Monday, January 30, 2012

{review} mrs ames

E. F. Benson Mrs Ames (1912 [2010])


The smaller a piece of news was, the more vivid was her perception of it, and the firmer her grip of it: large questions produced but a vague impression on her. [on Mrs Altham]
Ah, the familiar vicissitudes of village life. But Mrs Ames is no charming Mapp and Lucia prequel. As the novel opens, Mrs Ames has seen off all rivals and is the undisputed queen-bee of Riseborough. There is some wonder among their set about how she has accomplished this:

In appearance she was like a small, good-looking toad in half-mourning; or, to stated the comparison with greater precision, she was small for a woman, but good-looking for a toad.

Mrs Ames is now 55 years old; her husband ten years younger. Her character is neatly summed up:
She felt that there was no call on her to gratify any curiosity that might happen to be rampant. She also felt that the chief joy in the possession of a sense of humour lies in the fact that others do not suspect it.
And this, one might suggest, will be Mrs Ames' downfall, for trouble looms on the horizon with the new doctor's wife Mrs Evans - "the fortunate possessor of that type of looks which wears well": "To fire the word 'flirt' at her, point-blank, would have been a brutality that would have astounded her." But, flirt she does, and a slowly drawn out version of chaos - and scandal - is the result as she attempts to capture a new male interest in her honeyed traps.

Unfortunately, her main target - the handsomest man in Riseborough - is Major Ames: "Merely an Odysseus who had never voyaged wondered what voyaging was like."

Major Ames was not really an untruthful man, but many men who are not really untruthful get through a wonderful lot of misrepresentation.

How will Mrs Ames extricate her husband from Mrs Evan's coils? And what role do the suffragettes have to play in the denouement? The suffragettes, incidentally, give Benson an excuse for a long rant on the topic, not all as positive in tone as this little bit:

Most of the members were women, whose lives had been passed in continuous self-repression, who had been frozen over by the narcotic ice of a completely conventional and humdrum existence.

E. F. Benson has the art of the vicious caricature down pat and I found the misogyny of Mrs Ames a bit hard to take in places (yes, yes, of the times, but I still don't have to like it). This is quite a mournful little tale all in all.

Rating: 7/10.

If you liked this: the Mapp and Lucia series - tonally more irresistible.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

{weekend words}


L to R: MacNeice, Hughes, Eliot, Auden, Spender; source

Re kittens, one must be called Old Foss after Mr Lear's famous cat. The other two might perhaps be called Barocco and Rokoko (Anthony [Blunt] read a paper on these last night). But cats have little interest in architecture, so perhaps Rodillardus and Chat Botté would be more appropriate -- though French is so difficult to pronounce. Other charming names that occur to me are Malinn, Fanfreluche, Cydalise, Poll Troy, Dobbin, Queen Anne, Pactolus, Parthenon, Laidronette, Midas, Oenone, Quangle Wangle (Mr Lear again), Amanda, Passionata and Perhaps. You may select from these -- but remember Old Foss.

Letter from a teenage Louis MacNeice
to his stepmother (?1926) quoted in
Nick Laird 'Chianti in Khartoum'
Review of Jonathan Allison (ed.)
Letters of Louis MacNeice (2010) in
3 March 2011, vol. 33, no. 5., p.31

On the gerundive origins of 'Amanda' ("she who must be loved"), 
see this nice piece at audio video disco.


Monday, January 23, 2012

{review} diary of a nobody

George & Weedon Grossmith The Diary of a Nobody (1892)

  

I have finally read this wonderful, funny book. Why did I ever put it off so long?

The Diary of a Nobody presents the reader with the putative diary of a lower middle-class London clerk, Charles Pooter. Hence, 'pooterish':
A person resembling or reminiscent of the character Charles Pooter, esp. in displaying parochial self-importance, over-fastidiousness, or lack of imagination. (Oxford English Dictionary)
Poor Charles Pooter: nothing ever goes right or comes off as planned. All of his attempts at bettering his position or helping family and friends or entering society or fixing things or almost anything he attempts are doomed to go bizarrely wrong. Pooter is so terribly serious ("I don't often make jokes" - this is quite untrue, since he invents many, many poor witticisms) about getting things right and doing things properly. Yet nothing goes to plan and he is constantly humiliated. At the theatre his bow tie drops off over the balcony - so many of his clothes malfunction:
I was a little vexed at everybody subsequently laughing at some joke which they did not explain, and it was only on going to bed I discovered I must have been walking about all the evening with an antimacassar on one button of my coat-tails.
His DIY is doomed: his love of red enamel paint results in a personal coating of the aforementioned. He can't even buy a Christmas card without disaster. Mr Pooter is the Mr Bean of the Victorian era: "I left the room with silent dignity, but caught my foot in the mat."

