jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Sun-Mi Hwang "The Dog Who Dared To Dream" (Abacus)

Wow - what a great little book and not just a shaggy dig story (pun intended).

The Dog Who Dared to Dream tells the story of Scraggy, the odd one out of the litter of pups born to a mother who’s life has been series of pregnancies. Scraggly slowly sees her family disappear for various reasons until one day there is just her left. Alone she sets off to see the world outside the gates of her home. We follow her as she encounters other animals and humans, and grows up with her owner Grandpa Screecher.

The novel shows the trials of life through the eyes of Scraggly, grief at losing loved ones, the importance of friendship and the cruelties that can lay at the hands we trust the most.

This is a charming and moving tale about the relationship between man and dog. The symbiotic relationship and the often times cruel one that can exist. It is also a sad tale, one of the loneliness Scraggly faces as her family leave her.

It is a parable about the vagaries of life, of hardship, sacrifice and love. Scraggly’s children leave, some dying, others sold, never to return and she pines their loss equally. I was soon caught up with Scraggly’s tale, pulled along by the narrative, and oddly moved by it.

This is a short novel, only 160 pages in length but it packs a lot of story into those few pages. There is a fairytale like sense to the book, helped not only by the canine lead character but by the translation, which I always find tends to lend an aura of magic to a story. It opens on the door a little on a different culture, one perhaps unknown and therefore a little mysterious offering a stunningly evocative description of Korean culture and village life, while keeping the world small and self-contained.

I finished this in a day it was that enchanting!
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Georges Simenon "Félicie (Inspector Maigret) (Penguin)

Jules Lapie, nicknamed Houtebeen, is assassinated in a suburb of Paris. Partly with and partly without the cooperation of Lapies housekeeper, Felicie, Maigret finds out who committed the murder; a tough guy of Pigalle.

THis is a typical Simenon Book.The protagonist is a woman who complements her pretty one-sided life of hard work with a dream world have built on using all kinds of cheap novels and the schmaltz contained within them. It is a less than straightforward investigation by Maigret, and the author has created an atmosphere of geniality, good food and pleasant scents.

Simenon paints with a small palette of selected colours and hits the target time and time again.So fat,this has turned out to be one of my favourites as Simenon draws out Felicie's character and Maigret's interaction with her. The exasperation is well done.

A short novel which can be read easily in a couple of days and also an enjoyable book.
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Maya Angelou "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" (Virago)

In this first of Angelou's memoirs, Maya and her brother Bailey are sent to live with their grandmother in Stamps, AR, when they are young children. They are raised in a strict but loving home and are aware, even at their tender ages, of the prejudices all around them. The children would sporadically live with their mother in St. Louis, their father in California and ultimately with their mother when she too moved to California. Both children were avid readers and excellent students. Maya's love for the written word would be her lifelong passion.

Although there were many instances of sadness, prejudice and even abuse, there was also a good deal of humor. The trip to Mexico with her father was quite funny as a 15-year-old Maya decided to drive her father's Hudson back to California, never mind that she had never driven a car before, with a drunk Daddy in the back seat. After crashing into another car at the border guard station and witnesses noticed the body on the back seat the incident nearly became criminal.

Maya spent a month living in a junk yard car, fought to become the first black allowed to work on city streetcars, and became pregnant at age 16. All of these things might have crushed a young girl's dreams, but Maya embraced all of her experiences into the woman she would become.

Highly recommended.
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Steve Stack "21 st Century Dodos : A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff)" (The Friday Project Ltd.)

f you remember sliding your home made mix cassette tape, recorded in silence from the Radio Top 40, into your Walkman and strapping your calculator watch to your wrist before disappearing to play unsupervised in the local park until dinner time, then the nostalgic appeal 21st Century Dodos will be a source of nostalgic appeal.

