I very rarely ever do not finish, but the opportunity costs of continuing this pretentious piece of ……… with its little boy humor…The year of the adult depend undergarments…wink, wink, snicker, snicker… are just too great. No point, rapidly becoming dated, self indulgent…I’ll stop here..The fact the book makes a list entitled Hipster Life Recommendations says it all.
This book is a Mann Booker Award winner and weighs in at a hefty 800+ pages. It is shelved in most locales as “literary fiction”, however at the heart it is a mystery. I could spend some time railing at the hypocrisy of literary fiction “types” swooping in and grabbing up books that are mysteries, while at the same time pooh-poohing genre fiction and its readers, but that has been done and by much better writers than me.
I was intrigued by this because of several reasons, it won a prestigious literary award while being a mystery, it was appearing on blogs and bookshelves everywhere, and it genuinely sounded like an interesting story. I found a copy at my library book sale for $1 so I picked it up gratefully.
The premise is Walter Moody arrives in a small isolated mining town in 1866. He finds himself in a room with 12 men where the tension is evident. It was a dark and stormy night… and a man walks into a bar… all rolled into one. One by one, the men tell him their stories and the events unfold. (Why would they even do this, is my first question?) The main plot surrounds an isolated hermit, Crosbie Wells, who is murdered and a whore found beaten and drugged on the roadside. From these simple ideas a twisting tale evolves that includes stolen identities, theft, murder, prostitutes and pimps, smuggling, and astrology, lots and lots of astrology. Sounds exciting, right?…
Not so much, I really feel that I will be in a small minority here but I didn’t find this book extraordinary or even engaging. I really had to push my way through it. The 12 men are based on their astrological signs for their characters, there really is not an incredible difference between them and when you find one that engages you, it is time to move on to the next one and start again. There is a huge amount of “telling” and then eventually some showing about each character.
The author presupposes that everyone has a knowledge of astrology rather more than the occasional reading your horoscope in the newspaper. There is a “mystical” element of characters being linked by their accidents of birth, which is explicitly told to you but then makes huge leaps. There is also no development of a sense of place, I would think that such an interesting setting would be fully developed so that the reader could immerse themselves. Think about a gold rush town in New Zealand in 1866, as a reader I would expect to be able to feel the rush of the water, sense the desperation in the miners, experience the “gold fever” of the prospectors as they arrive, the heat, the dirt, the beauty of the pristine (unmined) Maori lands…but no, we get none of that. I had other really specific issues but it would be telling the book over again so I will stop here.
Color me significantly underwhelmed. My biggest issue is the opportunity cost of reading this book. I am a relatively fast reader (unless I am not engaged) and in the time it took me to read this, I could have read several other books from the teetering tower by my bed. This book seems to contribute to the “big book” theme that is floating around. I am concerned that young authors like Ms. Catton are feeling that for their book to be “important” it needs to be big and that is such a false idea. At around 300 or so pages in length, this would have been a better book.
I’d welcome any thoughts!
This is Whodunnit Wedneday, if you’d like to join in just grab the picture and post on your blog putting your link in the comments below! The theme this week is Gone Girl clones or the marketing of books that way. I thought about that as I read The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, one of the many books marketed or talked about as “for fans of Gone Girl”>
This is the next in a long line of books that are being trumpeted as the next Gone Girl. It seems that every book with a dysfunctional marriage and some twist surrounding the murder is labeled Gone Girl-esque. I think this is getting to be pretty lazy marketing, just a way to tag on to the Gone Girl money train.
This book is only like Gone Girl in that it is a psychological story with a damaged husband and wife and that infidelity seems to be a catalyst for the events in the story. The similarites really end there. Jodi is a stay at home wife and part time therapist, who is floating around in a whole wide ocean of denial. Todd, her husband, is a self made man who works hard and now feels entitled to what he wants, including a mistress. Both of these characters have tunnel vision and although they spend a lot of time in their own heads, they don’t really spend that time analyzing how their actions and inactions impact others. In fact, they seem shocked by some of the outcomes of their actions, that anyone else would have seen coming.
There is a murder and a twist. There is no real sense of closure, but that echoes what often happens in real life. Real life is messy and often doesn’t have nice neat endings. Well written with strong characters, who are fully developed, if flawed, this is a good read for fans of Gone Girl 😉 if they go into it not expecting a carbon copy and for psychological mystery fans.
