Monday, December 31, 2018

Gabriella Goliger's Girl Unwrapped (#CanBookChallenge)

We see Toni Goldblatt, the hero of Gabriella Goliger's Girl Unwrapped, at eight, at thirteen, at eighteen, at twenty, and finally at twenty-one, living in her own apartment in Montreal, and having acknowledged, both internally and externally to her mother, that she's a lesbian. It took some doing to get there.

That outline clearly marks it as a Bildungsroman and it's a well-done example of the form.

Toni is the only child of Jewish parents in Montreal; her Austrian parents survived the Holocaust; her father, barely, in a camp and her mother hiding in a remote Italian village. Neither much wants to talk about what happened, but they will (especially her mother) use their tragedy to emotionally blackmail their daughter. Toni is born in the late 1940s, and the events of her life are correlated to world events, though she's not an especially political person

At eight, she's a tomboy living in an apartment on the far side of Montreal's namesake mountain. She goes and plays with the rough boys in the woods. Then her parents buy a place in the suburbs.

At thirteen, she goes to a Jewish camp near Montreal and falls in love with the camp music instructor Janet. She steals and drinks a bottle of alcohol, makes a declaration of love for her camp counsellor, which we're not sure anybody understands, and gets kicked out.

At eighteen, she's studying in Jerusalem. Is she a Zionist? Well, Janet is there, but she's in an unhappy relationship with David, a druggy spiritualist. She loses her virginity to an Arab boy. She's called back to Montreal by the death of her father.

At twenty she discovers a lesbian bar. But neither the working class butch/femme couples nor the newly arrived feminist University girls are quite her. But this scene is closer to who she is than anything yet. And it's there she meets Robin, the first real love of her life.

Well, first loves often don't work out. But she's now on the road to who she is.

Goliger is a sharp observer and Toni's life is convincingly portrayed. This is her debut novel after a book of short stories; her new novel (from 2018) is Eva Solomon's War and is historical fiction set in the late 30s. I haven't read either of her other books, but might!

Girl Unwrapped came out in 2010 with Arsenal Pulp Press. It's good.

-- o --

Ahem, completely off-topic. I find I was completely unable to write the words 'lesbian bar' without going off to listen to the Jonathan Richman song. Just in case you have the same sensation:



Read for the Canadian Books Challenge.




Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 European Reading Challenge Wrapup

Well, it's time to accept I won't be reading any more books this year for Gilion's European Reading Challenge at her blog Rose City Reader. I completed this one at five books a while back, but I was having so much fun I just kept going, ending up with a total of 16 books. And I kept thinking I'd read just one more. There's Iceland (Laxness), Denmark (Nors), and Serbia or Montenegro (Pekič) piled up by my reading chair. And I can't believe I missed Ireland. But I guess those all remain for next year.

Here's my final list:

1.) The Odyssey. (tr. by Emily Wilson) Greece
2.) Arthur Schnitzler's Casanova's Return To Venice. Austria
3.) Jorge Carrión's Bookshops: A Reader's History. Spain
4.) Italo Calvino's The Baron In The Trees. Italy
5.) Amélie Nothomb's Pétronille. Belgium
6.) George Eliot's Silas Marner. UK
7.) Duc de la Rochefoucauld's Maxims. France
8.) Olga Tokarczuk's Flights. Poland
9.) Yevgeny Zamyatin's We. Russia
10.) Herta Müller's The Land Of Green Plums. Romania
11.) Ismail Kadare's Broken April. Albania
12.) Dubravka Ugresic' Fox. Croatia
13.) Romain Rolland's Jean-Christophe. Switzerland
14.) Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Monaco
15.) Jenny Erpenbeck's Go, Went, Gone. Germany
16.) Antonio Tabucchi's Time Ages In A Hurry. Hungary

For me, the best book on that list was probably the least exotic: George Eliot's Silas Marner. Maxims and The Baron In The Trees were rereads (so I must like them.) But there wasn't a bad book on it, and Ugresic' latest novel Fox was a real revelation, as was Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey. Hint: it's not too late to sign up for the new year.

Thanks to Gilion for hosting!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad

"Now, the true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk. It is no matter whether one talks wisdom or nonsense, the case is the same..."
And I'll bet that's doubly true--whether wisdom or nonsense--if you're walking around with Mark Twain.

A Tramp Abroad (1880) is Twain's travelogue of a walking trip along the German side of the Rhine, through the Swiss Alps, and down to northern Italy, Turin and Milan. He walks with his 'agent,' Mr. Harris, loosely based on the Congregationalist minister Joseph Twichell.