Subtitled “A collection of endangered objects (and other stuff)” this is a light and humorous tribute to the end of an era. At just forty it seems almost obscene that so much of my childhood is now obsolete – rotary phones, Polaroid cameras, 10c mixed lolly bags (Cobbers were my favourite), school blackboards and roller skates but I enjoyed the reminder of these simple pleasures, and treasures.

A trip to the past is a welcome diversion and if you like doing that then this book is for you. 


jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Malcolm Gaskill "Witchcraft : A Very Short Introduction" (Oxford University Press)

This provides an informative introduction to the history of withcraft throughout the ages, though mostly focusing on persecutions, right up to modern times including the abuse of child witches in modern-day Nigeria recently featured in documentaries. It seems to take an unbiased view, and references many studies which investigate witchcraft and the circumstances under which accusations arose, including political and cultural.

An interesting introduction that opens up several avenues for investigating further.

He also wrote this book some time ago,and i have in my collection , yet to read of course.

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E.H.Carr "What Is History?" (Penguin History)

Going back to re-read old university textbooks for fun must be a sign of incipient nostalgia for the lost days of youth - that or masochism. I didn’t get a nostalgic buzz (possibly as I was young and foolish enough to think I could get away by essentially skimming it) for my Open University courses in history but reading it now with age and experience has made it more rewarding.

Carr’s initial question is the springboard for six essays, transcribed from a series of lectures. It’s a musing on what history is and the role it has in our society – how it actually fits neatly in with sciences, how objective a historian can be and how history tells us as much about the time it’s written in as it does about the time itself. It’s actually aged very well, being prescient on a number of issues and forcefully making a point of how history should be a positive force. Still, one thing is concerning – if Carr’s thesis that a nation in decline harks back to golden ages and nostalgia and turns inward on itself then the UK is in a ‘sick’ state indeed.

A fascinating starting point for anyone looking at history and historiography.
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Harvey Pekar "The Quitter" (Vertigo)

The Quitter covers Harvey Pekar's childhood growing up in Cleveland. Some of this material was previously covered in American Splendor, but not much of it; that tended to focus on Harvey's later life, which only comes in at the very end here. What can I say about it beyond that it might be my favourite Pekar comic yet? He fills in his life in broad sketches, focusing into specific moments only a couple times, but this story really resonated with me-- as indeed, I suspect it would with anyone who's ever tried to do something and ended up giving up because it was hard. Or maybe just because of stupid reasons. The Quitter details Pekar's attempts to find something he won't give up at.

Pekar's short works resist "messages," but The Quitter has one, sort of, even if it's just that someday you might find something where you don't quit. Barely a message, but it's somehow uplifting, and I found myself feeling better about myself after finishing The Quitter, and I don't often like books that overtly try to do that to me.

Dean Haspiel might just be my favourite artistic collaborator for Pekar so far; his work is cartoony, but gritty, which suits Pekar's "neo-realist" style more so than some of the more realistic art I've seen in American Splendor, which tends to be too stiff to work as good comics. Lee Loughridge accentuates the whole thing with good use of "gray tones."

An excellent graphic novel.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Paolo Sorrentino "Youth" (MacLehose Press)

Paolo Sorrentino is a novelist and film director. He has writes books, with great success in Italy and less elsewhere.I found this paperback in Waterstones in a sale bin for a pound.

Youth takes place in a spa or wellness hotel in the Alps, a resort for the wealthy, with a daily medical check-up, sauna and fitness. Main Characters are octogenarians Fred and Mick, respectively, a retired composer and film director working on his latest film. Furthermore, the microcosm consists of a Hollywood star, an obese South American ex-football player and a bizarre German couple. The characters turn a bit around each other without causing more than ripples in the pool. That's the way things are towards the end of this non-film script novelisation and hence meanders aimlessly , almost without plot, with occasional comical, and almost absurd scenes.