So, what do you think about the Gone Girl phenomenon in book advertising? Over done or not? Do you pick up books advertised as the next Gone Girl?
This was a fascinating non-fiction turn by P.D. James. In this book, she discusses the genre of detective fiction, the Golden Age of Mystery Writing, the “rules” of detective fiction, the rise of the hard boiled detectives, prominent female writers, and then individual components, setting, viewpoint and people. In particular she discusses that genre fiction has a place in writing just as literary fiction does.
We can honour and celebrate the genius which produced Middlemarch, War and Peace, and Ulysses without devaluing Treasure Island, The Moonstone, and the The Inimitable Jeeves. The detective story at its best can stand in such company…
If the references are anything to go by, then P.D. James was a huge fan of Dorothy Sayers, particularly Gaudy Night. She mentions a virtual who’s who of mystery fiction throughout the book. Some of the authors mentioned include:
- Agatha Christie (of course)
- Margery Allingham
- Dorothy Sayers
- Ngaio Marsh
- Wilkie Collins
- Arthur Conan Doyle
- G.K. Chesterton
- Josephine Tey
- Dashiell Hammett
- Raymond Chandler
- Colin Dexter
- Reginald Hill
- Ruth Rendell
This was a fascinating glimpse into P.D. James thoughts about detective fiction. In particular, I would note the concept of traditional detective fiction as bringing order back from chaos. I would recommend this to crime fiction readers and anyone interested in writing.
I was nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award by Ajoobacats found here. Thank you!
In keeping with the award, here are 7 facts about me:
- I love to cook and bake.
- I teach math for a living.
- I love to read mystery novels.
- Autumn is my favorite season.
- The original Angry Grey Cat developed renal failure and had to be put to sleep a couple months ago.
- I am an introvert and really enjoy time at home.
- I have been playing with ideas for writing my own mystery novel for quite a while.
I nominate the following bloggers:
- Ronnie reads and Reviews https://ronniereadsandreviews.wordpress.com/
- Always with a book http://alwayswithabook.blogspot.com/
- Becky’s Book Reviews http://blbooks.blogspot.com/
- A Live Bound by Books http://alifeboundbybooks.blogspot.com/
- A Literary Odyssey http://www.aliteraryodyssey.blogspot.com/
- Crime Fiction Lover http://www.crimefictionlover.com/
- Ciska’s Book Chest http://mybookchest.blogspot.nl/
These are all blogs that I check in with and read regularly, usually through Bloglovin’.
I recently read a P.D. James book that was #14 in the Adam Dalgliesh series and really enjoyed it so I decided to start the series from the beginning. Cover Her Face is book 1 in the series and it is a very traditional Agatha Christie-esque style mystery, locked room, secluded manor house, upstairs-downstairs tensions, a victim with many enemies, questionable alibis for many of the suspects and the parlour reveal scene at the end. This book is definitely a example of the classism and morality of the time as the plot centers around an unwed mother, whom the lady of the manor has graciously given a position in her household to that includes room and board and allows her son to be with her. The attitudes towards unwed mothers and public (taxpayer’s) support of them actually become the topic of a somewhat heated dinner table discussion.
This was a good classic mystery, well written and plotted. I didn’t know the culprit until the end and it was somewhat of a surprise to me. While I preferred The Private Patient, this was still very good.
Undead with Archie Vol. 8 is part of a series that I am reading based on the Archie comics of my youth. I really appreciate the combination of nostalgia from my youth and zombies. It is very well done and the artwork is compatible with the originals but with an updated feel. In this edition, Archie contemplates the events so far in their escape from Riverdale as the survivors attempt to celebrate Christmas. I am definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes. Any adult fans of the original Archie comics and The Walking Dead should give these a try.
I have been reading the graphic novel series Fables. Today I finished volumes 3 and 4. These were different from the first two in that there seemed to be some more distinct storylines. Many of the same characters are revisited, Snow White, Rose Red, Bigby, Bluebeard, Flycatcher, and Prince Charming. Sleeping Beauty has a pivotal storyline that was a very good play on her original curse.
In these books Fabletown faces more adversity from the outside and the fables must band together to save their homes and themselves. Meanwhile, there are also changes afoot from the inside and a surprisingly powerful ally appears.
