Saturday, December 21, 2013

{merry christmas!}




Merry Christmas 
to all my fellow book-lovers! 

I hope you have a gorgeous & peaceful Christmas 
and that the New Year brings you 
all sorts of bookish wonderfulness. 

Incidentally, while looking for something Christmassy to read, I came across this list of Christmas Mystery Books at cozy-mystery.com which gave me quite a few ideas. 

And, if you have an e-reader, there's a free Ruth Galloway Christmas short story ('Ruth's First Christmas Tree') by Elly Griffiths available at amazon (non-affiliate link). 



After loving Come Out of the Kitchen! by Alice Duer Miller (recommended at fleur in her world), I have decided to read The Burglar and the Blizzard (free at project gutenberg) as one of my Christmas-themed books. 


  

I also have W. Somerset Maugham's Christmas Holiday for back-up (Ali warns me it isn't really about Christmas); and someone (who was it?!) mentioned Georgette Heyer's Envious Casca as another possibility (but have I read it?). Or maybe, since I loved my first Robert Barnard book (here), I should go with his Death in a Cold Climate... What is it about Christmas and a good murder?


Do you like a Christmassy read? 
(And is 'Christmassy' really a word?)

Have a great holiday!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

{reviews} herland

Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland (1915).


We were now well used to seeing women not as females but as people; people of all sorts, doing every kind of work.
This is a fascinating book, and there's surely a lot one could say about it as a landmark feminist text from a time when women's rights were widely curtailed. 

Three male explorers set out to discover the truth about a legendary Land of Women, and in the process discover some rather unpleasant truths about their own land of men. As they set out, they only half-believe that such a world could exist:
"They would fight among themselves," Terry insisted. "Women always do. We mustn't look to find any sort of order and organization."
"You're dead wrong," Jeff told him. "It will be like a nunnery under an abbess - a peaceful, harmonious sisterhood."
I snorted derision at this idea. "Nuns, indeed! Your peaceful sisterhoods were all celibate, Jeff, and under vows of obedience. These are just women, and mothers, and where there's motherhood you don't find sisterhood - not much."
"No, sir - they'll scrap," agreed Terry. "Also we mustn't look for inventions and progress; it'll be awfully primitive."
When they do stumble upon this new world, they discover a female utopia: an ideal society, one entire ruled by women for women, with major advances in many sciences, and filled with women with a thirst for knowledge. It is also a society resistant to the 'accomplishments' of men. There are no men. This society's central tenet is one of the worship of motherhood, with birth occurring through parthenogenesis: "When a woman chose to be a mother, she allowed the child-longing to grow within her till it worked its natural miracle. When she did not so choose she put the whole thing out of her mind, and fed her heart with the other babies."

The narrator quickly has almost all of his preconceptions ("in our easy assumption of superiority") crushed about what makes an ideal society:
As I learned more and more to appreciate what these women had accomplished, the less proud I was of what we, with all our manhood, had done. You see, they had had no wars. They had had no kings, and no priests, and no aristocracies. They were sisters, and as they grew, they grew together - not by competition, but by united action.
The narrator is a sensible man ("I had not come to the country with any Turkish-harem intentions") – he wants to learn more and to attempt not to let on too much about how this society ("they had no horrible ideas") is making him feel about his own society. He is discussing how the women limit the number of their off-spring:
"But what I do not understand, naturally, is how you prevent it. I gathered that each woman had five. You have no tyrannical husbands to hold in check—and you surely do not destroy the unborn--"
The look of ghastly horror she gave me I shall never forget. She started from her chair, pale, her eyes blazing. "Destroy the unborn—!" she said in a hard whisper. "Do men do that in your country?"
"Men!" I began to answer, rather hotly, and then saw the gulf before me. None of us wanted these women to think that OUR women, of whom we boasted so proudly, were in any way inferior to them. I am ashamed to say that I equivocated. I told her of certain criminal types of women—perverts, or crazy, who had been known to commit infanticide.
His two companions act as foils to his desire to be fully and scientifically enlightened:
"What are you going to do with it when you do find it - if you do?" Jeff asked mildly.
Jeff was a tender soul. I think he thought that country - if there was one - was just blossoming with roses and babies and canaries and tidies, and all that sort of thing. And Terry, in his secret heart, had visions of a sort of sublimated summer resort - just Girls and Girls and Girls - and that he was going to be - well, Terry was popular among women even when there were other men around, and it's not to be wondered at that he had pleasant dreams of what might happen. I could see it in his eyes as he lay there, looking at the long blue rollers slipping by, and fingering that impressive mustache of his.
Of his two companions, Jeff is highly idealistic about women, with "gentle romantic old-fashioned notions of women as clinging vines"; this is, of course, another face of the masculine "assumption of superiority", but with Jeff the result is a sort of un-manning: "so deeply convinced of the almost supernatural advantages of this country and people, that he took his medicine like a—I cannot say "like a man," but more as if he wasn't one."

Terry, however, is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The language used of him by his companions hints at who is really primitive: the virgins who have evolved into a self-sufficient society, or the he-man who cannot believe any woman would not want him: "I always liked Terry. He was a man's man, very much so, generous and brave and clever; but I don't think any of us in college days was quite pleased to have him with our sisters." 