Whether the film is better than the book, i do not know so i will have to check out the film out which, incidentally , has top actors like Michael Cain , Rachel Weiss and Harvey Keitel.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
John Le Carre "The Looking Glass War" (Penguin Modern Classics)

I actually started reading this late December , and just finished recently,a reflection of this being not one of his best.

John Le Carre follows up The Spy Who Came In from the Cold with this more realistic take on the mundane, and inane, world of cold war espionage. The brief sparks of idealism occasionally present in the previous book is replaced here by an almost pervading cynicism as rival intelligence agencies compete for resources, with the fading military intelligence operation, the Department, snatching at the flimsiest of leads in an effort to prove their relevance compared to the political intelligence agency, the Circus. In doing so, lies are believed to the point where they become indistinguishable from truth, careers are made or broken, assets, including men, are wasted.

This is where the more modern Le Carre began to take shape, introducing a brand of scepticism that can only be wrought by a former insider. At the time of its publication in 1965 it was excoriated by critics and did not sell nearly as well as its predecessor, not surprisingly since it was not in the mode of the rah-rah spy novels in vogue at the time. Sadly, as evidenced by the dysfunction revealed in the 9/11 investigations, clumsy, uncoordinated intelligence agencies incapable of working together still rule the world with disastrous consequences. The writing is less polished, but here lies the germ of the style that would become Le Carre's hallmark in the Quest for Karla trilogy, which is probably his best known novels. I shall be reading these at some point ,although i have read "Tinker TailorSoldier Spy" before.

So in conclusion, not one of the best Le Carre novel but still good.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Shusaku Endo "Silence" (Picador)

I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. It is one of those given tome by my bother.

On the one hand, it is an intense and penetrating look at the travails of a Catholic missionary in 17th century Japan, after Christianity has been outlawed and its believers subjected to torture, and a deep and thought-provoking meditation on the meaning of faith. It is also beautifully written, and provides a vivid portrait of Japan as seen through Portuguese eyes as written by a Japanese author.

On the other hand . . . I not only have difficulty comprehending this depth of faith but also, as a non-Christian pro-aestheticism curmudgeon, I have never been able to understand the extensive, if not extreme, proselytising of Christianity, the need to convert as many others as possible to its beliefs. It seems patronising to me: "we know what's best for you."

These feelings coloured my reading of the book because, while I was appalled by the Japanese methods of torture (although torture has certainly been practised by those professing to be Christians too), I could understand why they wanted to keep such a foreign (and colonising) religion out of their country. Nor do I understand the appeal of martyrdom. I also found a little peculiar the way the protagonist, Father Rodrigues, seems to compare his suffering to that of Jesus, and his betrayer to Judas. Perhaps this would not be disturbing to someone who is Christian, so perhaps this reflects a lack of understanding on my part, but it seems a little self-aggrandising to me.

The overall question, of the silence of God, is more interesting. The 20th century, when this book was written, was a century of evil and suffering on a huge scale, and therefore this question is of even more import now than it was when Father Rodrigues travelled to Japan. Additionally, Endō, himself a devoted Catholic, alludes to the issue of how a western religion like Christianity can adapt itself to an eastern culture like that of Japan. Had he explored this more, I might have found more to like about the book.

As it is, I can only think that, throughout the centuries, not only have people of various religions persecuted and killed people of other religions but, as my father liked to say, more wars have been fought over religion than for any other reason (not sure if this is strictly true). I wish I could say this book helped me understand faith more, but it left me just as puzzled and perplexed. Perhaps Marx is right after all,that religion is the opium of the people.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
Slavoj Zizek "Philosophy in Transit - Event" (Penguin)

This is what the blurb says "An Event can be an occurrence that shatters ordinary life, a radical political rupture, a transformation of reality, a religious belief, the rise of a new art form, or an intense experience such as falling in love. This book examines the new and highly-contested concept of Event."

As Zizek says, with such a myriad of definitions available, there is no choice but to take a risk and begin the journey towards understanding the concept of an “event”, a journey that Zizek likens to that undertaken by Elspeth McGillicuddy in Agatha Christie’s 4:50 from Paddington.

