Sunday, 29 March 2015

What I've been reading

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The Heart of the Matter
by Graham Greene
"Scobie is a highly principled officer in a war-torn West African state. When he is passed over for promotion he is forced to borrow money to send his despairing wife away on a holiday. In her absence he falls hopelessly in love with Helen, a young widow, and his life is transformed by the experience."
There's no denying that Mr Greene is a very fine writer. His characters are minutely described, and so real that I can almost understand how a Catholic fears mortal sin. I can see them in my mind's eye, and a pretty unappealing lot they all are. And that's the only problem with this book.


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Moon Tiger
by Penelope Lively
"The elderly Claudia Hampton, a best-selling author of popular history, lies alone in a London hospital bed. Memories of her life still glow in her fading consciousness, but she imagines writing a history of the world. Instead, Moon Tiger is her own history."
I'm puzzled at how good this book is. The narrator is dying. She has lived a full life, and describes some of it. She is not particularly likeable, she has been a poor mother and a challenging individual to friends and family, but for a very brief period during the second world war she is in love, and it is requited, and the reader understands and forgives her the rest.


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Cover Her Face
by P. D. James
"On the same day as the St Cedd's church fete in the grounds of her home, Martingale, Mrs Maxie learns of her son Stephen's engagement. By the next morning, her new parlourmaid, Sally Jupp, is dead."
A proper old school detective story, with clues, suspects, motives, and opportunities to guess the murderer. I thought I had read PD James before, but I don't think I have after all. Maybe I'll try a few more.


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The Lost Duke of Wyndham
by Julia Quinn
"Jack Audley has been a highwayman and a soldier. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over."
Not a challenging read, but fine for the eternity of time between returning starving to the hotel after skiing and the dinner service. I'm nearly done with Julia Quinn, because although she writes quite nicely, the plots of the books I've read so far are awfully similar.


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Homage to Catalonia
by George Orwell
"Orwell volunteered as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, and here he describes with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies."
If there had been such things as blogs in those days, this chronicle would have been published in that format. It is of its time and very political, although he does describe very vividly what it was like to serve in this particular conflict, the vast gulf between idealism and pragmatism, and the role of journalism in misrepresenting everything that occurred. These at least are the messages that I took away; I have to admit to still being somewhat mystified about the different factions: Anarchist, Socialist, Fascist, Communist, and where the Government stood among all these parties.


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A Dark-Adapted Eye
by Barbara Vine

narrated by Harriet Walter
"Like most families they had their secrets, and they hid them under a genteelly respectable veneer. No onlooker would guess that prim Vera Hillyard and her beautiful, adored younger sister, Eden, were locked in a dark and bitter combat over one of those secrets."
The second Barbara Vine book I've listened to, and another good one. It starts by declaring who has committed the murder, and then you spend the rest of the book finding out who was murdered and why. Unlike the classic crime fiction where you don't know who did it until the end, this is more of a 'whydunnit'. High quality narration as well.

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