Terry is incapable of understanding that there is no place for him in this society; even worse, from his perspective, these women are not 'feminine':
As to Terry's criticism, it was true. These women, whose essential distinction of motherhood was the dominant note of their whole culture, were strikingly deficient in what we call "femininity." This led me very promptly to the conviction that those "feminine charms" we are so fond of are not feminine at all, but mere reflected masculinity - developed to please us because they had to please us, and in no way essential to the real fulfillment of their great process.
And these women do not play by the rules of male society:
Terry put in practice his pet conviction that a woman loves to be mastered, and by sheer brute force, in all the pride and passion of his intense masculinity, he tried to master this woman. It did not work.
"It did not work." That is such a defining moment in the clash of the two societies, but I'm not going to spill any more beans about this absolutely fascinating early feminist text.
"Suppose there is a country of women only," Jeff had put it, over and over. "What'll they be like?"
And we had been cocksure as to the inevitable limitations, the faults and vices, of a lot of women. We had expected them to be given over to what we called "feminine vanity" - "frills and furbelows," and we found they had evolved a costume more perfect than the Chinese dress, richly beautiful when so desired, always useful, of unfailing dignity and good taste. We had expected a dull submissive monotony, and found a daring social inventiveness far beyond our own, and a mechanical and scientific development fully equal to ours. We had expected pettiness, and found a social consciousness besides which our nations looked like quarreling children - feebleminded ones at that. We had expected jealousy, and found a broad sisterly affection, a fair-minded intelligence, to which we could produce no parallel. We had expected hysteria, and found a standard of health and vigor, a calmness of temper, to which the habit of profanity, for instance, was impossible to explain - we tried it.
There is also a fair bit of creepy eugenics going on in the background which might give you a hint about a factor not noted in the narrator's praise: exactly how ruthless will this society of women be?

The only other writing by Perkins Gilman with which I am familiar is the excellent and spooky The Yellow Wall-paper. What else should I read?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

{reviews} bleak books: barnard, west, block

Whoa, so... 
                 far... 
                         behind... 
                                       with reviewing. 

I'll start with three books offering a bleak - but more or less amusing - look at the seedier side of the lives of academics, journalists, and, er, hit men.

Robert Barnard Death of an Old Goat (1974)


Professor Wickham was giving a tutorial. Or rather, he was being given one. Every year he put Hardy as late in the term as possible, hoping that by then his first-year students would have become reasonably chatty. This was because he never could be quite sure which Hardy novel it was he had read. Whichever it was, it had left on his mind a vague impression of doom and landscape, but nothing much else remained.
This is a very funny book about academia and country Australia. Barnard (who died this year) has a brilliant eye for the difficult life facing the second-rate Oxbridge academic exiled to an uncomfortable and ugly rural university ("Even the Queen had managed to avoid it on most of her visits to Australia, and there were few places in Australia of which that could be claimed.") of the type which sprang up in Australia from the 1950s onwards. 

The 'old goat' is Professor Belville-Smith, an elderly Oxford don on a lecture tour of the provinces. He is a typically dry academic figure, full of snobbish distaste - and "senile malice" - for the colleagues he encounters ("tut-tut[ting] mentally at their vowel-sounds and their shirts"); and no one is particularly looking forward to listening to him either, given he "had been delivering that lecture since 1922" (!). But it would seem that the Old Goat knows something about one of the academics he encounters, and what he knows will lead to his brutal death... 

The crime was fairly easy to figure out, but this book was elevated above the ordinary for me by Barnard's absolutely wicked sense of humour about the snobbishness of Australian academia ("This is what one gets for employing Adult Education lecturers who got their degrees at Leeds, thought Wickham grimly.") and the rural 'squattocracy' who provided the social background to all the university's activities ("'Just like the Wickhams to let the drink run out,' said Mrs McKay, a little tipsily, to Mrs Lullham. 'They’re only academics, after all, however much they try to hide it.'"). 

The actual crime, and the inexperienced macho racist cop assigned to solve it, were far less interesting than the setting and eccentric characters who-[might have]-dunnit. (I discovered this book thanks to clothes in books.)

Nathanael West Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

"Perhaps I can make you understand. Let's start from the beginning. A man is hired to give advice to the readers of a newspaper. The job is a circulation stunt and the whole staff considers it a joke. He welcomes the job, for it might lead to a gossip column, and anyway he's tired of being a leg man. He too considers the job a joke, but after several months at it, the joke begins to escape him. He sees that the majority of the letters are profoundly humble pleas for moral and spiritual advice, that they are inarticulate expressions of genuine suffering. He also discovers that his correspondents take him seriously. For the first time in his life, he is forced to examine the values by which he lives. This examination shows him that he is the victim of the joke and not its perpetrator."
Ouch. What a book. Like being mentally excoriated with a wire brush. Like the best sort of totally black satire. No glimmer of relief, no hint of light, and certainly no hint of escape in here. But also funny - well, sort of funny. Uncomfortable, ghastly funny... 

What hope is there for the writer of the lonely hearts column ("the priests of twentieth-century America") in Depression America? Alcoholic, depressed, unloved and unlovable ("his heart remained a congealed lump of icy fat"), prone to fighting, poor at grasping cues, misunderstood, self-defeating ("he stumbled purposely, so that she would take his confusion for honest feeling"), numb from suffering ("more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife"), doomed... 

There's a lot going on here about the body too that I think I haven't properly grasped (when I wikipedia-ed it, apparently it is "Bergsonian" - I am in no way enlightened. Also existential. And Expressionist. Hmmm.). How can something so horribly bleak also be funny? 

A classic: I'm glad I've finally read, but oh how miserable I felt after I finished.