Elspeth McGillicuddy is the innocuous old lady friend of Miss Marple who happens to be glancing out of the train window at just the right time to see a murder committed. The whole thing happens in an instant and, her view having been obscured by the train window, no one except Miss Marple believes her. For Slavoj Zizek, the experience of Elspeth McGillicuddy is the very epitome of an “event” – “something shocking, out of joint, that appears all of a sudden and interrupts the usual flow of things.”

This is a nice, almost straightforward introduction to the subject matter of Event but things do rapidly become more complicated. Zizek expands upon this sudden, interrupting kind of event to describe how, at first, an event is “the effect that seems to exceed its causes” and that, further, the “space of an event is that which opens up by the gap that separates an effect from its cause.” Zizek considers the various different definitions of “event” and addresses fundamental questions like: “are all things connected?; how much are we agents of our own fate?; and, in a world that is constantly changing, is anything new really happening?” It is through these questions of causality that the concept of “event” ties in with one of the central questions of philosophy: are all things connected with causal links?

After discussing the differences between transcendental and ontological means of philosophical investigation, Zizek steers Event on a journey that includes stopovers considering changes or disintegrations of the frame through which reality appears to us, felix culpa (a religious fall), the reality of Buddhist Enlightenment, the power and significance of truth, the role of self, and the central elements of psychoanalysis, before finally arriving at the undoing of an event induced achievement. Zizek explains everything in a clear, almost patient, fashion and offers plenty of “real world” examples but these are still heavy topics. If I were actually reading Event on my commute then I would definitely have missed my stop.

Event is an extremely interesting book and, if accessible is not the right word, one that will have popular appeal. Zizek draws on universal references from Plato to arthouse cinema, the Big Bang to Buddhism, in order to make Event a journey into philosophy at its most exciting and elementary. Through his investigation into the nature of an “event”, Zizek has crafted a book that serves as an excellent primer to understanding philosophy and philosophical investigation in general.

jazzy_dave: (Default)
Lois Martin "The History of Witchcraft" (Pocket Essentials)

Lois Martin's short book hits all the high points in the history of witchcraft as Westerners typically understand it. A well-researched and documented account, THE HISTORY OF WITCHCRAFT is a valuable resource for those looking for a quick read about the legalistic approach to heresy and witchcraft. Martin does not address any modern pagan movement, besides a brief mention of both Margaret Murray and Charles Leland, but rather sticks to the facts as history has shown them.

If the reader has any interest in witch trials, witch-hunting, or the so-called Witch Craze of a few hundred years ago, Martin's book is a great introductory place to start. Her chapter in which she lists her resources in some depth should appeal to the student or researcher. My only criticism is that she seems to address some trials twice, which can be confusing if one is reading straight through rather than picking individual chapters.

The book doesn't say anywhere that witchcraft is evil. Its purpose is not to pass judgement on the subject matter, but to educate and inform, and it succeeds brilliantly.

jazzy_dave: (bookish)
W.G Sebald "The Emigrants" (Harvill)

This is a book of 4 essays, each focusing on someone the author knew personally (a landlord, a teacher, a great uncle, an artist friend), all displaced emigrants, all fairly normal, but also very remarkable in ways that Sebald skillfully and subtly brings out. These are essays about history and fate and, often, the holocaust... which is wisely never mentioned directly.

He writes in a way you have to savour slowly, in a certain state of mind.I have a hard time putting my finger on what exactly I enjoyed so much about this book. Perhaps this is a compliment to the writer, in that nothing stands out as remarkable... it is stylistically and structurally pretty standard stuff, but it builds in a cumulative way. Something about the slow, personal way these essays develop. Something about the melancholy that isn't ever melodramatic. Enlightening without being simply (or ever) revelatory. In fact, there are no answers here, simply questions and pain and longing. It's complex and open ended and personal.