Except it's a ongoing joke in the book how little walking they do. They're going to walk up the Neckar valley to see a castle, but then take the train; they're going to walk up to their hotel in Switzerland, a pleasant three hour stroll, except it takes them two days and still they cadge a ride for part of it; finally they get to the top of Mont Blanc--by telescope.

There is a lot of wonderfully jokey travelogue, but that's not Twain's only mode. Twain shows a sociologist's interest in the custom of student duelling at Heidelberg, goes to watch matches and interviews participants; he's also seriously interested in Alpine ascents, even if he only makes his own by telescope. He quotes from various accounts, including Whymple's first summiting of the Matterhorn only fifteen years earlier.

There are also embedded tales, both contemporary and retellings of fairytales, such as you might expect from the author of 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.'

Appendix
Nothing gives such weight and dignity to a blog post as an Appendix. 
 -Herodotus

1

The most famous part of the book is Appendix D, "The Awful German Language," which is just hilarious. It's the only part of the book I'd read before. I first read it in high school, when I hadn't had any German, but was taking Latin, so jokes about the Dative case worked for me. My German teacher had us read it when I took German and Twain's sixth rule for reform--that we drop 'those useless "haben sind gewesen gehabt haben geworden seins"' from the ends of sentences--now suddenly made sense. And now I've seen him as he actually tried to use that German in the field. The more German you know the funnier this essay gets.

2

The Art of Mark Twain

Or really, the drawing of Mark Twain, because The Art of Mark Twain was probably already written by some professor at Columbia in 1935 ("We see from Twain's treatment of the oppressed chambermaid on p. 109-110 of volume 13 of the so-called National edition, his incipient critique of the late-stage capitalist economy...") and is hardly going to appear in my blog post. But consider:



Did James Thurber study this book or what?

Yet another entry for the:




Thursday, December 27, 2018

Roof Beam Reader 2019 TBR Challenge Signup


Adam at Roof Beam Reader hosts a TBR challenge. I'm signing up this year for the first time. It's a dozen books (plus two alternates) and requires you to specify in advance the books you're going to read. Tricky! At least for me. My reading habits usually amount to "Ooh...shiny!" and off I go in some new direction. Head off to his announcement post for full details.

There are lots of books around here to choose from; it's the choosing that's hard. To help out I decided on some categories before I even started. Here's the list:

Contemporary fiction. I see a review of something and think that sounds fun! Now is the time to find out if I was right:

1.) Eleanor Catton/The Luminaries
2.) Marisha Pessl/Special Topics in Calamity Physics
3.) Xialou Guo/A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Poetry. Poetry volumes are often slim and those get read right away. But if they aren't and they don't...

4.) John Hollander/Spectral Emanations: New and Selected Poems
5.) Brad Leithauser/Darlington's Fall
6.) Anne Sexton/The Complete Poems

New York Review Book reissues. I've had such ridiculous good luck with their reissues, I can't resist something new and unknown when it shows up at my remaindered book store. But sometimes they slip into the pile. Time to catch up on those!

7.) Eileen Chang/Love In A Fallen City
8.) Dorothy Baker/Young Man With A Horn
9.) Christopher Priest/Inverted World

Detective Stories. How is it I even have crime novels aged for over a year on my TBR pile? I'm not sure, but not for much longer...

10.) Michael Bond/Monsieur Pamplemousse Omnibus, Vol. 1
11.) Sparkle Hayter/The Last Manly Man
12.) Ngaio Marsh/Overture to Death

And for my two alternates. Two readable choices from my Classics Club list.

1.) George Bernard Shaw/Pygmalion
2.) Jules Verne/Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea

Thanks to Adam for hosting!




Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Graham Greene's Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party


Well, nobody would call this Graham Greene's greatest novel, I imagine, or even particularly recommend it as a place to start. But I'm running out of Greene novels I haven't read and this one finally floated to the top of the stack.

But Greene can certainly be great and I liked this one. Doctor Fischer is a toothpaste gazillionaire and a powerful man in Geneva. He's widowed and has a daughter that he's mostly estranged from. He also has a circle of Toads, that is toadies who put up with his cruel practical jokes in exchange for his (valuable) gifts. It sounds a bit like it might be The Magic Christian, but it's much darker (and less funny) than that.

The narrator is Alfred Jones, also a widower, who lost his hand in the London Blitz, and now ekes out a small living from his disability pension and work as a commercial translator. Jones and the daughter Anne-Luise fall in love and marry.

