I was aware during 2019 that my reading experiences weren’t reaching the highs that other years have. I put it down to me being disgruntled about things in general, but mainly the news in the UK and elsewhere. I read fewer books than I had since joining Goodreads, but still more than my Goodreads Challenge which was 100, I read 111. I thought that maybe I had actually read more pages as quite a lot of my reading seems to have been of chunksters, but no – I read fewer pages than ever before, but that was still 32,492 pages. Oh well, who cares, it isn’t a race! If you’re interested you can look at the books I read here.
I read 39 books by male authors and 72 by female authors (unusual for me as it usually inadvertently ends up being a fairly even score.)
Books by Scottish authors – 22 (must do better)
Books supposedly for children – 14
Vintage crime – 8 (must be the lowest ever and could be the source of my reading woes)
classics – 21
contemporary crime – 6
non-fiction – 14
books in translation – 8
historical fiction – 14
The book that most disappointed me was (it might be a shock to some) One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s a complete mystery to me why that book is so popular.
Despite moaning about it being a bad year reading wise for me there were several that I felt really lucky to have found.
I loved Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety.
Also Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series.
I read some Edna O’Brien books and wondered why I left off reading her for about 30 years.
I loved reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm
Hmm, maybe it wasn’t such a bad year for books after all. How was your reading year?
Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs is a book that I’ve had for some time and I just realised last week that for some reason I hadn’t read it, I usually read these British Library Crime Classics as soon as I get them. George Bellairs was the nom de plume of Harold Blundell a bank manager in Heywood, Rochdale.
Miss Tither lives in the village of Hilary Magna and she sees it as her duty to keep all the villagers on the straight and narrow. It’s presumed that she spends her time creeping around in the dark, keeking in at windows, gathering information on her neighbours, with a view to haranging them about any perceived misdemeanours, almost always of the sexual kind. Don’t go courting in the woods when she’s around as she’ll be demanding that you and your ‘click’ get married, and handing you a religious tract! As you can imagine she’s a very unpopular woman, so when she ends up dead, obviously murdered, there’s no obvious culprit.
Enter Inspector Littlejohn of Scotland Yard. He has been a bit of a countryman in the past and he understands the ways of a small village and the sometimes oddly matched couples. This book is a lot more than a simple murder mystery and for me it’s always a big plus that the original victim is so nasty as to be almost deserving of their end.
The book was first published in 1942 but there’s not an awful lot of the wartime ambience in it. In fact there is a very popular tearoom mentioned, a place where ‘ladies lunch’ and the descriptions of all the (unlikely) wonderful goodies available to eat there did make me think of those lists of almost certainly unobtainable edibles that pop up in many books of those rationed days, such as the Enid Blyton midnight feasts and the C.S. Lewis Narnia books with groaning tables full of food, and of course not forgetting someone selling their soul for some Turkish Delight! I suppose if you couldn’t obtain the goodies to eat the next best thing is to dream up that you can have them, wishful thinking.
Anyway, I enjoyed this one, and the cover which comes from a British Railways 1930s advert for Suffolk.
I hope that 2020 will be a happy, healthy and peaceful year for us all.
Meanwhile, if you’re in need of something to cheer you up, why not have a look at the short You Tube video below featuring some scenic railway journeys. I’ve been on the steam train journey and apart from the gorgeous scenery it’s also fun to wave back at all the people along the way who stop to admire and wave at the train.
I heard on the radio during the week that Scotland is still the destination that most people want to visit. It makes me realise how lucky I am to live here!
How many times have I watched the 1951 film The African Queen? I have no idea, but there are definitely bits of it that I could act myself, you’re probably the same. Anyway, I hadn’t realised that it was based on a book by C.S. Forester which was published in 1935 so when I saw the book in an Edinburgh secondhand bookshop recently I snapped it up.
I really enjoyed reading this book but all the way through I was comparing it with the film, and as a fan of Humphrey Bogart for me the film just pips the book. In the book the character of Allnutt is a whining cockney, so there was just no way that he was going to trump the character of the Bogie version of Allnutt. The setting is of course German East Africa during World War 1.
There are quite a lot of differences in the storyline, because I suppose that the early 1950s film industry wasn’t going to shock their audiences with a Katherine Hepburn in the shape of Rose (sister of a missionary) who very quickly has a sexual relationship with Allnutt as she does in the book. I don’t recall that in the film Rose realises that she had always been under the thumb of either her father or brother and had never been able to make decisions for herself. She found freedom with the death of her brother who had been a miserably strict Christian missionary.
There’s a lot in the film which is faithful to the book, the whole journey in The African Queen is as it was in the book, until close to the end which is very different, but the ending would definitely not have got past the prudish sensibilities of the times. I prefer the book’s ending. The writing makes it so easy to imagine the surroundings, even if you hadn’t seen the film I think. The film features large African animals, just because they could I suppose, but they don’t appear in the book which sticks to the mosquitoes and leeches which are shudderingly horrible enough.
Several times Rose is described as being only slightly below Charlie (Allnutt) socially, something which was important at the time I suppose, but in the film she seems so superior. For once I found the film more enjoyable than the book, and not just for Humphrey Bogart!