Lawrence Block Hit Man (1998)

He took the exit for the mall and found a parking place, taking careful note of where it was so he could find it again. Once, a couple of years ago, he had parked a rental car at a mall in suburban Detroit without paying attention to where he’d parked it or what it looked like. For all he knew it was still there.
A likeable hit man? A dog-loving stamp-collecting likeable hit man in need of a good psychiatrist? The 'voice' of Block's professional killer is just wonderful - sort of pensive, thoughtful, idealistic, melancholy, desperate to feel needed - a 'good' man despite his terrible day job. This book is a series of short stories ostensibly about John Keller's assignments, but really about what has made him the man he is today. If you like slowish little polished gems (someone sweetening a coffee "stirred it long enough to dissolve marble chips") about moral ambiguity, then these are for you.
He did that sometimes. Looked up his name in the phone books of strange cities, as if he might actually find himself there. Not another person with the same name, that happened often enough, his was not an uncommon name. But find himself, his actual self, living an altogether different life in some other city.
Lawrence Block died this year too (I see a theme here). This is the first of his books I've read, but I'm very keen to read more now. (I found this book thanks to belle, book and candle.)

*

Note [27/11/2013]: Brona remind me that I should link my Barnard post to her wonderful AusReading Month. Please do visit her blog for links to many, many interesting posts on Australian books and writers.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

{come & visit} my life in books

Hey, come over and see me 
on Simon's lovely blog 


I'm part of Day 3 of My Life in Books: Series Four

I promise you, it's filled with: 
shocking revelations, 
wild surmises, 
& attempts to smuggle in 
as many cats as possible!


Edward Bawden's cover for The Listener, 1961.
I note now that it is a Christmas picture. 
Sorry for that reminder.

Monday, October 14, 2013

{review} the fortune of christina m'nab

Sarah Macnaughtan The Fortune of Christina M'Nab (1901)

(this is only moderately more yellow than the original)

I haven't posted for ages - no good reasons, just lazy. I have to mention this book though.

I wrote a while back that I'd found a reference to Sarah Macnaughtan in John Betjeman's Trains and Buttered Toast here. Betjeman wrote that he'd been recommended "Miss MacNaughton" (the spelling isn't correct) by "Miss Elizabeth Bowen and Miss Rose Macaulay" (he does seem hung up on "Miss", doesn't he?). Obviously my ears pricked up at this. Betjeman recommended Macnaughtan's A Lame Dog's Diary, but also mentioned "The Fortune of Christina McNab, the story of a raw Scottish heiress let loose on smart London society". 

I rushed off to download this, only to discover it wasn't available and had to go all old school and order a copy out of the store-room of my university library. The copy that turned up dates from 1904. It entered the library from a local circulating library in 1954, so it has had quite a career. It is in terrible condition - loose pages, a quite obnoxious smell, and a number of suspicious looking spots as though someone had bled into it. I really felt like donning some sort of protective suit before next inhaling.

There's also the interesting question of "M'Nab" vs. "McNab". After I'd read the foetid book I then found I could have read a nice hygienic electronic copy if only I hadn't been an ignorant Australian who'd not experienced this Scottish contraction (Mac / Mc / M'). 

Anyway, Betjeman writes - do we think a little patronizingly? - that "Miss MacNaughton specializes in good, kindly people in fairly easy circumstances and her novels have happy and probable endings." 

So what did I think?
'It's an awful lot of money,' said Colin.
'Comfortable,' replied Christina, with a smirk.
''Deed, I think it's more than comforts you will be able to purchase now,' said Colin dryly; and he added as a logical conclusion, 'I suppose you will be marrying some swell, eh?'
'I suppose so,' quoth Christina, matter-of-fact and brief, as is the manner of her nation.
'What sort of man are you thinking to get?' asked her companion.
'A lord,' replied Cristina comprehensively.
May I ask you to imagine that the conversation between these two persons was carried on in the Scottish tongue, of which the accent was broad and a little uncouth, but emphatic. So that when Christina announced her intention to marry a lord she pronounced the word 'lorrrd' and it rolled from her lips with a fine convincing resonance.
Isn't it gorgeous? I was a fan from page one.

Christina M'Nab has inherited 18,000 pounds a year from her father. All her life she was ignorant of his enormous wealth and was brought up in near poverty - although educated - by her miserly father, "an elder of the Free Kirk of Scotland." She is engaged by near default to Colin M'Crae who is a poor "electrical engineer". Colin is quite something (get ready to fan yourselves, dear reader):
He was dressed in workman's clothes, and his boots were big and his hands horny. His face, as nearly as possible, resembled that of the Apollo Belvedere, and his great square shoulders and splendid limbs were those of a graceful young giant.
I'm almost certain one can't use "horny" like that nowadays...

 
The Apollo Belvedere

Later on he appears in a kilt too... Colin, I mean. 

OK, where was I?

Christina is determined to move in the highest circles - and her massive fortune is sure to be a draw-card for every impoverished son of the nobility. Colin - Colin really is lovely - is happy to stand to one side and let her have her head. But first - that accent! The English nobility won't be able to understand a word she says. And her clothes are not good. Luckily Colin is distantly related via a dubious runaway marriage to the wife of an Earl, and that Earl is desperately short of money. Will Lady Anne Drummond be able to perform a Pygmalion make-over on the rough-tongued Scot? Will she ever..!

I am pretty sure you can all predict what will happen without any difficulty: Christina is done over and revealed to be a stunning red-head with a magnificent figure. She quickly becomes the latest fad to hit society, and winds up established in Grosvenor Square, with a Duke lined up to marry her, and dear, faithful Colin all set to do the elaborate electrical lighting for her splendid ball...

