Real Life and work and have been really busy, so I have had little time to write update posts. However, I have been reading, so that is good. It’s just that most of my reading time over the last few weeks were taken up by one book…

Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self (2022) by Andrew Wulf

Andrea Wulf has been on my radar since her fantastic biography of Alexander von Humboldt (The Invention of Nature), a book that blew me away. So when a friend suggested reading her latest book about the writers and philosophers based in Jena who became the first Romantics, I was in immediately.

I knew of some of the characters features in this collective biography – Goethe, Schiller, the von Humboldts, the Schlegels. Others like Novalis and Fichte, I had only heard of but never read anything by.

As it turns out, I disliked most of the individuals featured in this biography but curiously this did not lessen my enjoyment of Wulf’s book. I learned a lot and loved reading about the historical setting and politics, and poor Goethe trying to herd a group if immature self-obsessed intellectuals.

Seriously, the dramatics were tedious but Wulf made them relevant and entertaining and I really admire her skill as an author to make this book so highly enjoyable.

The Strange Case of Harriet Hall (1936) by Moray Dalton

I have come to really look forward to Moray Dalton’s books when I am in need of a Golden Age mystery fix. I love her style.

On top of Dalton’s writing, this story was very unusual in that one of the twists was rare in its time. I cannot say too much about it, but I did not see this twist coming.

Another part of the solution to the murders, I did figure out early on, but unlike in other books, I was not enjoying the story less for it because I was too curious whether Dalton would create the psychological background for the characters involved that would make the solution work. She did. I loved it.

I also really enjoyed the variety of characters, the detail in the story, the description of social circumstances, and much more. Yes, the main character may have been very naive, but I still liked Amy as a relatable character.

Something Nasty in the Woodshed (1942) by Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Malleson)

Anthony Gilbert is one of the pseudonyms used by Lucy Malleson, author of the fantastic Portrait of a Murderer. She also wrote the equally entertaining Death in Fancy Dress under the Gilbert pseudonym. I have a few of her other books on my TBR and already downloaded on the kindle because so far they have not disappointed.

I picked this up because of the title. “Something Nasty in the Woodshed” is something I would associate with Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm, where Aunt Ada has been traumatised by an event related to a woodshed and continues to let everyone know about it.

I have no idea whether Gilbert/Malleson made the reference on purpose, or whether this was a happy accident, but the title is very appropriate.

Something else that caught me by surprise was how dark and thrilling this book was. I would almost say this one goes into hard-boiled thriller territory than GA mystery. I loved it. The story was so tense that I found it hard to set the book down and read until the wee hours on Saturday to find out how the story would conclude. I really had no idea what was going to happen. And this leads me to my only criticism about the story – the ending was very weak. Even laughable. Arthur Crook’s antics would not have fooled any hardened criminal and Gilbert/Malleson asked us to suspend our disbelief more than I reasonably could.

Still, I would recommend the book even just for its quirky premise and tense atmosphere and suspense.

The Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare (1956) by Cyril Hare

I guess I really needed some GA comfort over the last couple of weeks. I also wanted to progress with my Deal Me In Challenge, so this collection of Hare’s stories was a great choice. I have a very soft spot for Cyril Hare’s writing and twists that relay on legal detail, and was not disappointed to find that many of the short stories in this collection contained Hare’s typical twists, irony, and moral messaging.

Some of the stories are quite humorous, but some are chilling.

Just a great collection for reading at bedtime.

Other reviews posted this week:


Currently reading:
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)

The Old Drift – Namwali Serpell

Lady Joker, Vol. 1 – Kaoru Takamura

The Breaking Point – Daphne Du Maurier

Rebel Writers: Seven Women Who Changed Their World – Celia Brayfield

Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman – Lucy Worsley