Tarquin Hall – “The Case of the Missing Servant”

(Bookcrossing, 22 October 2011)

In tone a little like the “Marriage Bureau for Rich People” books, in this first book in a series we have a nicely told tale of Vish Puri, Punjabi Detective, and his resourceful family and employees. A nice, rich back story with lots of enticing previous cases is provided, and we know to watch out for Vish’s Mummy, who is just as clever as her son. The murders are not too gory, and I will look out for others in this series. Here’s my friend Ali’s review of this book.

Geraldine Brooks – “Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women”

(Bookcrossing, 09 October 2011)

A very worthwhile book that takes a deep and personal look at the hidden and often surprising world of Islamic women from different countries and regimes. The parts examining the basis of some of the rules and regulations in everyday life when the Koran and Hadiths were put together are very interesting. But however valuable it is as a historical document, it has become just that, in my opinion, as it was published in 1995 and worked very much in terms of a coverage of current issues, so it is rather outdated now. A shame, as a lot of effort clearly went into it. One can’t help but wonder what became of the women featured in this book.

Shappi Khorsandi – “A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English”

(charity shop, 26 November 2011)

The comedian’s early years, from the time she moved with her family from Iran to England, with refugee status and a father who was wanted by the Ayatollah’s regime and was at serious risk, yet kept publishing satirical articles and sheltering his fellow-countrypeople. The politics are all seen from a very well portrayed child’s perspective, and the fact that for every struggle to explain fishfingers to her mum there’s a racist incident at school or a menacing phone call give this book an edge and emotional depth that I wasn’t entirely expecting. A good read.

Elizabeth Taylor – “A Wreath of Roses”

(Amazon, 14 March 2012)

Known as the darkest of her novels, I didn’t find it so much dark – although there is a very disturbing scene right at the start – as imbued with melancholy and disappointment. Liz and Camilla’s friendship is drifting apart, and their summer trip to Liz’s former governess, Frances, is not like other years, helped by Liz’s baby and husband, the former of which Camilla fears and the latter of which she dislikes. Frances is best by arthritis and her fear of disappointing Morland Beddoes, the most robust character in the novel although he claims to be without character (shades of Iris Murdoch and her good characters being almost faded ciphers), a long-term buyer of her paintings. Then we have Richard, a man who gives the impression of not being quite as he seems, but has clearly made a mistake somewhere along the line.

There is a feeling of conflict when Camilla gets into a dangerous situation which she pretty well deserves, and the usual feeling of being in the company of a superlative observer of the finer points of friendships and relationships. The robust concerns of the domestic help, with their spit and promiscuous daughters, throws into contrast the subtleties of the inter-relationships between the main characters. Are Camilla and Liz two sides of Taylor herself?

There is also an excellent cat, who is left to be OK (actually doesn’t appear in the narrative after the middle).