This was the 4th week of Halloween Bingo and it is still a lot of fun. Again, as the game will continue until the end of October, or at least until I complete reading books for all of my squares, my reading will mostly focus on books that respond to the bingo tasks. No bingo yet, but things are coming together. I have updated my bingo card here.
Most of this week – the working week part – has been insanely busy, so reading or listening to an audiobook during the day was out of the question, but what time I had for reading outside of work hours was dedicated to three truly splendid books – all of which have – by pure coincidence – beautiful black and white covers:
My first book was a re-read of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Views the Body, a collection of short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The stories were first published in 1928 but some were written as early as 1921 (“The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran”), i.e. even before the publication of Whose Body?. I think it shows in the quality of the stories, but then I am somewhat harsh in my assessment here because I am comparing Sayers’ early stories to the mastery of Sayers’ later stories. And that is just a very high bar to meet. Anyway, I managed to jot down a few thoughts about the stories here.
My second main read this week was Caitlin Davies’ Bad Girls: A History of Rebels and Renegades, which focused on the history of Holloway Prison, some of his inmates, and the changing attitudes to women’s incarceration in the UK.
When I started this book, it had all the hallmarks of a 5* read for me. HOWEVER, … the information that Davies presents as fact about the Finchley Baby Farmers is entirely different to the information that I am familiar with about the case and – after a short Google-fu episode – also doesn’t tie up with the information that is available on the net.
Now, I know that Wikipedia cannot be trusted, but I found Davies’ portrayal of the story of Sach and Walters to be unreliable because she maintained that the women were convicted because of the death of only one child whereas the description of the trial indicates that there was evidence to suggest the number of victims may have been closer to twenty.
There is a definite disconnect here and it irked me.
I also was not convinced by the referencing, or rather lack of. There is referencing, but for example, not a lot of sources are cited for the chapter on the Finchley Baby Farmers.
Still, despite my misgivings, I ended up thoroughly engrossed in the book. There was an aspect to it that I much appreciated, and which reminded me of Caroline Criado Perez’ book Invisible Women: that women’s prisons were largely designed around the management of male prisoners. I hope to write a more in-depth review of the book later but I can already say that apart from my initial disappointment (and the resulting doubts about the veracity of some of the facts in the book) I would very much recommend the book for some of the questions it raises and for a general history of Holloway Prison, the Suffragettes, and some of the most notable criminal cases in England involving women.
Lastly, I finished Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley Under Ground earlier today. This has been a much-anticipated and much-loved buddy read as part of the Halloween Bingo game.
I love Highsmith’s work and there are not a lot of her titles left for me to discover. However, I had so far stayed away from the Ripley sequels after accidentally picking up the last in the series (The Boy Who Followed Ripley) and very much regretting it.
I won’t say too much about Ripley Under Ground as I also hope to write a more comprehensive review next week, but I can say that I enjoyed the book for Highsmith’s writing, her sense of irony, and for some of the characters, even tho the plot of this one was … full of questionable turns.
Other reviews posted this week:
Michael Gilbert: Death Has Deep Roots