His attempts to negotiate with those whom he perceives as lower in status are doomed to disaster:
...Borset, the butterman, who was both drunk and offensive. Borset, on seeing me, said he would be hanged if he would ever serve City clerks any more—the game wasn't worth the candle. I restrained my feelings, and quietly remarked that I thought it was possible for a city clerk to be a gentleman. He replied he was very glad to hear it, and wanted to know whether I had ever come across one, for he hadn't. He left the house, slamming the door after him, which nearly broke the fanlight; and I heard him fall over the scraper, which made me feel glad I hadn't removed it. When he had gone, I thought of a splendid answer I ought to have given him.
At every step he is foiled by his dreadful, unreliable sponging friends, his wastrel son, the son's dubious fiancée and friends, and - mostly - his own incompetence.
I wrote a very satirical letter to Merton, the wine merchant, who gave us the pass, and said, "Considering we had to pay for our seats, we did our best to appreciate the performance." I thought this line rather cutting, and I asked Carrie how many p's there were in appreciate, and she said, "One." After I sent off the letter I looked at the dictionary and found there were two. Awfully vexed at this.
The Pooter son is a ne'er-do-well only child who brings mayhem into the family home and nearly destroys the firm for whom his father works - despite Pooter's fond hopes for his son to follow in his footsteps into respectable toil:
I lay awake for hours, thinking of the future. My boy in the same office as myself—we can go down together by the ’bus, come home together, and who knows but in the course of time he may take great interest in our little home. That he may help me to put a nail in here or a nail in there, or help his dear mother to hang a picture.
The 'diary' is also a wonderful evocation of Victorian daily life: the decor of the rented house at "The Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway", the endless reappearances of mutton and blancmange, the making-do with clothing and DIY home repairs, the parlour games (Pin the Tail on the Donkey), and what a loving Victorian wife must put up with ("Carrie back. Hoorah! She looks wonderfully well, except that the sun has caught her nose.")... 
The last few weeks of my diary are of minimum interest. The breaking off of the engagement between Lupin and Daisy Mutlar has made him a different being, and Carrie a rather depressing companion. She was a little dull last Saturday, and I thought to cheer her up by reading some extracts from my diary; but she walked out of the room in the middle of the reading, without a word. On her return, I said: “Did my diary bore you, darling?” She replied, to my surprise: “I really wasn’t listening, dear. I was obliged to leave to give instructions to the laundress..."
Rating: 10/10. Must read.

If you liked this... I want to read another 'G' of the era, namely George Gissing: either New Grub Street or - one that's got some blog love of late (here; here) - The Odd Women.

  

{review} warm bodies

Isaac Marion Warm Bodies (2010)


None of us are particularly attractive, but death has been kinder to me than some. I’m still in the early stages of decay. Just the grey skin, the unpleasant smell, the dark circles under my eyes. I could almost pass for a Living man in need of a vacation. Before I became a zombie I must have been a businessman, a banker or broker or some young temp learning the ropes, because I’m wearing fairly nice clothes. Black slacks, grey shirt, red tie. M makes fun of me sometimes. He points at my tie and tries to laugh, a choked, gurgling rumble deep in his gut. His clothes are holey jeans and a plain white T-shirt. The shirt is looking pretty macabre by now. He should have picked a darker colour.
Customarily I don't watch zombie films and I don't read zombie novels. Until now.

