Although I have been much better at posting this year, I haven’t been particularly good at keeping up to date on the books I have finished reading this year. So here is a speed round going all the way back to January.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (6/7/15)(audiobook)
Who didn’t love the TV adaptation of Cranford with Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, and Julie McKenzie among others? The thing I loved most was the crisp, precise, antiquated language. Prunella Scales does a marvelous job reading the book. I’m not sold on her men’s voices, but this was a joy to listen to even though I already knew all the plot lines.
Kindling (Ruined City) by Nevil Shute (5/28/15)(re-read)(audiobook)
Not my favorite audiobook narrator and not my favorite Shute, but still a great listen. Wealthy banker decides to resurrect a town’s shipyard that has been closed for five years. Everything comes out right, he gets the girl, and lots and lots of mudane details that I love so much. I particularly love how Shute’s heroes are always instantly trusted and seen as authorities and experts.
What Happened to the Corbetts (Ordeal) by Nevil Shute (2/21/15)(re-read)(audiobook)
This one could be titled Will Someone Please Sell Us Milk for the Baby. I swear every other page is about finding milk for the baby. I do love the scene where they hold up the 8-year old at gun point to get the milk they need. Published just prior to WWII, Shute is prescient about bombing raids of England. In this book he imagines a young family taking to their small sailboat to escape the disease and bombs on land. Love it.
A Kind of Anger by Eric Ambler (5/26/15)(re-read)(audiobook)
I first read A Kind of Anger in May 2014 when I first discovered Eric Ambler. I loved reading it then and I really enjoyed listening to it on my commute. The narrator was particularly good at accents. He did American, British, French, and Dutch and never once did I think they sounded goofy.
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes (5/13/15)
I often have trouble getting along with a book where things always go wrong or people perpetually make bad decisions. I’m not opposed to adversity in novels, I just start to rankle when it is persistent or when it seems like characters should know better. For some reason the steady drumbeat of things going wrong and the main character finding himself in really bad situations didn’t bother me in May We Be Forgiven. In fact, it felt kind of good to let go and embrace the dysfunction. It was funny and ultimately uplifting despite all the tragedy. I am drawn to family/friend networks where people find themselves unexpectedly responsible for, and/or cared for by others.
The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes (5/5/15)
Given my newish love of Eric Ambler I had asked the Twitterverse if they had other recommendations for similar vintage spy thrillers. Someone, possibly Answer Girl, came up with Helen MacInnes. Never having read her I picked up about seven of her novels at Book Thing back in March with Frances. Happily I quite liked this 1970s tale of Nazi intrigue in the Alps. Didn’t sing as much for me as Ambler, but very, very promising. I look forward to reading all the other titles I have collected.
The Strumpet Wind by Gordon Merrick (4/17/15)
I know about Gordon Merrick because he wrote bodice-ripping GAY romances in the 1970s/1980s that I screwed up the courage to buy from B. Dalton when I was 14. In the late 1940s and 1950s he wrote other probably more legit fiction including The Strumpet Wind, his first book from 1947. I’ve had this book for years just because of that connection but it turns out to be in line with my recent fascination with vintage spy fiction. Takes place in southern France in the final stages of World War II. Hints of homosexuality in between the lines, and far more pronounced in the fact that the hero’s sadistic commanding officer is a a tragic, evil, queer. Merrick the author, assuming he was gay, must have felt a bit of his soul die when he wrote that stuff. (I think the Wikipedia page overstates this being a gay novel or even that the main character was gay. I don’t think he was.) Overall not a bad story and decently written. It would have been interesting to see what Merrick had been able to do if he could have been open in his early years and didn’t find himself feeling the need to write romance/erotica to pay the bills in later years.
The Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen (3/19/15)
Total, wonderful, voyeuristic, fluff. Probably only interesting to those who watch Bravo TV.
The Four Graces by DE Stevenson (3/7/15)
The Two Mrs. Abbotts by DE Stevenson (1/26/15)
The final two of the Miss Buncle series. Only slightly related to Buncle. Both more delightful than Miss Buncle Married, but less so than Miss Buncle’s Book.
The Book Class by Louis Auchincloss (3/1/15)
I had never read Auchincloss before but I feel like I know who he is now. I assume this is a semi-autobiographical tale of Auchincloss’ relationships with the rich, older women who made up his mother’s social circle in and around New York. Their days of glory faded along with the early 20th century milieu in which they ascended to prominence. It had touches of Mary McCarthy to me. Imagine The Group, but much older and largely without the sex talk. I was annoyed to see one review on Goodreads in which a reader lamented that Auchincloss didn’t write about women from the middle or working classes. Well that’s not the book he wrote or wanted to write so move along, idiot.
Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron (1/28/15)
Constance by Patrick McGrath (1/8/15)
All I remember about these two books is that: A) I enjoyed both of them, and B) I enjoyed the Cameron more than the McGrath, but less than Cameron’s novel Andorra.
The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns (1/12/15)
Perhaps the oddest Comyns I have read. Kept hoping for something good to happen. Didn’t expect the magical bits either. An interesting, quick read.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2/3/15)
This was already starting to get hyped in the U.S. when I bought it, but thankfully I read it before it totally exploded everywhere. Plenty of comparisons to Gone Girl, but I much prefer this one. I think I was drawn to it because I often wonder about people I see from train windows.