous ending reflects the narrator's perspective on his own Catholicism.

Monk Dawson is available in KindleUnlimited.

ag. 5, 10:52pm

92. Dead Man's Shoes by Leo Bruce

The obnoxious Wilbury Larkin makes himself unpleasant to everyone he meets, so it's hard to understand how Lance Willick can count him as a friend, and why Lance's uncle, Gregory Willick, pays him an allowance. When Gregory Willick is murdered all the evidence points to Larkin, but he is no more, apparently having thrown himself off the ship bringing him from Tangiers to England. A fellow passenger, an ex-spy colleague of the history teacher and amateur detective Carolus Deene, suspects murder, and recruits Deene to investigate.

I liked this for the dry humour and the characters: the ship's passengers and crew; Carolus Deene and his off-sider, the precocious sixteen-year-old Rupert Priggley; Mr Gorringer, the pompous school headmaster. The denouement is quite complex, with people trotting back and forth from Tangiers, and there are few unnecessary plot strands and characters e.g. a contract killer and a cynical, incompetent detective who doesn't investigate murders because they are hard to solve, unlike the prosecution of homosexuals. The author, real name Rupert Croft-Cooke, had recently been caught up in a campaign against homosexuals and imprisoned for six months in Wormwood Scrubs, so he had no time for policemen. This also explains the Tangiers setting: the author moved there to avoid police persecution.

93. The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton

I read this collection of short stories so as to compare the original Father Brown with Leo Bruce's version in Case for Three Detectives, which is exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but quite accurate. Father Brown really does make mystical and incomprehensible statements as he solves cases by relying on evidence no one else is aware of. I found these stories entertaining but silly, and was most interested in Father Brown's classification of Catholics e.g. pragmatic, logical French Catholics who are low in spirituality, and automatic Irish Catholics who remember their faith only when they're in trouble. Neither the French nor the Irish are mystical enough for Father Brown!