I couldn't resist curiosity killed the bookworm's recommendation, and I did enjoy this book a lot. It is a sort of zombie love story set in a post-apocalyptic American city - a "post-human, posthumous age". Something happened (we are never quite sure what) and zombies (the Dead) now roam the destroyed cities feeding on the surviving humans (the Living) who have been foolish enough to leave the shelter of their fortified encampments in a stadium and so on.
We start to smell the Living as we approach a dilapidated apartment building. The smell is not the musk of sweat and skin, but the effervescence of life energy, like the ionised tang of lightning and lavender. We don’t smell it in our noses. It hits us deeper inside, near our brains, like wasabi. 
Warm Bodies is narrated by 'R', a zombie. Out on a hunting trip from the zombie nest in an abandoned airport, 'R' is happily eating the brain of a human when the memories of the victim (yes, you get a sort of TV image of people's memories as you munch their brain: "the good part, the part that makes my head light up like a picture tube... Flashes of parades, perfume, music . . . life. Then it fades") about a young woman, Julie, trigger some sort of change in 'R'  and he finds himself beginning to alter. It is a feeling perhaps akin to coming to life. One manifestation of this is that he does not kill the young woman in question but takes her, still living, back to the airport to live with him.

The narrative is wonderfully funny (particularly on the theme of "I distracted myself with some groaning"; and "speed-lumbering") and bizarre ("I reach into my pocket and pull out my last chunk of cerebrum") to start with, but the introduction of a more serious authorial tone made the final third a bit of a drag for me as the funny love-story got bogged down in moralizing about how we humans had stuffed up and it was all our fault (the symbolism of 'rottenness' gets a good workout) and we needed to be redeemed by the outcast (Messiah?) zombie and the fallen human woman fighting against the patriarchal fun-censoring Father.

The 'message' takes itself a bit seriously with regards to this harsh world without literature where only survival matters (an interesting subplot is how zombies can't read):

No one I know has any specific memories. Just a vague, vestigial knowledge of a world long gone. Faint impressions of past lives that linger like phantom limbs. We recognise civilisation – buildings, cars, a general overview – but we have no personal role in it. No history. We are just here. We do what we do, time passes, and no one asks questions. But like I’ve said, it’s not so bad. We may appear mindless, but we aren’t. The rusty cogs of cogency still spin, just geared down and down till the outer motion is barely visible. We grunt and groan, we shrug and nod, and sometimes a few words slip out. It’s not that different from before. But it does make me sad that we’ve forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. 

The message can seem somewhat deliberately forced. There were also various elements in the narrative that didn't make much sense to me about the structure of the zombie society too but maybe that's because I'm a naive zombie user. The book is very cinematic with a vivid narration and action sequences (no surprise that it is being made into a film). The writing is very good.

All in all: mostly a very funny book with some great one-liners and plenty of zombie action. It didn't develop in quite the way I thought it might go.

Rating: 7/10. It is very funny.

If you liked this... I don't know. I've not read The Road, but I suspect it's that territory but with jokes. I recently enjoyed reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which also deals with the question of what makes one human.

 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

{weekend words}

Henry, I have a good mind to treat Mrs Ames as if she had not been so insulting to me that day (and after all that is only Christian conduct) and to take round to her after lunch tomorrow the book she said she wanted to see last July. I am sure I have forgotten what it was, but any book will do, since she only wants it to be thought that she reads.

E. F. Benson (1912)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

{review} berlin

Pierre Frei Berlin (2003 [German]; tr. 2006)


Berlin is a high quality crime novel, which I'd recommend if you like historical crime fiction set in Germany (post-war in this case, unlike so many of the similar efforts around which riff on the 1930s).
It had been like that the first time, and it was the same whenever his craving grew too strong and there was only one way to satisy it: with a young, blonde, blue-eyed woman and a cattle chain.
Yes, Berlin is another serial-killer novel, but is raised above the usual beautiful-woman-hacked-to-death-with-nasty-sexual-angle by detailed characterisation of the characters and their settings. This is a book where you can smell and feel the brutalised post-war city. It is jammed packed full of details about the workings of the occupied city as the Germans and Americans attempt to liaise about what may or not be a serial killing crime-wave imported straight from the States with the military occupiers.

This could have been a very ordinary book, given the basic serial killer premise (indeed, if you know any German, the killer's identity doesn't take long to figure out). But what worked really well for me in this - very long - book was how Frei took one victim at a time and transported the reader back in time to the character's early life (and a nice chunk of 1930s' Germany as well) and her journey towards that moment when her path crossed with that of the killer. The victims come (um, briefly) alive in these biographies and it is a really effective means of ensuring that the apparent randomness of their murders evokes our full sympathy for rich lives cut brutally short. This is classy historical crime fiction.

