Is it really the middle of November already? Does it feel like November? Is it really only 6 weeks until Christmas? Well, that may just mean I’ll need to pick out a shortlist of Seasonal reads for next week’s update.
In the meantime, I spent this week with some fascinating books:
First off, I took part in a buddy read of Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day (1919), which was fun and made reading the book much easier.
I have a love/hate relationship with Woolf’s work. Her style in Night and Day is absolutely readable, no issue there, but there is no plot. And without anything to move this forward, it feels like the characters are stuck in an endless loop, and I as the reader am stuck with them.
I’ll still need to gather my thoughts on what Woolf has done here but this book, too, follows the trend of “I love her ideas but didn’t enjoy reading the book”. Even though I really liked the first third, the story and writing became stale after that point, and by the end I could not wait to finish it…and join the characters’ final valediction of “Good night!”.
I also re-read J. Jefferson Fajeon’s Thirteen Guests (1936). It is my favourite Farjeon mystery and on re-reading, I still really like it. However, my reasons for liking it have changed. (Well, I still love one element the same as on my first read, but the other one changed.)
This time around I also noticed how much of a plodding police story it is. It put me off a little. However, the discussion of Anne’s part in the story and the way that the Chinese character was handled made up for it. I.e. it was refreshing to see that Farjeon included a character as a fully fleshed-out person rather than a stereotype and that he is treated as a person by the other characters. Sadly, this is not the norm for mysteries of this age. I also still love Nadine, and the fact that Farjeon bucked a trend in this book with respect to having the protagonists drift into a soppy romance.
Next up, I finished Henrietta Who? (1968) by Catherine Aird. I only discovered Aird earlier this year but can already say that I like her style very much. The stories are simple murder mysteries written in the style of the Golden Age crime novels, and for the most part ignoring the time of writing (60s and 70s) but not quite – Aird doesn’t copy the old fashioned attitudes, so dialogue in Airds books is quite fun. There is nothing deep to contemplate in this story other than what struck me most was that Aird’s take on the issue of adoption was approached very differently from what I have been used to in Agatha Christie’s books, where adoption was mostly stigmatised. It was refreshing to see this changed. Other than this, Henrietta Who? was a solid and straight-forward mystery and exactly the right thing to relax with.
Earlier today I finished Doktor Murkes gesammeltes Schweigen (1958), a satire by Heinrich Böll. I haven’t read Böll in years, but reading this short novella about an attempt to revise history and some fun quirks of the German language gave me an appetite to revisit more of his works. I have a couple of his short story collections at hand and will probably pick them up in the next few months.
The best read this week, however, has been Rosamond Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz (1932).
I penned a short review of it (see link below).
Count me as one of Lehmann’s fans. I think her writing style and skills are fantastic. It is hard to explain, but I definitely want to read everything she’s written
Other reviews posted this week:
Rosamond Lehmann: Invitation to the Waltz
Cheri – Colette
Buying Time – E. M. Brown
Death by Shakespeare – Kathryn Harkup
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson – Laura Beers
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)