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Saturday, July 01, 2006

June - with final entry

Malmont, Jake. The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. I've already written about this here and here. Unfortunately, the novel seemed to lose focus in the last third, but it was still a fun read, and I look forward to more from Malmont.

Jakeman, Jane. The Egyptian Coffin. Another regency mystery, but not especially involving. I'm not having much luck lately.

Tishy, Cecelia. All in One Piece. Reggie Cutter is a recently divorced wife who has psychic abilities and who sometimes assists the police in solving crimes. The murder on which this story is based, however, is that of her tenant. Blah, blah, blah.

Grimes, Martha. The Old Wine Shades. A Richard Jury mystery, but for the first time, a huge disappointment. I was so pleased to find the novel on the New Book Shelves at the library, and eagerly rushed into reading it, but for several reasons, found it a let down. Don't want to discuss too much (or my reasons for feeling it doesn't live up to previous Jury mysteries) in case someone else would like the tedious experience for themselves.

Rusch, Sheldon. For Edgar. Some authors believe that they have to create crimes that are farther and farther out there in horror and violence. Rusch certainly does. His murderer takes his cues from Edgar Allan Poe and adds some even more unbelievable touches. I usually like mysteries based in some way on literary characters or on authors, but this one had little to offer other than pseudo-psychology and graphic/fantastic murders.

Umrigar, Thrity. The Space Between Us. A beautifully written, wonderful, and terrible book. Certainly one of the best I've read in a long time. A culture that is so different it is almost impossible to fully imagine-- combined with the universal situations that occur in every culture. The class, gender, and religious differences in India are remarkable; America has no real knowledge of the kind of poverty that exists there. The upper middle-class Sera and her servant Bhima illustrate many of these differences, yet both are women doing their best in difficult circumstances.

"So this is how a heart breaks, Bhima thought. This is how cold and how delicate, how exquisite it feels, like the high-pitched violin note on the classical music records that Serabai played. Bhima wanted to hug Maya and kill her, to rescue her and destroy her, all in the same explosive moment."

"[Sera] stares at Banu, takes in the shriveled, mousy woman lying in the bed that seems to have grown around her, and reaches deep within herself to pull up a strand of pity but comes up empty-handed. Or rather, she pulls up an endless cord of rope, like the rope used to lower the buckets into the wells at Parsi fire temples. Into the rope are woven bitterness and resentment."

Umrigar has also written the novel Bombay Time, and the the memoir First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood. I will be looking for both of these.


Kostova, Elizabeth. The Historian. I wrote some about this novel here. Overall, I enjoyed it very much. Although a number of people found it too slow, it kept me interested all the way through. Did feel that the conclusion was rushed and much less substantial than the bulk of the novel. This appears to be a problem with a number of authors, the rushing to a denouement that fails to fully satisfy. I can certainly understand, however, that after all those pages, the sprint for the finish would be hard to resist.

Lawrence, Starling. The Lightning Keeper. Although the writing is excellent, this lengthy narrative did not appeal to me. The characters never quite came through for me, the dialogue became more and more stilted, the initial reunion of Harriet and Toma, too contrived and not too realistic. Although the impersonal narrator (Greek chorus, Our Town kind of thing), has a beautiful rhythm to his language (the kind of speech pattern you find your own thoughts imitating) these sections provided more information than I needed about the history of electricity, the descriptions of machines and technology, the internal workings of General Electric, etc. A kind of darkness hangs over the novel, a sense of inevitable disaster which both does and does not materialize.

Marston, Gwen. Liberated Quiltmaking. I've really enjoyed perusing this book. The photos are excellent, the ideas endless, the techniques described in detail where necessary, the attitude carefree. This is one I think I'm going to have to purchase. The library is such a great resource, allowing the kind of time necessary to decide on whether you want to own the book or just glance through it. I've bought so many books that I've never looked at after the initial read; the library gives me enough time to determine whether I want it as a permanent resource or not.

Edwards, Martin. The Cipher Garden. The second in Edwards' Lake District mysteries, but I haven't read the first one. A cold case squad attempts to solve the murder of a master plantsman who was killed with his own scythe in a garden he was reworking. The characters of Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind are carried over from the first novel in the series with a palpable sexual tension, although each has a partner; this subplot is obviously meant to be developed over the course of the series. The title refers to Daniel Kind's garden which has its own small mystery, but never really plays into the real story and seems a wasted effort. Unless it will be taken up again in the next novel in the series...? Readable, but not especially appealing for me.