There are many other threads which stitch this book together: the life of the German detective who has to figure out what is going on; the life of the American liaison officer as he falls for - you guessed it - a potential victim; and a quirky little strand about the the life of the son of the detective which should really be quite extraneous to the narrative but which manages both to add depth to the depiction of the city and to stitch up the plot. Incidentally, this youth is exactly the same age that Frei would have been in Berlin in 1945.  

A small[type] warning: Berlin is a big book and the writing is very, very small in the Atlantic Books paperback (2006). The font is hideously narrow. It was painful to read. Maybe this explains proof-reading slips such as would/wound, acused, fourth/forth.

Rating: not the most original of crimes, but the settings and characters push it to the next level. 7/10.

If you liked this... I am very sentimental about M. M. Kaye's Death in Berlin (1955) - a rather gentle post-war Berlin detective novel/romance.


Monday, January 16, 2012

{review} do androids dream of electric sheep?



Never in his life had he personally seen a raccoon. He knew the animal only from 3-D films shown on television. For some reason the dust had struck that species almost as hard as it had the birds - of which almost none survived, now. In an automatic response he brought out his much-thumbed Sidney's and looked up raccoon with all the sublistings. The list prices, naturally, appeared in italics; like Percheron horses, none existed on the market for sale at any figure. Sidney's catalogue simply listed the price at which the last transaction involving a raccoon had taken place. It was astronomical. 'His name is Bill,' the girl said from behind him. 'Bill the raccoon. We acquired him just last year from a subsidiary corporation.'
I'm a huge Blade Runner fan but have never read the story on which it is very, very loosely based. This is due partly to laziness and partly to a perception on my part that I do not like the sci-fi genre very much. I do, however, appreciate a good story (almost) regardless of genre.

Set in 1992 (changed to 2025 in later editions!), our hero Rick Deckard inhabits a post-apocalyptic San Francisco Bay. A nuclear war has killed off almost all the animals and many of the humans. Most of the survivors have emigrated to colonies in space. A major status symbol for the remaining humans is to own a real animal, and animals are integral to the story as a key to comprehending what it is to be human in a world where humans can dial-your-own emotion on waking in the morning before spending the day tuned in to mindless TV and religious brainwashing:
From the bedroom Iran’s voice came. 'I can’t stand TV before breakfast.'
'Dial 888,' Rick said as the set warmed. 'The desire to watch TV, no matter what's on it.'
Deckard is a bounty hunter who executes rogue androids who make it to earth and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? represents one day in his life, in pursuit of six rogue androids of the latest, most humanoid type, who have escaped from Mars.
Rick said, 'You compare favourably to Schwarzkopf.'
'Who are you?’ Her tone held cold reserve - and that other cold, which he had encountered in so many androids. Always the same: great intellect, ability to accomplish much, but also this. He deplored it. And yet, without it, he could not track them down.
The ability to empathize, we find, is basically all that separates humans from the androids built as a slave workforce for the colonies. But the search for these particular androids will test every belief that Deckard holds about what makes us human and our perceived superiority over other beings.
He shook his head, as if trying to clear it, still bewildered. 'The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it probably was artificial, too. But it doesn’t matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are.'
This is such a rich book, with its elaborate religio-mythologizing and double-crossings and cul-de-sacs and pseudo-science (how do you test empathy?) and moments of quiet sadness vs. brutal violence, and I am glad that I didn't let my dislike of the genre prevent me from reading what is a classic work of sci-fi. 

Rating: 9/10.

If you liked this... I want to read Dick's Minority Report now. And watch Blade Runner again (although now I know that the book is better). Have you seen Sean Young's Polaroids from the filming?

Rutger Hauer & Sean Young 
(c) Sean Young (source)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

{weekend words}

I spent the week over Christmas/NY trying to catch up with a monstrous pile of neglected LRBs.