No more spoilers from me. (Also I should cut back on my use of ellipses.)

My only slight criticism of this book is how long it takes to bring what we all know must happen to a happy conclusion. The narrative could be a bit tighter in that respect, though that would lose a number of amusing by-ways such as minor character assassinations of the great and good of society:
Anne thoroughly believed in Alice. She was supposed to have an excellent influence over young girls, and was fond of reading The Christian Year aloud in her bedroom on Sunday afternoons. Her lighter accomplishment was that of 'yodeling.' It was considered by her friends that no one could equal Alice in imitating the well-known cries of the Swiss mountaineers. She was generally asked for a demonstration of her talent before she had been very long in a country house; but if no one made this request, Alice would yodel in her bedroom with the door open, and 'hope that she disturbed nobody.'
Needless to say, I've already downloaded all the Macnaughtan titles I could find, including the enticingly entitled The Expensive Miss du Cane. Incidentally, the back pages of the diseased library book yielded some reading suggestions from the era that one might also file under the same category as 'horny':


Thursday, September 19, 2013

{review} the gabriel hounds

Mary Stewart The Gabriel Hounds (1967)

This is a post for Mary Stewart Week, the brainchild of Anbolyn at Gudrun's Tights.
I went back to the bookshelf. It would be nice to be able to record that I was the kind of person who would pick up the Dostoevsky or the Huxley or even The Golden Bough and curl up with it for a glorious evening’s read. But when eventually Mr Lethman came for me as he had promised, he found me a few chapters into The Tiger in the Smoke, and half-wishing I had chosen something less exciting for a night in the deserted wing of a ruined palace.

     

Let me confess: the first image matches the lovely vintage edition 1967 Hodder & Stoughton edition I bought for this week. Then I opened it to discover the print was agonisingly small. So I bought the kindle edition with the ridiculously anachronistic cover. The book is set in the late 1960s, for heaven's sake! That camel will eat your hat and nosegay.

Apart from being a teensy bit incestuous for my tastes, The Gabriel Hounds is very much a classic Mary Stewart romantic suspense book:
Wonderful setting? – tick!
Adventure? – tick!
Proper old-school bad guys? - tick!
Some sort of morally abhorrent crime? – tick!
Heroine with lovely expensive mostly linen clothing which undergoes almost complete destruction without ever affecting the integrity of her innate daintiness? - tick?
Romance – tick!
The years rolled back more swiftly even than the crimson silk as he said, with exactly the same intonation with which a small boy had daily greeted his even smaller worshipper: ‘Oh, hullo! It’s you!’ I wasn’t a small girl any more, I was twenty-two, and this was only my cousin Charles, whom of course I didn’t worship any more. For some reason it seemed important to make this clear.
Let's get this out of the way first. Cousins! Any cousins here? How about you get out more and meet other people? Dilute that gene pool! Go on... You're both young, rich, gorgeous and set loose in an exotic location in the Middle East - go fall for someone to whom you're not related. Especially if you're also the off-spring of parents who were twins (not with each other, but you get the picture). Ick and yuck and aren’t there laws about that?

Anyway...

Christy (Christabel) Mansel is a "stinking rich" girl of independent mind on a tour of the Middle East when she runs into her cousin Charles, whom she has not seen for several years. As a child she had worshipped him. The two make a plan to meet up in Beirut after her tour and visit their wildly eccentric and rarely seen great-aunt Harriet, who has adopted the manner and the lifestyle of the early nineteenth century lady traveller Lady Hester Stanhope. Great-Aunt Harriet is holed up in a ruinous palace outside Beirut and is living the life of an orientalised nabob. Charles was a favourite of the dog-loving old lady, who wishes him to have her pair of Ming dynasty china dogs – the eponymous Gabriel Hounds.

There is a bit of a travel mix-up and Christy - always strong-minded – decides to visit her aged relative alone. The palace is falling to pieces and a personable but vague young man is living there with the great-aunt. When Christy eventually gains admittance, she is wholly horrified by exactly how crazy her great-aunt appears:
Her skin had a sallow pallor and her lips were bloodless and sunken, but the black eyes and well-marked brows gave life to the fullish, oval face, and showed none of the fading signs of old age. She had daubed powder lavishly and carelessly, and some of it had spilled over the scarlet velvet. Above this curiously epicene face she had twined a towering turban of white, which, slipping a little to one side, exposed what for a shocked moment I took to be a bald skull; then I realised she must have shaved her head. This, if she habitually wore a thick turban, was only to be expected, but it was somehow the final touch of grotesqueness.
But beyond this theatrical horror show, Christy fears that something is badly wrong in the palace. What is going on in the old dungeons (I do love a dungeon in a book!)? What was in those really very aromatic cigarettes? Where are the missing Gabriel Hounds? And, as the nearby river rises and she is cut off from civilization, is it too late for rescue? Well, of course not - this is a Mary Stewart book, after all – but how will Christy extract herself from danger? And what has happened to handsome Cousin Charles?

