Sunday, 20 December 2015

What I've been reading

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His Last Bow
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

narrated by Simon Vance
"These mysteries involve the disappearance of secret plans as well as of a lady of noble standing; the curious circumstances of Wisteria Lodge and of the Devil's Foot; as well as the story His Last Bow, the last outing of Holmes and Watson on the eve of the First World War."
Conan Doyle is still trying to end the sequence of stories by bringing Holmes out of retirement to participate in a story called 'His Last Bow', but no, there's still one more book to go. These stories are still pretty good although I'm getting the hang of working out what the solution to the mysteries might be before they are revealed.

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The Drowned World
by J. G. Ballard

narrated by Julian Elfer
"Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and primeval reptiles are sighted, swimming through the newly formed lagoons."
An interesting book and, unusually, I didn't think it worked all that well in audio form. I'm not sure why, but it didn't keep me wanting to hear more, although somehow I thought that it should. Maybe I'm giving J. G. Ballard the benefit of the doubt because I still remember how powerful the audio version of 'Empire of the Sun' was, which I listened to more than 15 years ago on cassette in the car commuting between Manchester and Liverpool. I don't remember the plot of that book, just the fact that it gripped me, so maybe I should listen to it again?

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From Here, You Can't See Paris
by Michael Sanders
"Whether uncovering the darker secrets of making foie gras, hearing a chef confess his doubts about the Michelin star system, or absorbing the lore of the land around a farmhouse kitchen table after a boar hunt, the author learned that life in Les Arques (population 159), a hilltop village in a remote corner of France untouched by the modern era, was anything but sleepy."
I do feel that this is a bit of a tired format - an individual goes to France (or Spain, or Italy) for whatever reason, discovers very interesting things particularly focussing on food, thinks it will be fascinating to other people, writes a book. Perhaps Peter Mayle was the first with his Year in Provence, and I remember finding that book captivating. Since then there have been endless repeats, and while this one isn't bad, there's nothing to lift it above the ordinary.

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The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

narrated by Simon Vance
"Includes the case of an eminent physiologist inexplicably savaged by his faithful wolfhound, of the priceless stolen Crown diamond found in the pocket of a peer, and of the mysterious figure who means to buy Mrs Maberley's house and all of its contents, whatever the cost."
So the odyssey is over, 58 hours 4 minutes of high class audio book is finished. I have to admit that this last lot of stories is the weakest, but nevertheless a worthy finale. The first of the series was published in 1887 and the last story of this last book came out in 1927 - an extended period of which I was previously unaware. It's been a blast.

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