In wartime Los Alamos, there was a conversation piece known as the Fermi Paradox, posed by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Given the high overall probability that intelligent life existed elsewhere in the universe, why hadn’t the extraterrestrials made contact? ‘They are among us,’ Leó Szilárd replied, ‘but they call themselves Hungarians.’ The story was told by the Hungarians themselves and it went like this: the Men from Mars were a restless sort and, in search of new worlds to colonise, they long ago came to Earth, landing on the banks of the Danube. They had effectively concealed their true identity, but there were several signs that could give away their Martian origins. One was their wanderlust: they loved to travel and they readily upped sticks; second was their language, which had no known earthly relation; and third was their supernatural intelligence – they knew things, and could think in a way, that no other people did. One could add a corollary: though they often had a profound understanding of the whole spectrum of mere earthly culture, they seemed to understand it, as it were, from the outside. When one of the Martians, the mathematician John von Neumann, was appointed to the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study at the age of 29, a story went around that he was ‘a demigod but had made a thorough, detailed study of human beings and could imitate them perfectly’. In Britain and America, the Martian-English accent was much loved and, sometimes, much played up by its speakers, adding both to its charm and its otherworldly weirdness.
Steven Shapin
'An Example of the Good Life'
[Review of Michael Polanyi and His Generation by Mary Jo Nye]
London Review of Books 15/12/2011 [vol.33, no.24, p.23]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

{d.m.} ronald searle

{obits: guardian; telegraph

Totally illiterate cat discovering the advantage of literature (Ronald Searle)
A 1975 Searle postcard from flickr

Searle loved books and cats,
which places him very high up in my Pantheon.
 
On my family's bookshelves we have - as well as a handful of St Trinian's and the Molesworth (the latter written by Geoffrey Willans) books - Ronald Searle's Cats (1967; rev. 2005) and the wonderfully crazy Slight Foxed - But Still Desirable (1989), Searle's illustrations of the terminology of antiquarian book catalogues (appropriately, given the context, first editions aren't cheap). There are some images from the book on flickr (and there's an amazon preview).




*Note: "D.M." is a reference to the Manes.

Monday, January 9, 2012

{review} i could never be lonely without a husband


"Well, let's stop it."
"We can't, not yet; I have at least three pages more to fill."
"Have you been making notes?"
"I don't have to. My memory always makes a paragraph out of a note automatically." ['The Confessions of Helen Westley']
This is an extraordinary book. 

I wanted to read more of Djuna Barnes' writing after I read Nightwood (1936) {REVIEW}, and I was very pleased to stumble across this Virago [the book, not Barnes!] in a second-hand bookshop. In theory, this volume collects some of Barnes' interviews with celebrities in a variety of predominantly New York magazines and newspapers from 1913 to 1931. In practice, this volume is very much about Barnes herself, by herself. I initially wondered if this impression was because I had heard of so few of these once famous people she interviewed - boxers, nightclub singers, evangelists, stage actors, Russian dancers, film producers, - and so I had only Barnes' voice to cling to in these little pieces. But, no, I think it is about Barnes in the end.

The editor of the volume suggests that Barnes almost certainly tidied up her interviewees' impressive bon-mots: "Sometimes I regret I was not a Roman. They had such a lot of time and baths." ['Diamond Jim Brady'] She also apparently didn't take many notes.

The interviews are witty (veering not infrequently into that dangerous Aristotelian region of 'wit' as 'educated insolence': thus someone has "a laugh like a submerged French pastry shop"), racy, incredibly broad in scope (ranging from the Great War to lingerie in a space of sentences) and very, very smart. She has a wonderful ear for both the absurd and the truly melancholy.
I could never be lonely without a husband, but without my trinkets, my golden gods, I could find abysmal gloom. [Lillian Russell in 'I Could Never Be Lonely Without a Husband, Says Lillian Russell']
Well, unless you are a master at suicide, can do it nicely without messing the furniture up or spoiling your collar, I should say no, because at some time a chance to be great comes to us all. Even if it is at the last moment, one still has a chance to change his will or say something in Latin, Latin being the language of those about to cross the river. [Irvin Cobb in 'Irvin Cobb Boasts He Is Still Just a Country Boy']
She is capable of completely subverting the form of an interview (so 'Lou Tellegen on Morals and Things' is written in the form of a play!). I would not like to be on the receiving end of a Barnes' interview: "With hands outspread in hope of collecting profit, I came into the presence of Wilson Mizner, and therein he threw the tinsel of his wit" ['Wilson Mizner - of Forty-fourth Street'; ouch]. She is occasionally openly hostile ['The Tireless Rachel Crothers'], sometimes openly jealous of others' success ['Donald Ogden Stewart Confides the Secret of Worldly Success'], and she possesses a rapier sharp eye and a dogged determination to dig in deep. How many interviewers could get away with writing that their subject "droned on" [on 'Mother' Jones in 'I'm Plain Mary Jones of the U.S.A.']! Or this:
"Really, Djuna, you are sort of clever, aren't you?"
"I am only a little less conceited than you yourself, Helen." ['The Confessions of Helen Westley']