This is an enjoyable read with typical Stewart touches of darkness and mild horror. Her language is a joy: "Eastern-looking sheep" are "spatchcocked with black"; the iron bedstead "came across the cracked marble with a dot-and-carry-one screech of broken castors"; when drugged, one's thoughts "dislimned". I have quoted a passage on the intriguing contents of a bookcase in the palace, and there are plenty of small touches that increase the suspense. Among these I would particularly note: the atmosphere of being trapped in a proper old-school harem seraglio with all its white-slaving implications for nice young English ladies; the heroine's name, Christabel, with its Gothicky poetic overtones (I didn't figure this out for myself – Stewart likes to quote from Coleridge's spooky poem); and, of course, the mysterious Gabriel Hounds themselves – named after the pack of Hounds of Hell "that run with death, and when someone's going to die you hear them howling over the house at night."

An additional sense of melancholy suffused this reader too, thinking about Christy's mostly idyllic Syria and Lebanon and the terrible devastation those countries have suffered since.

I have previously been facetious about elements of the sameness in Mary Stewart's romantic suspense books. Nevertheless, I am a 100% believer that well-constructed beautifully written sameness can be one of the most comforting things about reading a beloved author.

If you liked this... I have now moved on to another Mary Stewart – Thornyhold – which I am enjoying, although it offers quite a change of pace to The Gabriel Hounds, and may be a tad witchy for my tastes. I think that my favourite Stewart (so far!) is The Ivy Tree (definitely one for fans of Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar), with My Brother Michael battling it out for the next spot with the exciting Avignon-set (but unpleasantly domestically-violent) Madam Will You Talk. I have also commented briefly on Airs above the GroundWildfire at Midnight, and Touch Not the Cat (cousins again!). Curiously I have not reviewed any of my favourites. 

I hope everyone is enjoying Mary Stewart Reading Week
and thanks again to Anbolyn for hosting!

 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

{misc.} mary stewart reading week


Next week is Mary Stewart Reading Week, the brainchild of Anbolyn at Gudrun's Tights

I've just finished reading The Gabriel Hounds (1967), and thoroughly recommend it for all the lovely things one expects from a Stewart book: location, mystery, romance, danger, and gorgeous writing. I'll hopefully get my review out next week, but I couldn't resist posting this taster, featuring a bookshelf. To give some context, our heroine is spending the night in a ruined palace in Lebanon as she waits to see an eccentric and aged relative who has adopted Lady Hester Stanhope's lifestyle. The servant has come in to collect her dinner things: 
Irritated now, and wishing she would finish her job and go, I concentrated on selecting a book. As light reading for whiling away an hour or two they were hardly promising. An Arabic grammar, a few books on Syria and the Lebanon which I had already read during my convalescence in Charles's room, and a collection which might be said to represent John Lethman's homework – some volumes (also familiar to me) about the original Lady of the Lebanon: Joan Haslip and Roundell and Silk Buckingham and the three old volumes of Dr Meryon’s diary about his redoubtable patroness. I looked at the fly-leaves. As I thought, they were Great-Aunt Harriet's own copies, presumably lent to her latter-day 'Dr Meryon' for his close study … I skipped along the row. T. E. Lawrence's Crusader Castles, Guillaume's Islam, the Everyman Koran, King-lake's Eothen … all Aunt Harriet's. No medical textbooks, which were presumably too bulky to carry on field work. The only things which carried his own name were – interestingly enough – Huxley's The Mind Changers, Fraser's Golden Bough, and a newish paper-bound copy of Théophile Gautier's Le Club des Hachachiens. No novels except Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Margery Allingham's The Tiger in the Smoke. The last volume in the row was de Quincey....
It would be nice to be able to record that I was the kind of person who would pick up the Dostoevsky or the Huxley or even The Golden Bough and curl up with it for a glorious evening's read. But when eventually Mr Lethman came for me as he had promised, he found me a few chapters into The Tiger in the Smoke, and half-wishing I had chosen something less exciting for a night in the deserted wing of a ruined palace.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

{weekend words} "a mummified world of books"

I haven't done a weekend words for ages, but I've just read this passage about a gorgeous library in John Dickson Carr's He Who Whispers (1946):
And in a long room at the rear of the house – a room after his own heart – stood Miles Hammond, holding a lamp above his head.

'It's all right,' he was saying to himself. 'I didn't make a mistake in bringing her here. It's all right.'

But he knew in his heart that it wasn't all right.

The flame of the little lamp, in its tiny cylindrical glass shade, partly drew the shadows from a mummified world of books. It was wrong, of course, to call this place a library. It was a stack-room, a repository, an immensely long dust-heap for the two or three thousand volumes accumulated like dust by his late uncle. Books old and broken, books newish and shiny, books in quarto and octavo and folio, books in fine bindings and books withered black: breathing their exhilarating mustiness, a treasure-house hardly yet touched.

Their shelves reached to the ceiling, built even round the door to the dining-room and enclosing the row of little-paned windows that faced east. Books piled the floor in ranks, mounds, and top-heavy towers of unequal height, a maze of which the lanes between were so narrow that you could hardly move without knocking books over in a fluttering puff of dust.

Standing in the middle of this, Miles held the lamp high and slowly looked round him. 'It’s all right!' he fiercely said aloud.

And the door opened, and Fay Seton came in.
*

I do feel a little sorry for the mysterious Miss Seton, who will be doing the dusting in here! 



Thursday, August 22, 2013

{misc.} trains and buttered toast

John Betjeman Trains and Buttered Toast (2006)


Trains and Buttered Toast is my current on-the-go non-fiction book. I haven't actually finished it, but last night I read a chapter that I can't resist mentioning here. The book is a collection of Betjeman's radio talks for the BBC mostly from the 1930s to 1950s. The talks cover a nice range of interests - modern architecture, urban planning, the pleasures of the seaside, churches, famous men and women, wartime life, and so on. It is a lovely book to dip in to, and quite funny in places (his views on modern town-planning are pretty snarky). 

