A bit of a large round-up today, as I read quite a lot during our recent holiday but I’m conscious that I’m also doing quite a lot of reading now we’re back, and I want to keep up. So, a few book reviews plus a small acquisition, plus a large and very wicked acquisition …
Ian Sansom – “The Bad Book Affair”
(Acquired via BookCrossing 01 February 2015)
Fourth in the Mobile Library series, this opens with Israel, the central character, in a serious decline over the loss of his love and the prospect of turning 30 in a small town in the north of Northern Ireland rather than in London or Paris. He’s dragged out of his pit by his mobile library colleague, Ted, then gets mixed up in a scandal when the daughter of a local politician goes missing and it’s discovered that Israel lent her books from the under-the-counter Bad Books stock. Israel and Ted go on the hunt for clues, and amusement as well as commentary on small town politics ensue. Passes the time with some chuckles out loud.
This book would suit … someone who has read the other books in the series and likes books about small town life that are a bit silly.
Jonathan Franzen – “Freedom” (DNF)
(Acquired via BookCrossing 22 August 2015)
A nasty story about family, love, lust and bad behaviour which stayed on a sort of even level of nastiness, not getting really horrible, so more interesting, or nicer. Franzen has been described as misogynistic, but this was a more general nastiness. I don’t mind unpleasant characters in a book, but I do mind uninteresting ones and although this had moments of enjoyment, they were not enough to hold me (I read up to half way through and I think Matthew, who is listening to it on audio book, might persevere). A real shame, as I loved “The Corrections”.
This book would suit … someone who has a higher tolerance for nastiness in books than me; possibly someone who enjoys the other Great (male) American Novelists.
Liz Fenwick – “A Cornish Affair”
(bought 22 August 2015)
Bought specifically because of the Cornish connection, and actually set right down where we were, a well-done novel about an American woman, Jude, who suddenly rebels, runs away from her own wedding in Cape Cod and escapes to Cornwall to work for an author, cataloguing his research. Cornwall and the old house work their magic, but there are family mysteries for both Jude and her employer that she feels compelled to examine.
Nicely done, although the “mystery”, involving hidden jewels, is a little obvious, maybe. A good holiday read, especially if you’re in Cornwall.
This book would suit … someone looking for a light holiday read, possibly someone who likes the Kate Morton books.
Anthony Trollope – “Dr. Thorne”
A long book which I began to read in too disjointed a fashion but had good long sessions with on holiday and finished on the train home.
There’s a Jane Austenish feel to this story of the town doctor and his niece and their relationship with the family at the Big House of the town, and also a Hardyish introduction of a social theme of new money vs. the impoverished gentry, and the age-old theme of having to marry for money and position, not love.
Mary, the heroine, is nicely drawn, her love, Frank, maybe a little less rounded. Side characters such as the heiress who Frank is supposed to woo are lively and appealing and the metafictional asides on the art of writing and novel construction are amusing and add to the reader’s intimacy with the author.
This book is number 16 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.
This book would suit … anyone who likes a big and satisfying novel with lots of characters and relationships.
Arnaldur Indriðason – “Silence of the Grave”
(bought 22 August 2015)
I bought this book precisely because it’s about Iceland, and by an Icelandic author, and these aspects did not disappoint. I had to steel myself slightly to read this modern crime novel, not a genre I particularly go for, but the fact that it was set in and around Reykjavik and the fact that it’s hard to find Icelandic books that aren’t Scandi-noir, meant that I did so successfully. I have also worked out that I can tolerate much more blood and ick in an Icelandic book than in other ones – I can only assume that this relates to my love of the sagas, then Halldor Laxness’ novels, which share with this book a gritty life and unpleasant happenings related quite flatly, with a very, very dry humour laced through.
This all leads up to the fact that I really enjoyed this book (read on the train home and finished at home before bedtime); the murder and themes of domestic violence and the drug addict underclass of Iceland were well done and not gratuitous and the characters were varied and interesting, especially the detectives involved in the case, who appear in the Reykjavik Murder Mystery series. There are good and well-drawn female characters, who have their own agency and abilities, and there are some interesting themes around World War Two in Iceland, which I don’t know much about (looking at his other novels, this seems to be a theme that he returns to).
I knew quite a few of the places that were mentioned, and could visualise the landscape and townscape in detail, which did add extra interest to my reading experience, and I noted in my written review that “I will def get his others” – see below for how that worked out …
This book would suit … lovers of Scandi-noir, people interested in Iceland.
So, not bad holiday reading all in all, I think you’ll agree (what kind of book do you take on holiday? I really like a classic as well as some shorter and lighter books).
I was lucky enough to meet up with Jane from the Beyond Eden Rock book review blog while I was away – we had a lovely cup of tea in a delightful cafe, and, as I originally know her from the LibraryThing Virago Books group, swapped Viragoish books. I ended up with a lovely Julia Strachey volume including “Cheerful Weather for the Wedding” and “An Integrated Man” and a charming copy of Ann Bridge’s “The Lighthearted Quest”. Thank you, Jane!
And then THIS ensued today – I knew that The Works had a whole load of other Indriðasons in their 3 for £5 offer, but I’d been sensible and picked up just the one to try out. Now I know I like them, I snapped up these, but of COURSE they’re not all of the books in the series; I saw “Jar City”, the first in the series but managed not to buy it (guess where I’m going tomorrow), and there are several more that come after these (and some prequels), so I hope they all live up to the first one I’ve read. Thank you to those of my readers who reassured me about “Silence of the Grave” so I tried it!
I’ll be catching up with everyone else’s blog posts over the next few days (we’ll have to self-cater next holiday so there’s more time for hanging out and doing stuff and less rushing around looking for dinner!) and hope I’ve not exhausted you with this larger-than-usual post! Thank you for reading this far!