It often seems as though it is Barnes' own persona being crafted through these interviews as much as her subjects'. Her pronunciations tend towards the obscurely oracular (which can be irritating): "Her silences are organic bickering; when she does not speak she is profoundly articulate." [on 'Mother' Jones, again].
Someone has told me that I have a peculiar habit of noticing mouths. I have, and when I see one that does not merge into the rest of the face, I want the world to know about it, a mouth that is a personality upon a person. [in 'Alfred Stieglitz on Life and Pictures: One Must Bleed His Own Blood' {incidentally, there is a most interesting article on Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe in the NYRB here}
As contemporary documents of an era, they contain interesting material: for instance, there is the stage actor who reflects on the new world of cinema and offers thoughts on the new art as a means of conferring immortality ['John Bunny']; or the black actors of the controversial The Green Pastures Broadway hit. Many of Barnes' subjects were exiles from a Europe at war or Russia in revolution - trying to establish themselves in America away from their loved ones. Many have seen or experiences extremes of brutality. Barnes is undoubtedly attracted to survivors. There is a lot of abrasive rubbing of the old vs. the new as these exiled cosmopolitans encounter the [from their perspective] limited cultural fora of the New World. There are interviews with a couple of super-stars (from our perspective) - James Joyce (the writer of greatest importance to Barnes' style) and Coco Chanel. The book ends with a lovely Coco-ism: "Personally, nothing amuses me after twelve o'clock at night!" ['Nothing Amuses Coco Chanel After Midnight', 1931]. 

Rating: a collection of interviews more interesting because of the interviewer than the subjects! Most of the pieces also have a very free drawing by Barnes of her subject. I wish the editor had included full publication details. 7/10 (too many boxers).

If you liked this: Nightwood?! Maybe some Fitzgerald jazz age short stories?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

{weekend words}

"And there was also of course Rebecca West, whom [H. G. Wells] called his 'panther', and by whom he had a son (whose middle name was Panther) in 1914. West was particularly critical of his writing about sex: 'His prose,' she wrote, 'suddenly loses its firmness and begins to shake like blancmange.' She had a tendency to associate Edwardian male writers with jellied substances: she described being kissed by Ford Madox Ford as 'like being the toast under a poached egg.'

Colin Burrow 'Big Head, Many Brains' 
[Review of David Lodge's A Man of Parts]
London Review of Books 16/6/2011 [vol.33, no.12] p.19


Monday, January 2, 2012

{review} the tiny wife

Andrew Kaufman The Tiny Wife (2011)


On Thursday 22nd February, one day after the robbery, Jennifer Layone was searching underneath the couch for the remote control when she found God. He looked almost exactly like she’d expected him to look – long white beard, robe, sandals, the whole thing. But he was very dirty. It was dusty underneath her couch, and since she was doing laundry anyway, she took him with her to the laundromat. Jennifer put him in a washing machine. She was running low on quarters, so she washed him with a load of jeans. She must have forgotten to check the pockets because when she took God out of the washing machine, he was covered with little bits of Kleenex. This disappointed God. He wouldn’t look Jennifer in the eyes and he left the laundromat without saying goodbye. Now she was no closer to God than she’d been before the robbery.
I'm not going to say much about The Tiny Wife as it is both so short and so wonderfully whimsical that any description is going to involve huge spoilers: in brief, a group of people are present during a bank robbery in which they all lose something important to themselves. And then very strange things start to happen...

This is a quirky, sparkly little book - and a love story and modern fairytale - and should probably have made it onto my favourites of 2011.

Rating: 10/10.

If you liked this… I was reminded of less mythologically rich Neil Gaiman (that's not a bad thing!)