But the chapter which caught my eye was the transcript of a talk called 'Yesterday's Fiction', delivered on the Home Service on Monday 21st August 1944:
Instead of telling you about the best of this week's latest books, because there are so very few being published just now, I am going to review some old favourites. I am going to review some Edwardian novelists - the sort of people who were very popular before the last war.
Of course my ears immediately pricked up at that!
The names I shall mention are probably to be found on the back of a book within three miles, possibly within three yards, of everyone listening this evening who lives in these islands. I shall choose authors who have never produced a wholly bad book and often produced a very good one. And while you are are going away to get a pencil to take down the new names I mention, I will indulge in a short background sketch of Edwardian novelists.
So who does Betjeman rate? First up is Anthony Hope ("top of my list... for consistent high standards") - I do indeed have him on my shelves within three yards (or close!), as I really rate his The Prisoner of Zenda as a classic tale of adventure and chivalry. I have also read the sequel Rupert of Hentzau (Rupert is a very naughty young man indeed), but the rest of Hope's novels have passed me by. Betjeman already notes that only these two seem to be still read, and recommends The King's Mirror and The Dolly Dialogues (the latter he suggests is a combination of Kipling and Wilde!).  


And then - another favourite I want to explore further - George Gissing. His The Odd Women is indeed as Betjeman describes, "a deeply agonizing book". He suggests Gissing's The House of Cobwebs (short-stories) as a taste of something different. 

Next? Someone I've not heard of, but surely some of you keen explorers of lost classics will know the name of the "lighter and totally forgotten author" Miss S. MacNaughton [sic - it is in fact MacNaughtan]. Betjeman tells us he was recommended her books by "Miss Elizabeth Bowen and Miss Rose Macaulay", which is a pretty good recommendation!
Miss MacNaughton specializes in good, kindly people in fairly easy circumstances and her novels have happy and probable endings.
(He suggests A Lame Dog's Diary, available free at project gutenberg; but the one which caught my eye was "The Fortune of Christina McNab, the story of a raw Scottish heiress let loose on smart London society" - that sounds just my cup of tea.) 

Who else?
...Conan Doyle, Booth Tarkington, Leonard Merrick (always good), E. F. Benson (nearly always), N. and A. M. Williamson, Rider Haggard, Stanley Weyman (according to taste), Seton Merriman (often good), 'Q', Somerville and Ross (to me, always good), H. A. Vachell, A. E. W. Mason and many, many more.
Of these, Conan Doyle will likely never be out of favour. I thought Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Amberson's was a good read (I reviewed it here). Benson still has plenty of fans (myself included). I've not read any Rider Haggard for what feels like a century, and really should revisit him. 'Q', of course, was reintroduced to a new generation by 84 Charing Cross Road. The only other one who rings a bell is Mason, with his The Four Feathers (and who knew there'd been what sounds like a ghastly Heath Ledger remake?).


Betjeman notes two other highly recommended reads: Erskine Childers' The Riddle of the Sands as a classic spy story (true: but too much messing about on boats, and anything involving reading maps or train timetables is always wasted on me! - "there has probably never been written so alluring an account of the delights of the amateur yachtsman"); and - unknown to me - Mary Cholmondeley's (I assume that's a "Chumly" pronunciation?) Red Pottage. He adds the rather telling comment that "autobiographical novels are often an author's - and in particular an authoress's - best novel": apparently Red Pottage is "a picture of rectory life and mental cruelty and frustration and stupidity therein among the lush, lovely and uncaring landscape of Shropshire." Oh dear... 

(the Cholmondeley cover is an Arthur Rackham drawing and you can buy it for a mere $1750)

This was a nice little essay, which gave me quite a few ideas for future reading, and I am happy to note that the next chapter is 'Wartime Tastes in Reading', which I hope to find just as useful.

Monday, August 12, 2013

{review} tampa

Alissa Nutting Tampa (2013)

 

Cover of the year, surely?
I could smell the mint chewing gum on his breath -- he'd indeed prepared himself for a make-out session. Could consent have been any more transparent?
This is a controversial book. Its taboo subject matter has led to some informal banning in Australia; it has also polarized readers with regards to literary merit (is it the new Lolita?), its categorization as 'satire', the narrative value of its relentless sex scenes, and so on. It will not be everyone's cup of tea. 

Yet, if one can enjoy a book despite the repugnant theme of paedophilia that forms its core, then I suspect that the author has pulled off quite a coup. I think Nutting has accomplished a remarkable satiric take on her topic. Even more to be admired, Nutting's work forces the reader to have a really good think about the double standard whereby female desire for pubescent males is considered less morally repugnant (and/or illegal) than that of male desire for pubescent prey: "What that jury saw was a red-blooded American teenage boy asked to repent for nailing a hot blonde. I think our chances are good." {spoiler there, obviously!} 

The protagonist is devastatingly upfront with the reader about her desires and how she will achieve them. Calculating and ruthless, obsessed with youth and her prettiness (her own and her victims': "I had a face that denied excretion"), she is utterly fascinatingly monstrous. She will do anything to achieve her ends, and anything to protect herself from exposure (although, like most narcissists, she never really factors in this exposure - "People who look like me don’t go to jail."):
I also had the fear that with the right photographer, the real me might accidentally be captured -- that in looking at the photo, suddenly everyone's eyes would widen and they'd actually see me for the very first time: Oh my God -- you're a soulless pervert!
She will mold her body into a tool to assist her achieve her ends. She will spend years studying a profession which interests her only as a means to gain access to her prey. As a teacher, her only interest is using her classroom texts (brilliantly apt: Romeo & Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, To Kill a Mockingbird; and she had studied classics at college) to get her class to talk "sex talk veiled behind a thin veneer of literary studies". 