You can see a short trailer for the film below, if you’re interested.
The result of The Classics Club Spin number 22 was announced on Monday and it’s 13 which means I’ll be reading Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff.
I’m happy about that as I enjoy Sutcliff’s writing, but such is life and my book piles the book has been languishing here unread for a long time. Previously I’ve mainly read her books which were aimed at children, but this one is for adults. The setting is the English Civil War, or as it is more accurately called nowadays, The Wars of the Three Kingdoms as it all spilled over into Scotland and Ireland too.
If you’re taking part in this spin I hope you were lucky enough to get something you’re looking forward to reading too.
When I read the blurb on the back of Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen I had real qualms about actually getting down to reading the book as it seemed like a nightmare to me – what do you think?
At first the prisoner scratches at the walls until her fingers bleed. But there is no escaping the room. With no way of measuring time, her days, weeks, months go unrecorded. She vows not to go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. She will die first.
But I had requested it from the library, meaning to use it as part of the 2019 European Reading Challenge, and more importantly my blogpal had really enjoyed it – so I gritted my teeth and got stuck into it.
The action swings between 2002 when Merete Lynggaard a high profile politician disappears from a ferry, and 2007 when detective Carl Morck goes back to work after being involved in a traumatic case which involved the death of one of his colleagues and paralysis of another. Carl isn’t popular with his other colleagues and so he’s made head of a new department which is housed in the basement of police headquarters. Ostensibly Department Q has been set up to re-investigate cold cases, but it’s really just to keep Carl out of the way. He’s allocated another member of staff to help him, Assad is an Iraqi refugee who turns out to be a lot more useful than at first suspected.
The premise of this book was for me devilishly fiendish, but then I hate the thought of basements and the possibility of being stuck in one, but amazingly I really enjoyed the book and particularly the character of Assad, this is the first book in a series and I’ll be reading more of them, for one thing I want to know more about Assad’s background.
You can read what TracyK of Bitter Tea and Mystery thought of the book here. Mercy is published in the US under the title The Keeper of Lost Causes.
I’ve talked about book inscriptions here before. I love to read the inscriptions in the secondhand books that I buy, but I never write in books myself. I just can’t bring myself to do it, although before I got married I used to write my name inside my books and even used pretty book plates at one time. Marriage cured me of that, I think it was probably something to do with the change of name! I’ve often thought about using post it notes to stick on books, just with my name and maybe the place and date that I bought it, but haven’t got around to actually doing that. But I would never write in a book that I was giving to someone, in fact I probably wouldn’t give a book as a gift unless I knew for certain the person wanted it.
Anyway, in last week’s Guardian Review section there’s an article by Elle Hunt about book giving and inscriptions and you can read it here.
Otherwise I’m probably just like you at the moment only more so as I also have Jack’s Christmas Eve birthday to think about. I suspect that it’s only the imminent arrival of visitors, even the family kind, that makes me get stuck into the housework. I’d rather read!
The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham was first published in 1938 but my copy is a hardback reprint from 1940 and has 437 pages. It was so much more pleasant a reading experience compared with the vintage Penguin crime Allingham editions that I usually read.
I had a look at some reviews of this book on Goodreads and it comes in for quite a bit of flak from some readers for being misogynistic. I read it from a different angle and had a good laugh at a lot of it, which I’m sure was intended by Allingham. Quite often the ‘mysoginistic’ comments are made by other women and used to be called plain bitchy. Apart from anything else, this book features the lovely red headed and smart Amanda who eventually married Campion and in my opinion leads to him becoming a far more rounded character – she improved her man, just as many a good woman does I’m sure.
It also features Valentine, Albert Campion’s sister. She’s working as a designer in a London couturier’s, she’s talented and very well-connected, exactly what is needed to attract well-heeled clients to the business. When one of her special designs for Georgia Wells a famous actress is stolen it kicks off series of events that need Campion’s attention. Georgia Wells is one of those women that should come with DANGEROUS TO MEN stamped on her forehead. She enjoys the adoration of men and is more than happy to steal the men of her friends, particularly Val’s man – and rub their noses in it. You can just about hear Campion’s teeth grinding, and Georgia’s husband is none too pleased either.
Then there’s a string of murders, but fear not as Campion sorts it all out of course.
This did remind me of a storyline in The House of Elliot which was a series revolving around a fashion house in London owned by two sisters. I loved it when it was on TV in the 1980s but when I saw an episode of it not that long ago it seemed quite stilted and also ‘hammy’. Acting styles often change over the years I suppose.
Anyway, back to the book – it has put me in the mood to read more by Allingham and I’ll have to have a look and see what I still have of hers – unread.
This is my first year of participating in the 2019 European Reading Challenge which is hosted by Gilion @ Rose City Reader
This is my wrap up post but I never did get around to posting any of these review links at Rose City Reader. I’ve enjoyed doing this challenge although I joined up fairly late in the year, with the aim of getting me out of my usual reading comfort zone. In fact I think I got mixed up between this challenge and something else as I had it in my mind that the books should have been originally written in another language – but I was wrong about that. Anyway, it’s just a bit of fun so – here goes.