Another great reading week.
The Winter Ghosts (2010) by Kate Mosse
I was delighted with Kate Mosses contribution to the Marple: Twelve New Mysteries and so was a fellow Marple reader, so we decided on a buddy read of one of Mosse’s other books. The Winter Ghosts was this book. I was a little apprehensive about this because I had DNF’d the only other book by Mosse I had attempted in the past (The Taxidermist’s Daughter), but The Winter Ghosts had a promising setting in the inter-war years in Southern France and dealing with potential ghosts haunting the main character, Freddie. I really enjoyed this exploration of loss, grief, mental health, and the descriptions people trying to heal from the trauma of the First World War.
I loved that Mosse gives an insight into what it may have been like to live in a society where grief and loss were idolised rather than questioned, where nervous breakdowns would see someone hospitalised but not given the right care and treatment, where the understanding of psychological phenomena was still in its infancy. I was reminded a lot of Pat Barker’s Regeneration novels about the experimental treatment of shell-shocked soldiers during WWI where doctors (led by William Rivers) tried to help the patients by talking about their experience and creating an opportunity for a kind of catharsis.
In a way, Freddie’s telling of his story to both Saurat and later in more detail to Fabrissa seemed to me to be exactly the same as the talking cure of Rivers and his fellow psychoanalysts. By getting his fears and frustrations off his chest, and by finding another purpose in life through his encounter with Fabrissa, Freddie gets the chance to confront his depression. Of course, I won’t say how he does so or whether this is successful, because telling would be a spoiler. However, I really liked how confronting and comparing Freddie’s environment and experience with that of another age showed that pain and suffering brought on by war is nothing new, and that unfortunately the causes of war are not so different through the ages either.
I also liked learning about the history of the Cathars, the inquisition, and the religious persecutions in the Languedoc region of France, which was entirely new to me.
Evil Under the Sun (1941) by Agatha Christie
This was a re-read. I saw that Evil Under the Sun was this months book for the Appointment with Agatha group on GR, and felt I really wanted to revisit the Christie-verse.
I know that Evil Under the Sun is not everyone’s favourite, but I love it. I love the premise, I love the solution, and all of the characters. Yes, my liking of this story does probably stem from the watching the film adaptation (Peter Ustinov) countless times as a kid, and then loving the story even more when discovering that the book was very different from the 70s film and adoring the Suchet adaptation for being much closer to the book.
For this re-read, I had the audiobook narrated by David Suchet. I don’t know how I had not noticed it before, but his reading of one of Mrs Gardner was very close to his performance of Mrs Hubbard in Murder on the Orient Express and I laughed hard.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (1940) by Agatha Christie
This was a another re-read. Again, this was inspired by Appointment with Agatha group on GR, who picked this as their January read.
I adore this book. Yes, it is quite sterile and clinical and almost minimalist and quite dour, but I love the darkness of it. I love how Christie, in the midst of another world war, explores the principles of whether a murder can be justified, and whether the life of one person is worth more than that of another.
To me, this is what makes this book one of my favourites. No frills, just that one central question.
It’s not the first or only time that Christie puts this in her novels, but I guess, the way it is done here with the background of international banking, Blackshirts, and a looming war, just makes it a poignant book.
Daughters of Night (2021) by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
I bought this on a whim as the premise sounded quite good and there was every chance of this story drawing me in to explore 1780s London.
However, I DNF’d this book about 20% into the story. I just could no longer put up with the silliness of the main character and an utterly romanticised view of prostitution in Georgian London of 1782. It’s one thing to give women a voice in an era when such were mostly unheard (with few exceptions in the higher strata of society), but it is another when this turns into what I can only describe as a fantasy.
Of course, timing does not help this book. Any work of historical fiction will suffer from me reading it so close after finishing a novel by Penman. Still, I expected better.
Other reviews posted this week:
When Christ and His Saints Slept (Plantagenets #1)- Sharon Kay Penman
Time and Chance (Plantagenets #2)- Sharon Kay Penman
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)
The Best Detective Stories – Cyril Hare
Lady Joker, Vol. 1 – Kaoru Takamura
And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon: Essential Stories – Nicolai Gogol
Rebel Writers: Seven Women Who Changed Their World – Celia Brayfield
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree – Shookofeh Azar