His essays, which are sometimes considered fiction, but really are a tightrope-walk between reality and our tenuous relationship with it, are interspersed with photos. Some of the photos obviously contribute to the pieces, but some--oddly--are very literal and do not seem to illuminate much. And oftentimes I want to see a photo of something that is frustratingly not shown. Perhaps this was deliberately withheld from the reader for a purpose.

This particular book satisfied a craving. A craving for something stirring and huge, but not sad in the traditional 'weeping over my pillow' way... but more restrained, more difficult, more like a very distinct stillness, like an enormous snow-covered mountain range.

Recommended reading i say.

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Lisa Randall " Warped Passages : Unravelling the Universe's Hidden Dimensions" (Penguin)

Lisa Randall is a theoretical physicist who specializes in the so-called Standard Model of particle physics. She explains the particles and forces depicted in that model, and where the model fails as a picture of the real subatomic world. For example, it does not explain gravity's weakness compared with electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces. Randall's proposed solutions to the deficiencies in the Standard Model, unlike some of the other propositions of string theory, can be experimentally tested.
Randall writes as clearly as possible, I think; but to follow the text is made much easier if one is already acquainted with some basic principles of theoretical physics.
One awaits eagerly the results of the tests at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN, which will or will not support her theories. If she turns out to be right, we will know that there is at least a 5th dimension to our universe and that the 'branes' of String Theory are real.
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P.G. Wodehouse "Something Fresh" (Arrow)

This is the book in which Wodehouse introduces his readers to the idyllic world of Blandings Castle where for the first time we meet the Earl of Emsworth, the Efficient Baxter and Beach the Butler. It is something of a sketchy start to the series however; Lord Emsworth is eccentric in a mild way and absent- minded enough to walk off with the priceless scarab belonging to Mr Peters, father of his son's fiancee. However that noble beast, the Empress of Blandings has yet to appear and Lady Constance has not made an appearance, leaving Baxter with no- one to play off and Clarence no- one to hide from as Lady Ann, Blandings hostess, is usually in her room nursing a sick headache.

The plot centres on the scarab with Peters hiring pulp writer Ashe Marson to retrieve it, while Joan Valentine, a friend of Mr Peters daughter Aline is also after it. Ashe and Joan live in the same boarding house in London and poverty makes the reward for returning the scarab to Peters very attractive. They are a rather uninteresting pair of romantic leads and the chief interest in the novel lies in Baxter's attempts to foil what he assumes to be the theft of the scarab. There is a very funny scene in which various parties swirl around each other late at night at the foot of the great staircase, while one waits with bated breath for the inevitable collisions to occur.

The book is a bit under powered as a whole, but improves as it goes along. A good read but not enough to entice me to read more of this series or any other Wodehouse book.
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Ben Aaronovitch "Rivers Of London" (Gollancz)

I started reading this last year and then for some reason forgot about it ,so i reread it again and finished it today.

While watching a crime scene, Probationary Constable Peter Grant, who dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police, has an encounter with a ghost who has witnessed the murder. What to do with that information - ghosts not really being considered proper witnesses. Together with his colleague Leslie he digs into the evidence to try and come up with a reasonable way of introducing his evidence. As he goes back to the scene to see whether the ghost is still hanging around, he crosses paths with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. He soon finds himself attached to his small unit and pulled into a very different London that he never suspected was there. All this while still being on the force with the usual rivalries and procedures that fit rather badly with the weird nature of the case.

Wonderfully whimsical and very British in style.
jazzy_dave: (Default)
John Ruskin "On Art and Life" (Penguin)

John Ruskin (1819-1900), gave us impassioned critique of a society obsessed with getting and spending that struck a chord that has continued to reverberate with thoughtful individuals across the political spectrum. Ruskin was a seer in both senses of the word: an acutely perceptive observer of art, architecture, literature, and Nature, and an uncannily prescient Cassandra who warned of developing threats - moral, social, economic, cultural, and environmental - to human life and happiness.