The novel is told in retrospect by Jones and we know that something bad has happened; he refers to both Fischer and Anne-Luise in the past tense. It's not particularly a mystery, but I also don't feel I should spoil it; there's a carefully constructed atmosphere of dread and discovering the nature of the dread provides the drive of the story. Doctor Fischer is a monster, but why and how, and is he justified? Well, those are the questions of the novel.

I think of Greene as a writer concerned with faith and religion and that colored my impression of Doctor Fischer: an all-powerful man with a circle of figures dependent on his every whim. Is that a possible interpretation of the novel? Hmm. Maybe.

Now having read a bunch of Greene novels, I think I'd like to read his biography. Does anybody have a sense of good one? Any particular favorite books by or about Greene?

That completes my list for the My Reader's Block Mount TBR challenge. Probably get one more book in this year, and then I'll need to write a wrapup post.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Star



The Star 

O'er a war torn world the Star of Peace is slowly rising. 
It is the same Star that for nearly two thousand years has been a beacon of Hope -- a sign of Peace and Love. 
The Star has never failed us and today its spirit travels around the earth -- carrying, despite the destruction of war, its old-age message of Hope. 
May the coming year bring to all of us the Joy of Peace throughout the world.
 This is the holiday card my grandfather, who was a commercial artist, sent out in 1944.

The Joy of Peace (and Books! peaking out from behind the card) to you and yours this holiday season and in the coming year!

Reese

Monday, December 24, 2018

'Tis the season #2


I believe these are called Drömmar, and are a Swedish Christmas cookie. Anyway, they've been a Christmas cookie in my family since I was six and our next door neighbors were Swedish immigrants. My mom was a fan of coconut and adopted them immediately.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Back To The Classics 2018 Wrapup

Well, I'm 2/3rd of the way through Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad and I'm likely to finish it before the new year, but that isn't really going to change the overall picture. I will have read nine (and maybe ten) of the dozen classics for my first try at the Back To The Classics challenge. Since six was the minimum, I guess that's OK...

Here's the list of categories and the books matched against them:

19th Century Classic

Silas Marner by George Eliot

20th Century Classic

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

A Classic by A Woman Author

Adam Bede by George Eliot

A Classic in Translation

Jean-Christophe by Romain Rolland

A Crime Classic

Trent's Last Case by E. C. Bentley

A Classic With a Single Word Title

Romola by George Eliot

A Classic by an Author New To Me

The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

A Classic that Scares Me

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Reread a Favorite Classic

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

and (maybe) A Travel Classic

A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain

The categories I definitely missed were a children's classic, and a classic with a color in the title.

The new to me favorites were The Leopard and Silas Marner, both completely amazing.

Thanks to Karen at Books and Chocolate for hosting!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Randy Boyagoda's Original Prin

The Toronto Public Library offers the Appel Salon program where authors come to the main library to talk about their most recent book; Randy Boyagoda came this fall to talk about his Original Prin. I thought the book sounded interesting and I must not have been the only one because, though I put it on the hold list the next day, the library only now delivered to me.

Original Prin is the comic story of Princely St. John Umbiligoda, (yes, really) a Sri Lankan immigrant and now a professor at a small--and getting smaller--Toronto-area Catholic university. He's married to Molly and has four daughters; at the start of the novel he has just had surgery for prostate cancer. He's in his 40s.

Also that getting smaller university is about to disappear entirely. The university president has hired a consulting firm to try to save something of the university, and the primary consultant is Prin's ex-girlfriend from graduate school, Wende. Does Prin still have feelings for Wende? How does that comport with his Catholic beliefs? Could he even doing anything about it anyway, after his surgery? Well, of such stuff are novels made on.

At the Appel Salon talk, Boyagoda said he'd come to his editor (John Metcalf at Biblioasis) with a 600-page page manuscript. Metcalf told him inside that there was a 200-page novel seeking to get out. (Inside every fat man...) Metcalf put him on a diet of short comic novels and told him to cut and Boyagoda did: this was 223 pages in my edition. At the talk Boyagoda particularly mentioned Evelyn Waugh, which alarmed me: I'm not very fond of the what they tell me are the funny novels of Waugh, like Scoop or Vile Bodies. But something else that was said suggested to me Morte d'Urban, which I very much do like. The story is the idea of a good person trying to do good in a fallen (and bureaucratic) world.