{READ IN 2017}

  • AUGUST
  • 80.
  • 79.
  • 78.
  • 77.
  • 76.
  • 75. The Forgotten - David Baldacci
  • 74. Zero Day - David Baldacci
  • JULY
  • 73. Pilgrim's Rest - Patricia Wentworth
  • 72. The Case is Closed - Patricia Wentworth
  • 71. The Watersplash - Patricia Wentworth
  • 70. Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth
  • 69. The Listening Eye - Patricia Wentworth
  • 68. Through the Wall - Patricia Wentworth
  • 67. Out of the Past - Patricia Wentworth
  • 66. Mistress - Amanda Quick
  • 65. The Black Widow - Daniel Silva
  • 64. The Narrow - Michael Connelly
  • 63. The Poet - Michael Connelly
  • 62. The Visitor - Lee Child
  • 61. No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Stories - Lee Child
  • JUNE
  • 60. The Queen's Accomplice - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 59. Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 58. The PM's Secret Agent - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 57. His Majesty's Hope - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 56. Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 55. Mr Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal
  • 54. A Lesson in Secrets - Jacqueline Winspear
  • 53. Hit & Run - Lawrence Block
  • 52. Hit Parade - Lawrence Block
  • 51. Hit List - Lawrence Block
  • 50. Six Were Present - E. R. Punshon
  • 49. Triple Quest - E. R. Punshon
  • MAY
  • 48. Dark is the Clue - E. R. Punshon
  • 47. Brought to Light - E. R. Punshon
  • 46. Strange Ending - E. R. Punshon
  • 45. The Attending Truth - E. R. Punshon
  • 44. The Golden Dagger - E. R. Punshon
  • 43. The Secret Search - E. R. Punshon
  • 42. Spook Street - Mick Herron
  • 41. Real Tigers - Mick Herron
  • 40. Dead Lions - Mick Herron
  • 39. Slow Horses - Mick Herron
  • APRIL
  • 38. Everybody Always Tells - E. R. Punshon
  • 37. So Many Doors - E. R. Punshon
  • 36. The Girl with All the Gifts - M. R. Carey
  • 35. A Scream in Soho - John G. Brandon
  • 34. A Murder is Arranged - Basil Thomson
  • 33. The Milliner's Hat Mystery - Basil Thomson
  • 32. Who Killed Stella Pomeroy? - Basil Thomson
  • 31. The Dartmoor Enigma - Basil Thomson
  • 30. The Case of the Dead Diplomat - Basil Thomson
  • 29. The Case of Naomi Clynes - Basil Thomson
  • 28. Richardson Scores Again - Basil Thomson
  • 27. A Deadly Thaw - Sarah Ward
  • MARCH
  • 26. The Spy Paramount - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 25. The Great Impersonation - E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • 24. Ragdoll - Daniel Cole
  • 23. The Case of Sir Adam Braid - Molly Thynne
  • 22. The Ministry of Fear - Graham Greene
  • 21. The Draycott Murder Mystery - Molly Thynne
  • 20. The Murder on the Enriqueta - Molly Thynne
  • 19. The Nowhere Man - Gregg Hurwitz
  • 18. He Dies and Makes No Sign - Molly Thynne
  • FEBRUARY
  • 17. Death in the Dentist's Chair - Molly Thynne
  • 16. The Crime at the 'Noah's Ark' - Molly Thynne
  • 15. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
  • 14. Night School - Lee Child
  • 13. The Dancing Bear - Frances Faviell
  • 12. The Reluctant Cannibals - Ian Flitcroft
  • 11. Fear Stalks the Village - Ethel Lina White
  • 10. The Plot - Irving Wallace
  • JANUARY
  • 9. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • 8. Give the Devil his Due - Sulari Gentill
  • 7. A Murder Unmentioned - Sulari Gentill
  • 6. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
  • 5. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed - Sulari Gentill
  • 4. While She Sleeps - Ethel Lina White
  • 3. A Chelsea Concerto - Frances Faviell
  • 2. Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul - H. G. Wells
  • 1. Heft - Liz Moore