Ruskin's politics were something of a paradox. A forceful critic of greed, the profit motive, the degradation of labour, and economic injustice, he was also a staunch believer in hierarchy and authority.

"John Ruskin, the nineteenth-century British writer with the most wide-ranging influence on contemporary thought, has gone unread for a long time. His ideas have lived through the words of other writers while his own works are ignored. Their style suited an age that found the forty mile-per-hour speed of the railway frightening, that never dreamed of multi-tasking, channel surfing, and sound bites. Reading was then a majestic activity in pace and status, total attention demanded by it and total attention given it. We have lost that patience and those skills, so Ruskin's prose seems difficult, and we avoid it. That is our loss". Phyllis Rose.

Some quotes from Ruskin:

"Of all inorganic substances, acting in their own proper nature, without assistance or combination, water is the most wonderful. If we think of it as the source of all the changeableness and beauty which we have seen in clouds; then as the instrument by which the earth we have contemplated was modelled into symmetry, and its crags chiselled into grace; then as, in the form of snow, it robes the mountains it has made with that transcendent light which we could not have conceived if we had not seen; then as it exists in the foam of the torrent, in the iris which spans it, in the morning mist which rises from it, in the deep crystalline pools which its hanging shore, in the broad lake and glancing river; finally, in that which is to all human minds the best emblem of unwearied unconquerable power, the wild, various, fantastic, timeless unity of the sea; what shall we compare to this mighty, this universal element, for glory and for beauty? or how shall we follow its eternal changefulness of feeling? It is like trying to paint a soul.!

I’m a big believer in reading primary texts. I get a little sick at the idea of studying a philosopher without reading the works of that philosopher, but I’m realistic enough to know that for the general reader, primary texts aren’t always a good option. They’re often too long or too involved for someone just looking for a passing familiarity, and so we end up relying on secondary sources. If this little book from the Penguin Great Ideas series is typical, this series is a great way of filling the need for primary texts for the general reader. Plus, with its lovely embossed cover, this book is a thing of beauty.

The 98-page book contains just two essays by Ruskin: “The Nature of Gothic” from The Stone of Venice and “The Work of Iron in Nature, Art, and Policy,” a lecture Ruskin delivered in 1858. My only complaint is that there’s no actual context or introduction provided. Just a few pages of basic biographical and historical information would have made this a perfect little introduction to Ruskin.

jazzy_dave: (Default)
Dave Goulson "A Buzz In The Meadow" (Vintage)

Dave Goulson is a fine natural history writer, and an important conservationist. His work centers around the less glorious taxa, the insects that underlie the world’s ecosystems yet receive less attention. He has a talent for expressing scientific results, when too often the findings are confined to a bubble where only people specializing in a certain field will read and understand the results. Books like “A Buzz in the Meadow” are needed if you feel you don’t know enough about large groups of life forms like plants and insects. However, if you don’t like thinking about insect parts and reproduction (or that of animals in general), know that this is not for everyone. Still, Goulson is a very good communicator, and this is an excellent book.

At the beginning of each chapter, he gives the date, amount of time he spent running, number of humans seen (usually none), number of dogs (usually more than one) and number of butterfly species and any interesting notes to accompany them. Often a literary quote follows, to precede the chapter. He saves footnotes for the end of the chapter, which I think makes for smoother reading. For North American readers, we have to keep in mind that Europe has different sets of species, diverged from the common ancestors of those over here, in similar ecological niches. Even a naturalist like Goulson was unable to pinpoint the “wack-wack” bird, one of two prominent unidentified creatures in the meadow.