Well, it was neither Waugh nor Powers. Not nearly so unedifying as Waugh, and, for my money, funnier than Waugh, but not as funny and warming as Powers. The humour is more of the nature of Prin's silly name than the situational humour of Fr. Urban in Morte d'Urban. There's a lot of guilt-ridden agonizing on the part of Prin, which is funny, but I do feel like I've read that before, though not in a Sri Lankan immigrant. The best moment I thought came early when Prin is in confessional with Fr. Tom.

Anyway, good, if not everything I had hoped. It's apparently the first of a planned trilogy. I don't know if that explains it, but the ending was both over the top and a bit unsatisfying, and not in the, I, the author, don't mean to satisfy you way.

Another entry for the Canadian Book Challenge:


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Back to the Classics Signup 2019


Back to the Classics is a challenge hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate to get us to finally read those classics. I'm signing up again, since this was one of the funnest challenges for me of the previous year. Full details of the challenge are here, but this is the list of categories for the new year and the books I've tentatively matched against them. It's an interesting new set of categories.

It's possible--even likely--I pull a switcheroo or two, but for now...

19th Century Classic

Henry James/The American

20th Century Classic

Hermann Broch/The Death of Virgil
-I had this on my list for this same category last year, but it got switched out

Classic by a female author

George Eliot/Scenes of Clerical Life

Classic in translation

Goethe/Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. My translation is by Thomas Carlyle. Doubly classic!

Classic comedy

Henry Fielding/Tom Jones
-This was on my list for a reread last year, but that category got pre-empted by The Mystery of Edwin Drood. So it's back!

Classic tragedy

Edith Wharton/House of Mirth

Very Long Classic

Giovanni Boccaccio/The Decameron

Classic Novella

An early James Baldwin like Giovanni's Room is short enough, or maybe Djuna Barnes' Nightwood. But I do think 250 pages is a novella only if you're a Russian. For the rest of us, that's a full length novel...

Classic from the Americas (including Caribbean)

Malcolm Lowry/Under The Volcano
-Written in the US, Canada, and Mexico, I believe. With some final editing in the Caribbean according to Wikipedia.

Classic from Asia, Africa, or Oceania

I'm thinking Naguib Mahfouz here, though I've also got a couple of early Ngugi wa Thiong'o novels from when he was still James Ngugi.

Classic from a Place You've Lived

Chicago or Toronto? Probably Chicago. The better Toronto novels are mostly too new. I've been wanting to reread James Farrell's Studs Lonigan (which could also count as tragedy...) or maybe I'll be bold and read his even longer Danny O'Neill series, which I own and haven't read.

Classic Play

George Bernard Shaw/Pygmalion

Thanks to Karen for hosting!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

European Reading Challenge 2019 Signup


Gilion at Rose City Reader is again hosting her European Reading Challenge. Since this is the challenge I most went over the top for in 2018, of course I'm going to be doing it again in 2019.

The idea is take a trip around Europe visiting different countries, a book a country. For full details see her challenge post. I'm signing up for the Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) level, which means five books, the same as last year, though, as I said, I got a bit carried away the last time...

I may get to one more book yet for this year's challenge, but if not, I've got Iceland, Montenegro, Sweden, and Denmark all piled up by my reading chair already.

Thanks to Gilion once again for hosting!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Antonio Tabucchi's Time Ages In A Hurry

Antonio Tabucchi was an Italian professor of Portuguese who taught at the University of Siena. Probably his most famous novel is Pereira Declares (also translated as Pereira Maintains) which is set in Portugal in the early years of the Fascist dictator Salazar. In it the detached and literary Pereira gradually begins to resist the Fascist regime. It is a great novel.

Tabucchi died in 2012 and until then I used to see his name on shortlists for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Time Ages In A Hurry is a book of nine short stories that came out in Italian in 2009 and was translated into English, by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani, in 2015. The stories relate, as you might guess from that brief synopsis of Pereira Declares, at the intersection of the personal and the political.

For example, "Clouds," my favorite of the stories, is a dialog between tired Italian ex-soldier in his 40s and a precocious young girl. We gradually learn that she's an orphan, from Peru and adopted by an Italian family, and he served as a peacekeeper on that very beach where there is now the resort where they're staying. Presumably this is Croatia, though it's never specified.
-Don't you like going in the water? she asked. I think it's special.
-Special? the man repeated.
-My teacher told us we can't use awesome for everything, that sometimes we might say special, I was about to say awesome, for me going in the water at this beach is special.
In another, an elderly Jewish father in a Tel Aviv nursing home is visited by his son; the son is on a research sabbatical in Rome; the father is only intermittently aware he's no longer in Bucharest.