Carrington, Leonora. The Hearing Trumpet. (small aside, the beautiful hearing trumpet given to Marian echoes the trumpet that May Gaskell used after operation left her nearly deaf) OK. I feel pretty dumb. I recognized all kinds of little mythological, pagan, and Christian elements in this book that includes some witchcraft, Egyptian mythology, references to the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar, elements from Carrington's own life, frequent references to art and artists, elements of fairy tales... I got none of the satisfaction other readers seem to have derived from the book. I don't consider myself the most erudite or literate person around, but until this book, neither did I feel ill-equipped for most fiction. Now, I admit to feeling roundly defeated. I wrote about the novel and its author in a separate entry (June 4) in an attempt to get a better grasp, but failed miserably. The Hearing Trumpet is the story of 92 year-old Marian Leatherby (sent to the strangest nursing home imaginable) is described by others as being witty and charming and hilarious...as you can tell, I found it confusing and less than fascinating. Those of you who have read and appreciated this book, please comment. I'm willing to try again.

Dimbleby, Josceline. May and Amy: A True Story of Family, Forbidden Love, and the Secret Lives of May Gaskell, Her Daughter Amy, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. How about that for a title! This family history reveals itself largely through letters and photographs. After Andrew Lloyd Webber purchases a painting by Edward Burne-Jones of Dimbleby's great aunt Amy, the author begins delving into family history to discover more about her great grandmother May and May's daughter Amy, who died of "a broken heart." May's close relationship with Burne-Jones, who wrote and illustrated hundred of letters to May, is one intriguing aspect of the book, but the lives of this family in the midst of the late Victorian period--the travels, the joys and sorrows, the people with whom they socialized--provide an intimate look at the society of that era that is fascinating.

Although Victorians were often very reserved in their behavior, their letters were much more revealing, candid, and passionate than would be comfortable for most people today. The letters from Hal to his mother when he was first sent away to school are both funny and heartbreaking: "My dear mother, this is perficly ofal..I cried al the time from when you went away and al night..." Burne-Jones' letters to May were passionate, loving, self-deprecatingly humorous, and full of longing. If only May's letters to Burne-Jones had survived! And Amy's letters that May destroyed after Amy's death...what a story would be revealed! Nevertheless, what Dimbleby managed to discover, to root out through letters and libraries, results in a captivating saga.

Addition: The figure of 54,000 British men lost in the First Battle of Ypres (where Daphne's husband died) mentioned near the end of the book was so astounding, that I finally looked up further information. One source said 75, 000 lives lost. In. The. First. Battle. There were three battles of Ypres... Another source: "In the area around Ypres - including Hill 60, Passcendaele, Lys, Sanctuary Wood etc. - over 1,700,000 soldiers on both sides were killed or wounded and an uncounted number of civilians."

On the Battle of the Somme: " By the close of that fateful July day in 1916 nearly 60,000 British soldiers, each a son, a father, a loved one, lay dead and wounded, near a small unassuming river whose name would live in infamy - the River Somme. " One battle and one day.

Staggering doesn't begin to cover it. So many British men...and Britain such a small country.

4 comments:

  1. I have the Dimbleby book on my TBR pile. I am glad to hear it is good!

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  2. New Zealand lost so many soldiers in these battles too, and our population was only 1 million at that point in time. I've been researching it for a project we're putting together for the 90th commemoration of the Battle of Mesen and Passendaele ... it's stunning and so veryvery sad.

    You might really enjoy 'The Eight' by Katherine Neville, if you haven't already read it. :)

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  3. Danielle-- I've already replied by email, but I'm eager to know what you think about the Dimbleby book.

    Wandering Woman--The number of lives lost in a single day, in a single battle almost overwhelms me. With New Zealand's small population, the per centage of troops lost must have been staggering. Thanks for the suggestion about "The Eight" by Neville...have added to the list. You are a "no reply" blogger, so I hope you read this.

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  4. I hope you don't mind me linking to you in my blogroll; I'm loving your blog!

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