Apr. 21st, 2016

cyphomandra: (balcony)
Three weeks' or so:



Finished:

Jane Duncan, My Friend Madame Zora and My Friend Rose. Back to Scotland and England, predominantly, and I do prefer these. Madame Zora is a fortune teller and a fiercely independent and unpleasant woman with too many cats and no desire to spend any of her money, and the plot has paintings and amnesiacs and wins on the football pools, but it's a pleasure just watching all the pieces slot carefully into place and still manage to reveal things that weren't expected. Rose goes back a bit in time - Rose is the second wife of an employer Janet had before WWII, and the stepmother of Dee, an unhappy child Janet ends up looking after; this is more of a character study and less of a revelation, but again it's all very well managed. Next up is Cousin Emmie, which I actually started with but which will probably feel quite different with all of these behind me. However, I have a bunch of work deadlines and so haven't put any more requests in yet.

H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald. Finished this a while back. Excellent writing and the hawk bits and her grief are so well intertwined. I am less sure about the TH White bits, less because they're included than because she spends a lot of time giving the true narrative of what was happening (his goshawk's behaviour etc) and I am less convinced there is one true explanation behind them. It did not make me want to have my own hawk.

Shooting the Moon, Frances O'Roark Dowell. Vietnam war, US experience; the teenage son of an Army Colonel heads off to Vietnam instead of medical school. His 12 year old sister Jamie (the narrator) is thrilled and doesn't understand why their father tried to talk him out of it. Then, rolls of undeveloped film start arriving. Jamie learns how to develop them and things change.

I picked this up because I do get irked by the number of historical war books (for children/YA) that assume everyone thinks war is a bad thing. This problematises it a little but not as much as I wanted (the Colonel thinks this particular war is a bad one, not all wars) and the gimmick of the film never really worked for me. What did work was Jamie playing crib in a summer-long tournament with one of the GIs on the base, a man whose brother has been killed in Vietnam and who is waiting to hear of his own orders.

A Game for All the Family, Sophie Hannah. Picked this up because the name looked familiar - I actually vaguely thought Guardian columnist - but apparently it's because I read her authorised Poirot (Agatha Christie) sequel, although I don't think it's on here. I wasn't wild about it - initial set-up interesting, development unconvincing, and unfortunately that's what happens here as well, along with a totally unbelievable ending.

Justine leaves her glittering TV career in London under a suitably vague cloud and Does Nothing on a large country mansion. However, her daughter starts writing a macabre story about murders, anonymous phone calls accuse Justine of being someone she isn't, and every attempt to investigate things uncovers more problems. For a while this worked and then Hannah has to reveal what's actually going on, and the more of this there was the more unbelievable it was, both as the overall plot and as individual events (Ellen, Justine's daughter, has to write down a story she has apparently been told once over the course of some weeks and gets every detail right; however, it is impossible for her to summarise it or answer any questions about the details).

To spoil it all - Justine's departure from London is due to a twitter spat over cis privilege by an actor she wanted to cast in a drama (the spat I believe in. The ending of her career over it I don't). The woman calling her is a compulsive liar who is annoyed about having her pet dog taken away from her as a child after her sister became allergic to it. It ends with Justine bashing her stalker's brains out at the house of a dog-breeder who has somehow been pulled into all of this and there being no repercussions for the murder. I ended up feeling somewhat insulted as a reader.

[ETA: Huh. Googling has just revealed Sophie Hannah did this rather good column about the "rediscovery" of women writing crime fiction, which I read a while back. I do recommend this column and a number of the books she mentions there.]

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosch. Have read many of these in blog form but still great.

Abandoned:

I had Angela Thirkell's Pomefret Towers out and ended up returning it a couple of chapters in; it was perfectly fine but I didn't have the time and wasn't quite in the mood. I've only read her Wild Strawberries but will probably pick some more up again at some stage.

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