{READ IN 2016}

  • (K = Kindle; rr = re-read)
  • DECEMBER
  • 92. Richardson's First Case - Basil Thomson [K]
  • 91. The Alington Inheritance - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 90. Orphan X - Gregg Hurwitz [K]
  • 89. The House of Godwinsson [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 88. Music Tells All [Bobby Owen 24] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 87. Helen Passes By [Bobby Owen 23] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • NOVEMBER
  • 86. It Might Lead Anywhere [Bobby Owen 22] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 85. There's a Reason for Everything [Bobby Owen 21] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 84. Secrets Can't Be Kept [Bobby Owen 20] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • OCTOBER
  • 83. Night's Cloak [Bobby Owen 19] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 82. The Conqueror Inn [Bobby Owen 18] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 81. The Diabolic Candelabra [Bobby Owen 17] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • 80. The Dark Garden [Bobby Owen 16] - E. R. Punshon [K]
  • SEPTEMBER
  • 79. Picture Miss Seeton - Heron Carvic [K]
  • 78. Down Under (Benbow Smith 4) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 77. Walk with Care (Benbow Smith 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 76. Danger Calling (Benbow Smith 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 75. Fool Errant (Benbow Smith 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 74. The Annam Jewel - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 73. Mr Zero - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 72. Will o' the Wisp - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 71. Red Shadow - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 70. Pursuit of a Parcel (Lamb 3) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 69. Who Pays the Piper (Lamb 2) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 68. The Blind Side (Lamb 1) - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 67. Outrageous Fortune - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 66. The Amazing Chance - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 65. Red Stefan - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • AUGUST
  • 64. The Coldstone - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 63. Anne Belinda - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 62. The Black Cabinet - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 61. Hue & Cry - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 60. The Skin Collector - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 59. The Kill Room - Jeffery Deaver [K]
  • 58. Nothing Venture - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 57. Kingdom Lost - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 56. Beggar's Choice - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 55. Hole and Corner - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 54. Touch and Go - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 53. The Red Lacquer Case - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 52. Run! - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 51. Fear by Night - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • JULY
  • 50. The Dower House Mystery - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 49. The Astonishing Adventure of Jane Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 48. Weekend with Death - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 47. Blindfold - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 46. Silence in Court - Patricia Wentworth [K]
  • 45. Acts of the Assassins - Richard Beard [K]
  • JUNE
  • 44. Hack - Kieran Crowley [K]
  • 43. The Portable Veblen - Elizabeth McKenzie [K]
  • 42. The Spirit Murder Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • MAY
  • 41. The Ginger Cat Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 40. The Pleasure Cruise Mystery - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 39. The Polo Ground Murder - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • APRIL
  • 38. The Outsider - Jason Dean [K]
  • 37. The Hunter's Oath - Jason Dean [K]
  • 36. Missing or Murdered - Robin Forsythe [K]
  • 35. The Beetle - Richard Marsh [K]
  • MARCH
  • 34. A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell 1) - Deanna Raybourn [K]
  • 33. The Chimera Vector - Nathan M. Farrugia [K]
  • 32. An Infamous Army - Georgette Heyer [K]
  • 31. Mr Bazalgette's Agent - Leonard Merrick
  • 30. Don't Tell - Karen Rose [K]
  • 29. Say Goodbye - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 28. Gone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 27. The Killing Hour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 26. The Next Accident - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 25. The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • FEBRUARY
  • 24. The Perfect Husband - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 23. Find Her - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 22. Fear Nothing - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 21. Catch Me - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 20. Love You More - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 19. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 18. The Neighbour - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 17. Hide - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 16. Alone - Lisa Gardner [K]
  • 15. The Humans - Matt Haig [K]
  • 14. Utopian Man - Lisa Lang
  • 13. Love Insurance - Earl Derr Biggers [K]
  • JANUARY
  • 12. The Ignition Effect - Viv Ronnebeck [K]
  • 11. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin [K]
  • 10. Dangerous & Unseemly - K. B. Owen [K]
  • 9. In Bitter Chill - Sarah Ward [K[
  • 8. Half a Crown - Jo Walton [K]
  • 7. Ha'penny - Jo Walton [K]
  • 6. Hilda Wade: A Woman with Tenacity of Purpose - Grant Allen [K]
  • 5. The Case of William Smith - Patricia Wentworth [K; rr]
  • 4. Blue Murder - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 3. Bleeding Hooks - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 2. Knock, Murderer, Knock! - Harriet Rutland [K]
  • 1. Ten Star Clues [Bobby Owen 15] - E. R. Punshon [K]