A little later than I hoped for, but life has just been busy this weekend. This also explains why this is a rather short update.
My main read last week was Charles Kingston’s Murder in Piccadilly (1936), which is one of the mysteries rediscovered as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. As with all series, some books are better than others.
Murder in Piccadilly had great promise and I really enjoyed the first half of the story which set up the victim and the potential culprit and then took an unusual twist to really make this an unusual story.
However, I don’t know what happened at the half-way mark. The book completely lost any interesting plot development at that point.
As I said, this story had a really good start with a lot possibilities for plot and character development, but no. Oh, no, at the half-way mark it seemed that the author gave up on original ideas and decided to indulge in one of my most-hated tropes: psychological musings of the heroic and so-much-smarter-than-everybody Scotland Yard inspector.
The last 50% were so boring and uninspired that I hoped the MC would have a mental breakdown and go on a killing spree just to end the book.
Oh, and as for the actual ending….I saw that one coming as soon as it was mentioned quite early in the first half of the book.
What a disappointment. At least, I can make some space on my shelf now.
My weekend read was a book I had also been looking forward to since I discovered Ursula K. Le Guin’s writing for me. In Lavinia (2007), Le Guin took up historical fiction – or maybe it should be historical fantasy(?) as she based her story on the characters in Virgil’s Aeneid. Not all of the Aenid is retold, but Le Guin’s story is based on Lavinia, who apparently does not get a lot of cover by Virgil but who becomes Aeneas’ third wife and becomes co-founder of the city of Lavinia. I have not read the Aeneid, so I cannot comment on how close the characters are to Virgil’s version.
I really liked that Le Guin went beyond the myth in this one. I loved the idea of a fictional main character, Lavinia, realising she’s a fictional character, and that she was both confined in the poem and at liberty to break out from the poem.
However, I think Le Guin could have done better with the execution of the book (if that was what she was trying to do), but it is what it is.
My main bone of contention with Lavinia was that the real story took forever to get going. It took about 60% of the book to learn about the characters and especially about Lavinia’s entire life’s story. Yes, compelling this was not for much of the first half of the book, and this been by an author I had had less faith in, I might even have DNF’d this book.
I maybe also should have read this before reading Circe, The Silence of the Girls, A Thousand Ships, The Penelopiad, etc. because Lavinia felt like another author’s take on the classic heroes and the unsung women who cared for them.
They say Mars absolves the warrior from the crimes of war, but those who were not the warriors, those for whom the war was said to be fought, even though they never wanted it to be fought, who absolves them?
So, as moving and riveting the second half of the book was, I am not sure Lavinia stands out from the list of other classical retellings.
Other reviews posted this week:
The Doll Factory – Elizabeth Macneal
What I Believe – Bertrand Russell
Flights – Olga Tokarczuk
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson – Laura Beers
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)