She is absolutely aware that she is a predator: "Nothing would keep me from him."
But I wanted him to know this was certainly out of the ordinary. After a moment of debate, I decided it was worth it. "I don’t even do this with my husband," I added. This wasn’t entirely true of course, but I doubted that saying We do this when I want Ford to feel indebted to me and I've doped myself to the moon on barbiturates would have the same persuasive vigor.
She sees "consent" in any minor gesture; pausing only once to examine if she has gone too far, if her victim was "too out of control — too molested perhaps, his orgasms a seeming consent to acts he didn't fully enjoy."
I knew I'd find it hard to cut the girls in my classes any slack at all, knowing the great generosity life had already gifted them. They were at the very beginning of their sexual lives with no need to hurry -- whenever they were ready, a great range of attractions would be waiting for them, easy and disposable. Their urges would grow up right alongside them like a shadow. They'd never feel their libido a deformed thing to be kept chained up in the attic of their mind and to only be fed in secret after dark.
This is a gung-ho portrayal of total female narcissistic sociopathy. Even her ability to fake empathy is secondary to achieving her goal:
I knew I should produce a look of worry or strain, but habit prevented me from forming any facial expression that might aid in the development of fine lines.
What interested me a lot about this portrayal (which we receive through her own voice) is how few excuses we are offered. There is no aetiology. The abuse card seems absent. What has made her the predator she is today? There is a slight nostalgic element, but that's about it (little family background, for instance). What if there are no excuses? What is clear is her own utter repugnance at sex with anyone older than her ideal, including her hapless husband, a policeman. For him, her extreme efforts to remain youthful have rendered her a perfect trophy wife ("The more I did for Ford's ego publicly, I'd found, the less I had to do to satisfy him privately"); his desires - and her occasional inability to fend him off (to "pillage me... to ruin the landscape") - are controlled with sleeping pills and alcohol.
My real problem with Ford is actually his age. Ford, like the husbands of most women who marry for money, is far too old. Since I'm twenty-six myself, it’s true that he and I are close peers. But thirty-one is roughly seventeen years past my window of sexual interest.
The obvious comparison text to Tampa is Nabokov's Lolita. It might be considered more of an intertext than a comparative text - the verbal 'music' of Nabokov's text is not echoed, for instance, and Tampa is sometimes crushingly obvious ("There was something repulsive (and revealing) about talking on a cell phone while handling garbage. Why did anyone pretend human relationships had value?"), but to appreciate fully Nutting's takedown of another sexual double-standard, Lolita is an essential text. "If you were a teenage male," the commentator began, pointing a leering finger back at the photo, "would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?" 

That one comes to sympathize (to some extent) with this woman and her fears of ageing and becoming sexually unattractive to boys, is also due in no small part to the fact that this book is as funny as it is devastatingly unsettling.
His hands slid up to his face and over the back of his head. "God," he said. His breathing broke into an unusual pattern; for a moment I thought he might cry. "You can see into my bedroom from the street? But it’s so far back on the side..."
In a perfect world, I could've assured him that without binoculars one probably couldn't see inside very well at all, but discretion warranted I keep this detail to myself.
This book raises all sorts of questions, of course, perhaps the most interesting being that of whether satire has any boundaries it cannot cross or any finally definitive taboos that it cannot challenge. Then again, after Lolita, what ground can Nutting retread that could so profoundly and deliberately shock our sensibilities? 

I almost daren't offer an "If you liked this...", but I was reminded of another extremely funny sexual satire upon an unpromising topic - sex work in the office - which I read last year, and which gives a taste of the tone of Tampa, without the paedophilic content: Helen DeWitt's Lightning Rods {REVIEW}. It is not, I suspect, a coincidence, that the sex of both of these authors has influenced my tolerant responses.

     

Sunday, July 28, 2013

{review} incidents in the rue laugier

hosted by Karen (Bookbath)
& Tamara (Thyme for Tea).

hosted by Ali at Heavenali

Argh! What happened to July? I've been reading a lot and writing near to zero. Fortunately in this post I can cunningly cover the two bases of Paris in July and Brookner in July. I feel wonderfully efficient...  

Anita Brookner Incidents in the Rue Laugier (1995) 


    

It took me a while to warm to this book, I have to say, and I think that this was due to my expectations about the structure being somewhat confounded from the beginning. When I finally became swept up in the narrative, something clicked, and by the time I had finished I rather thought I had just read something remarkable. 

At its most simple (which it isn't), Incidents in the Rue Laugier tells the story of the meeting and marriage of Maud Gonthier of Dijon and Edward Harrison of London. Since this is a Brookner, one expects - and finds - little evidence of great passion, profound happiness or exciting events. (I should say, at this point, that I would be horribly disturbed to find these in a Brookner.) 