Many stories come from previous research he conducted or supervised, relating to the species now seeing in the meadow. Campions are his example for male and female ratios (also humans have the same thing going on, more or less), and there is a cool study of handedness or its analogue in insects, as well as learned behavior – and the chlorophyll-less yellow rattle. He mentions the soot of the Industrial Revolution that caused a moth’s two color morphs to drift in favor of the dark one as opposed to the pale one that stood out. House flies in hen houses also serve as an example of evolution in action, reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” – which is especially relevant in a later chapter on neonicotinoids, and the science and struggle to show their effects short- and long-term. Island biogeography and metapopulations again see bees (and butterflies) as examples, but this isn’t an information dump – each story helps demonstrate a process that can be observed scientifically. Reading this book also gives a good feel for the many sides of scientific publishing.

The last chapter is the least about the meadow but the most about conservation, to which Goulson is already dedicated. Not depressing or preachy, it stays informative.

I recommend it.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Ellis Peters "Monk's Hood " (Sphere)

This is the first novel i have read from this author. These books follow the investigative exploits of Brother Cadfael.

Monk's Hood, which is the third Brother Cadfael mystery, is set in the fall of 1138 when Shrewsbury is recovering from its participation in the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud. Shrewsbury Abbey is experiencing some changes of its own: the gentle Abbot Heribert has been called to a Legatine Council that will likely strip him of his authority, and the ambitious Prior Robert eagerly takes his place pending the Council's ruling. Meanwhile, a wealthy landowner, Gervase Bonel, cedes his estate to the abbey in return for a comfortable place to live out his days... only, those days aren't very long. After eating a delicacy sent him by Prior Robert, Bonel dies in the agonies of poison.

In the course of his investigations, Cadfael comes into contact with a variety of people in Bonel's household — among them an old flame, Richildis, who is now Bonel's widow. This gives rise to various musings on what might have been and the life Cadfael has chosen instead. Peters skirts the edges of cynicism without quite brushing up against it: hard to do, to achieve that resignation that is actually quite content without casting aspersions on the reality of romantic attachment.

Like several other well-known literary sleuths, Cadfael uses his own discretion when it comes to unveiling and punishing the murderer. In this case he does not expose the murderer to public justice, choosing instead to set a lifelong penance that will, he hopes, do the world more good than would justice according to the letter of the law. Cadfael is already set apart from the other characters by his uncanny wisdom in getting to the bottom of murder, but does this give him the right to administer justice as he sees fit? I'm not sure how I feel about this; despite Cadfael's brilliance, he's still a fallible human being. Only one other character, Hugh Beringar, dimly guesses at how Cadfael has disposed of the case.

Peters' writing is so smoothly effortless that it would be easy to take it for granted. Most readers don't look for great literature in the murder mystery genre, but that doesn't mean that the technical brilliance of the plotting should outweigh the style of the prose. Peters writes characters who are believable in their historic setting and personal relationships, with an unfaltering narrative voice that is both lively and original. She is also noted for the historical faithfulness of her work.

Cadfael's a great character, the mysteries are well plotted, and the prose is excellent.
jazzy_dave: (bookish)
Philip Dodd "Reverend Guppy's Aquarium:How Jules Leotard, Adolphe Sax, Roy Jacuzzi and Co .." (Arrow Books)

I'm glad that someone has finally gotten around to highlighting those people who have, whether they knew it or not, become part of the lexicon. To be honest, I never gave much thought to whether there was a Mr or Ms Leotard the leotard was named after or whether "leotard" was a name dreamt up by a marketing department. The same for "guppy" (although I can't imagine why a marketing department would ever come up with the name "guppy") or "Mercedes". Dodd has seen the gap in the market and admirably filled it, with "The Reverend Guppy's Aquarium".

Although by a few chapters in one has picked up the general gist of "Dodd's talking about jacuzzis and I'm guessing, by the general thrust of the book, that there was a person called Jacuzzi the spa is named after", Dodd's writing never goes stale and you get caught up in the lives of Ernst Grafenberg (of G-Spot fame), Samuel Maverick, Laszlo Biro and, of course, the Reverend Robert Lechmere Guppy.


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