I am really enjoying this series with its many references to fairy tales, fables and legends from a variety of cultures. I would recommend this to adult fans of plays on fairy tales. There is sex and violence both in these books.
I picked this up at a library book sale. I have not read Elizabeth George before, but I am aware of her long running series with Inspector Lynley. This is actually not a mystery really. I would just call it a crime novel. Apparently in the previous book in the series Inspector Lynley’s wife is killed and this book tells the story of the killer’s life leading up to the event that takes her life.
The killer is Joel a young orphan with an out of control older sister, an overwhelmed aunt, who they live with, and a younger brother who is supposed to be autistic from the descriptions. Joel tries to do everything to take care of his ragged family and survive in a world of drugs, prostitutes, bullies and crime. Unfortunately, his best is not enough. This book explores statements about class and race and social inequities that are not “fun” to read about. It opens up the discussion of choice and how things such as one’s race, wealth, or other accident of birth limit choices sometimes to the point that there are no good ones.
Although this was not what I was expecting (I thought it was going to be a mystery), it was well written and the author did a particularly good job with the character’s voices, speaking street language in a way that seemed natural and not contrived. I do think that a reader would benefit from at the least being familiar with the series, if not having read the directly preceding book.
A meme for mystery readers, just grab a hold and then post your link in the comments below.
I have read a few mysteries in the last couple days including Drop Dead Chocolate, Demise in Denim and Brighton Belle.
Drop Dead Chocolate is in the Donut Shop Mystery Series. I have been reading this series for a little while but I am nowhere near caught up. I really enjoy it though and so I am sure that I will eventually. The characters are engaging and more realistic than in some cozies that I read. The plot kept me interested throughout and I didn’t know exactly who did it until the end so that was fun. A good read for cozy mystery fans!
Demise in Denim is the 5th book in the Consignment shop mystery series. This is a series I have followed since the beginning. I picked up this one and felt lost and couldn’t understand why. It appears that there was a book 4 released, Dead Man Walker, a short story really at 71 pages, as an ebook only, that prefaced the events in book 5. I usually buy my cozies as paperbacks because I have a group of friends that I trade with so I guess that is how I missed book 4 and besides that I generally don’t buy short stories. I am not sure how I really feel about this. I definitely did not enjoy this as much as the other books in the series, but now that the case is resolved I don’t really want to buy the ebook short story.
Brighton Belle is a historical fiction set in England, Brighton to be exact a few years after World War II. The character of Mirabella Bevin is an ex sercret service employee, probably made redundant after the war who now works for a debt collector. In pursuing a debtor, she uncovers circumstances that don’t quite seem right to her and set her on the path to investigating far beyond the scope of debt collection. Along the way she picks up a sidekick, Vesta, who is a lot of fun, and loses a boss. Some backstory about Mirabella is revealed that adds depth to her character and explains her life a little. For some reason, this had a very Phrynee Fisher feel to me and would proablbly make quite an entertaining TV show, even moreso than a book.
So, thinking of Brighton Belle, I was wondering what TV mysteries that started as books you watch and is the book better or the TV show?
Personally, I like the TV show for Miss FIsher’s Murder Mysteries better than the books. It just seems to really come to life, perhaps it is because the actress is so perfectly suited?
On the other hand, Hamish Macbeth books by MC Beaton are so much better than the TV show ever was!
This is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week is Top 10 books we’d love to see as movies/TV shows. Here are mine, in no particular order:
1, Lynnwood – English Folk Horror that would make an excellent movie.
2. Too Big to Miss – I would love to see this with Brooke Elliott as the star
3. The Last Policeman series would be a great mini series.
4. The Great God Pan – classic horror
5. Inspector Erlendur Series – Nordic Noir
6. The Lewis Trilogy – set on the Isle of Lewis and dark and melancholy series along the lines of Vera and Broadchurch
7. The Spellman Files – really funny crime solving. I’d love to see it made into a TV series.
8. Department Q series – dark, quirky humor with an eccentric cast of characters would make a great TV series
9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – I’d love to see this as a movie.
10. The Dixie Hemingway cozy mystery series, this is well written and the protagonist Dixie Hemingway shows true growth through the course of the series.