A public defender of political cases in Communist Poland is pained at the ironic joke of his career, but still manages to do good.

A Stasi agent looks up his own file and discovers his wife had been sleeping with his boss.

László, a Hungarian officer from a military family, manages to hold off the Russians for three days in 1956, even though everyone knows it pointless. That military action is the defining moment of his life.

Very good.

European Reading Challenge. Hungary is the one of those I still need.




Friday, December 7, 2018

Quentin Reynolds' The Curtain Rises


The Curtain Rises is a collection of the war dispatches Quentin Reynolds filed for Collier's Weekly in 1943. He goes to Moscow via North Africa and Iran and is in Moscow from April through June of that year. Then he heads back to North Africa again transiting through Iran; by the end of July he's in Palermo, on Sicily, now controlled by the allied armies. He's on General Mark Clark's command ship for the invasion of the Italian mainland in September; it's here he gets closest to the fighting of any of his stops along the way. With the allied armies on the Italian mainland, Collier's calls him back to the U.S. and by the end of the year he's home in New York.

It's an interesting book. Reynolds is not an analyst and doesn't pretend to be one; he's more a high-class merchant of gossip. His best stories, I thought, are the ones taking place just behind the lines: he meets (and drinks with) Ernie Pyle, John Steinbeck, FDR, Jr., Bob Hope along the way. He drinks lemonade with Monty--Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery--who was a teetotaller. Who knew? One of the best pieces describes Easter of 1943 in Moscow; the Soviet Union has captured the German 6th Army at Stalingrad not that long before.

I pulled this off the shelf for the 1944 Club, and started it at the end of that week, but didn't finish it in time. But it's a fascinating look at the period and it's interesting to see what they didn't see. It also makes a great pairing with John Hersey's A Bell For Adano, because one of the better pieces is about the allied military government in Sicily.

But he doesn't see, and part of the reason I slowed down in reading it once I'd missed finishing it for the 1944 club was precisely his political blindness. Reynolds seems to have been left-wing, but not Communist; Wikipedia tells me he got into a legal squabble after the war with the conservative columnist Westbrook Pegler, a fight which Reynolds seems to have won. Maybe he felt he needed to say nice things about Stalin so long as Stalin was our ally. But one of the pieces is about the recently (in 1943) discovered Katyn Forest massacre, and Reynolds is so miserably wrong-headed about it, I couldn't bear the book for a while. In 1943, he couldn't know that the Polish officers had been murdered by the Soviets; he couldn't know about the secret codicil to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact; he couldn't know about the funk that Stalin fell into after the surprise of Operation Barbarossa. But he could have known there were things he didn't know, and he didn't.

Anyway, interesting enough for its view of the time, and for its gossipy look at war as a boy's own adventure.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Jenny Erpenbeck's Go, Went, Gone

"Where can a person go when he doesn't know where to go?"
The protagonist of Jenny Erpenbeck's novel Go, Went, Gone is Richard, a retired professor of classics who spent most of his professional career at a university in East Berlin. He's a lonely man. Widowed and childless, he has friends, but at first even they seem to be drifting away. He had a mistress, which made the marriage not an entire success, but now she's gone, too. At the beginning of the novel he's just wrapped up all the rituals of retirement.

He passes, without at first noticing, a protest in a Berlin plaza; a group of African refugees are living in the plaza, Occupy Wall Street-style, trying to draw attention to their plight, and maybe acquire residency and work permits. Richard sees the events on television he'd scarcely noticed in person, but decides to draw up a plan for a sociological inquiry, and uses his emeritus status to get the authority to pursue it. Does he mean to do actual research? Not really. It's just to satisfy his curiosity and give him something to do.

And not a lot happens. He interviews refugees. He becomes more involved, maybe does some good, assuages his own loneliness a bit. The novel ends with the refugees no better off than they were 250 pages earlier, but at least not sent back to Italy, where there is poco lavoro, nor to their various home countries in Africa, where they would be at risk of their lives. They've fought the German bureaucracy and didn't win, but at least weren't utterly routed.

Why do we read novels? There's no one answer to that question, of course. There are different answers for different people and even different moods. I read Mrs. Pollifax on Safari a couple of days ago, and today this--very different, and enjoyed both. Sometimes I read for story, or for escape. But then one of the reasons I read novels is to experience and understand the problems of societies, both of others and of mine own. This novel is as close to purely political, even didactic as almost anything I've read, and yet it's still powerful and affecting; part of that comes from the deep, lonely sadness of Richard as he claws his way back into something like life.