It is 1971: Edward is trying to escape the burden of an unexpected inheritance (appropriately enough, a bookshop) that will put an end to his dreams of travelling the world. His Cambridge chum, the rich, charismatic and predatory Tyler (Apolline is an apt description his "atavistic" nature) has put him on to a good thing - he can stay in a room of an acquaintance's empty apartment in the Rue Laugier in Paris (for people like me who love to know if a place really exists, yes it does, in the 17th arrondissement near Place des Ternes). Then comes another invitation from Tyler - to join him at another house near Meaux. And it is at La Gaillarderie near Meaux that Maud is visiting her aunt and falls for... Well, I'm not going to give that away, am I?! 

There are a number of familiar threads running through this novel - the main characters possess a great deal of reserve (Edward "would not be adverse to celibacy"; Maud has inherited her mother's "natural hauteur"; she desires her "prelapsarian integrity"), both are trapped by a need to maintain a personal, almost physical integrity, and forced to do what is expected rather than enter into risk (risk is such a point of vulnerability in a Brookner). Hope must always be sacrificed to reality. Passion is to be sacrificed to respectability. Silence replaces communication. Love cannot save one from loneliness.
They were not marrying for love, whatever he might think. She had only to glance across the table and meet his unhappy smile to understand that. They were marrying because of one false step, one regrettable encounter, one shared shock; they were marrying because their lives were already going wrong, because they understood how and when they had gone wrong, because events that had taken place in the rue Laugier had bound them together, while at the same time making them incapable of explaining those events, and their prehistory, to a third party.
This is such an interesting quotation for me, because of what I have thus far omitted to tell you about the structure of the book. At the beginning and the end of the book, Brookner provides a framing device that overarches the narrative -- of Maud and Edward's daughter packing away her late mother's possessions and finding a notebook:
The notebook was old, slightly bent at the corner, the pages stuck together. There were only a few notations, apparently written on the same day. 'Dames Blanches. La Gaillarderie. Place des Ternes. Sang. Edward.' Further down the same page, and written with a different pen, a recipe for Sauce mousseline. Then a short list of book titles. Last of all Proust's opening line: 'Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.'
The daughter contemplates the impossibility "that a life could be covered by those so brief notations" -- this lack of knowledge is "frustrating": "Something predated me, and I had no idea what it was." What is this mysterious, missing "prehistory", from which the daughter is excluded, given that the "indelible" nature of her parents' histories is also an indelible part of who she is today? She wants their memories:
And the lives of those we love must hold some meaning for us, and if that meaning is withheld, who can blame the survivor for his or her curiosity, even if that curiosity holds as much mourning as celebration?
And, so, the reader comes to understand that the lives s/he has followed may well be "fantasy", the product of a self-proclaimed unreliable narrator; and this adds another level of uneasiness to the narrative itself. For it is, I think, an uneasy read when one remembers the structure and starts to think about who is really narrating these events: then the hints of sexual aggression, the strangely angry silences, the sense of entrapment take on other, darker shades of meaning. And how do we feel about recreating a parent's life when they've deliberately revealed nothing?

There's another little joy to be found in the text -- references to books. Apart from Proust -- of immense importance and likely the key to this book -- we are offered an image of the ideal European lady transposed to England reading "her Elizabeth Bowen and her Rosamond Lehmann and her Elizabeth Taylor". And Edward, owner of a bookshop, brings his wife home books with women's names:

Out of a delicate feeling for his wife, the feeling that subsisted when all others seemed stale and crude, he concentrated on French books, putting on one side for her books with the names of women, La Cousine Bette, or La Petite Fadette, or Germinie Lacerteux, books he thought suitable to her frail composure, having forgotten what quiet horrors such titles concealed...
I've gone on a bit longer than I anticipated, as I always think I need to defend Brookner from her detractors who note how little happens, how literary everyone is, how much the heroines needs a kick, how everyone seems a good twenty to forty years behind the times (there's sex, post-natal depression and aeroplanes in here you people!!). But what about how limpidly beautiful are her sentences, how quietly insightful and incisive her descriptions, how brilliantly constructed her narratives [and so on!]? I suspect that this particular Brookner will not convert anyone, but I came to think that it might be one of her best. 

Thanks to Ali for hosting Brookner in July and to Karen & Tamara for hosting Paris in July. I've thoroughly enjoyed this month of reading.

{READ IN 2017}

  • 102.
  • 101.
  • 100.
  • 99. Spy - Bernard Newman
  • 98. Cargo of Eagles - Margery Allingham & Philip Youngman Carter
  • 97. The Mind Readers - Margery Allingham
  • OCTOBER
  • 96. The China Governess - Margery Allingham
  • 95. Hide My Eyes - Margery Allingham
  • 94. The Beckoning Lady - Margery Allingham
  • 93. The Tiger in the Smoke - Margery Allingham
  • 92. More Work for the Undertaker - Margery Allingham
  • SEPTEMBER
  • 91. Coroner's Pidgin - Margery Allingham
  • 90. Traitor's Purse - Margery Allingham
  • 89. The Fashion in Shrouds - Margery Allingham
  • 88. The Case of the Late Pig - Margery Allingham
  • 87. Dancers in Mourning - Margery Allingham
  • AUGUST
  • 86. Flowers for the Judge - Margery Allingham
  • 85. Death of a Ghost - Margery Allingham
  • 84. Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
  • 83. Police at the Funeral - Margery Allingham
  • 82. Look to the Lady - Margery Allingham
  • 81. Mystery Mile - Margery Allingham
  • 80. The Crime at Black Dudley - Margery Allingham
  • 79. The White Cottage Mystery - Margery Allingham
  • 78. Murder Underground - Mavis Doriel Hay
  • 77. No Man's Land - David Baldacci
  • 76. The Escape - David Baldacci
  • 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]