Go, Went, Gone came out in German in 2015 and the translation by Susan Bernofsky came out in English last year. Germany is one of the better European countries on accepting immigrants, or at least Angela Merkel made it so, pledging to take in a million asylum-seekers, quite possibly it seems at the cost of her political career and the rise of the party Alternativ für Deutschland. And yet, at least according to Erpenbeck, maybe not all that welcoming. I don't quite know the timeline of all this because I believe it was also 2015 when Merkel made her pledge, so it's likely Erpenbeck was looking at Germany before Merkel's action. In any case the novel shows plenty of institutional resistance to admitting refugees.

Canada patted itself on the back for taking in just 25,000 Syrian refugees (and I entirely approved of that). As for the U.S., well...

A fascinating book.

She's German and it's very caught up with contemporary Germany, so it definitely fits...


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Nicholas Blake's The Corpse In The Snowman

A cheesy cover for a cheesy mystery.

The Corpse in the Snowman (1941) takes place at a country house during the winter of the phoney war. There are a few references to blackouts and gas rationing, but the war hasn't really impacted anything, including the plot of the mystery, which feels like the thirties or even the twenties.

Now Nicholas Blake is the pen name for Cecil Day-Lewis, who went on to become the Poet Laureate of the UK, so it is to be presumed he can write. He was a friend of Auden at Oxford, and maybe had some connection with sophisticated bohemian circles. But he knows nothing about drugs, and that's a problem.

Because his plot is structured around assumptions he must have garnered from repeated viewings of Reefer Madness and titillating articles in the yellow press. The first victim, Elizabeth, has had her life ruined after she was offered a marihuana (sic) cigarette in high school and was thereby turned into a sex maniac. And now it's about to happen to the next generation of children, her niece and nephew. Oh, noetry!

She (and the suspects) are gathered at her older brother's country estate. Did he murder her because of the scandal? Or his wife, because her inheritance would revert to her older brother? Did her younger brother do the deed because he was obsessed with her fall? Or is her demonic drug dealer to be found among the houseguests? Oh, dear. I have the feeling I gave something away.

It's not quite as obvious as that, but still Day-Lewis is not as clever as he thinks he's being, and regular mystery readers will foresee the last reversals without too much trouble.

And Nigel Strangeways, the genius detective, is just not that interesting here. I first became interested in the series because Strangeways was supposed to be based on W. H. Auden. This is the fourth I've read (out of fourteen). The connection between Auden and Strangeways grew less after the first novel and it's hard to see at all in this one, the seventh. Instead Strangeways is just another eccentric, but without any particularly interesting eccentricities and little skill at dialog.

Other mysteries in the series have been better, I thought. This one was a weak entry.

But it is definitely a December sort of read. And it's the last category I need for the My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Gold challenge:

Gold. When. During a weather event. There's a convenient snowstorm which both isolates the country house so that we know no outsider could have committed the murder, and provides an oversized snowman as a convenient place to hide a dead body...




Read it again, Sam 2019 Challenge Signup

And one more challenge signup from the smorgasbord of reader's challenges hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block: it's the Read It Again, Sam challenge.

Part of the reason I keep all these books around here is because I say I'm going to read them again. And sometimes I even do! But just to make sure...

Bev offers several levels for this one. I'm taking 16+, Living In The Past, the highest level. That's what I did this year, and while I've got one more book to go, I'm quite sure I'll finish the challenge this year.

Mount TBR 2019 challenge signup


The Mount TBR Reading Challenge is hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block and it challenges the reader to knock off those unread books that are piling up at home. The full rules are found here.

It's a challenge I need. Somehow new books continue to arrive. (How do these things happen?) I signed up for the Mt. Ararat (48 book) level this year and since I'm going to make that, it's time (in the words of Emeril Lagasse) to kick it up a notch. This year I'm going for Mt. Kilimanjaro, the 60-book level.

I have occasional thoughts about what books I might read in advance, but I never really know. The list will be determined in real time...

Thanks, Bev, for hosting!

Just the Facts, Ma'am 2019 Signup


Since I've just read the last book for my 2018 Just The Facts, Ma'am Challenge I figure nows the time to sign up for the new year. This is a challenge to read vintage mysteries of either the golden age or the silver age (or both!) hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block. Full details are given here.

I'm going to sign up at the constable level for both the gold and silver eras, though given my usual reading habits I suspect I'll do better than that.

Thanks, Bev, for hosting!