What I was, am, and will be reading

I have not posted any reviews recently, partly because I have read a few novels for Euro Crime*, and partly because the book I finished most recently hasn’t inspired me to write it up. I enjoyed it – it was A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve, set in (I think, the period is not given explicitly) 1960s Kenya. The title refers to two life-changing trips to climb Mount Kenya which I found somewhat unconvincing, but the main novel is about a young American couple, the husband an insubstantial but priggish doctor/medical researcher (shades of Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil) and the wife, when she does anything, a freelance photographer (a Shreve leitmotif). The book is told from the point of view of the wife, and is very engaging, as she gradually becomes involved in the lives and concerns of various Kenyans, as opposed to the ex-pat Europeans with whom she officially associates. Overall, anyone who likes Anita Shreve will like this book, but I felt one weak point was that the subsidiary characters appeared and then vanished, or appeared too late in the novel, for the whole to really gel.

After I finished that, I embarked on a 950-page whopper, He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope. I have about 200 pages to go and it is a lovely book. Part Jane-Austen-like, in its detailed depiction of the romances and small social concerns of the high-society and country-society characters, and part political and social comment, it is above all a great story with wonderful characters who are all so vivid on the page. One might think, as the book starts, that this is a conventional Victorian novel of a marriage, a storm in a teacup, and a predictable outcome, but it isn’t at all, it is much, much darker than that.
A couple of details (among many!) that interested me. First, it is claimed that the book is the first to use the term “private detective”, in its character of Bozzle, an ex-policeman who is hired as an investigator by one of the characters. Bozzle is the only working class character, and unfortunately is presented as a venal man with a (presumably intended to be comic) terrible accent (none of the upper class characters has his or her speech represented phonetically!). This lugubrious depiction seems very heavy-handed today, unlike that of the (long since vanished) other, “classier” characters, but as a historical footnote of “first private detective” it is of interest. Second, the admirable minor character of Priscilla Stanbury, who stands out so brilliantly though she does not appear that much and is not that relevant to the main plots, was apparently an inspiration to George Eliot in her magnificent creation of Dorothea, the protagonist of her masterpiece, Middlemarch. (Both these pieces of information are courtesy of footnotes by the editor of this volume, John Sutherland, the well-known literary critic, controversial prize judge, and commentator.)

So, what’s next? I have the next two Joe Pickett novels by C J Box in print editions (Trophy Hunt and Out of Range), as well as the next one after those (In Plain Sight) in Kindle format. Only a few of this series is available in e-format, oddly. Other, previously downloaded but not yet read Kindle books are The Leopard by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett, and (in a mad moment of £1 Christmas download weakness, as I did not like Therapy with its ridiculous, constant “shifts of ‘reality’ “), Splinter by Sebastian Fitzek. In print format, most pressingly (recently purchased) I have A Short Cut to Paradise by Teresa Solana, translated by Peter Bush (can’t wait!), One Day by David Nicholls (purchased in another moment of mad weakness to make up a 3 for 2 deal in Waterstones, somehow I doubt I am going to like this although I have a recommendation from several young women who share a house, who all liked it) and a “two in one” Anita Shreve-fest (I think Strange Fits of Passion and Where or When, but don’t hold me to it, I haven’t checked).

*Reviews recently submitted to Euro Crime are Meet me in Malmo by Torquil MacLeod, Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder (translated by Marlaine Delargy), A Question of Belief by Donna Leon, and Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves.

9 thoughts on “What I was, am, and will be reading

  1. Silent Voices is a must for me, of course, but you have also tempted me sorely with Trollope – despite the 950 pages. Not for now, certainly, but perhaps for a nice and quiet summer holiday in the cottage.

    I have just begun reading Vanda Symon´s debut, Overkill. Even though I don´t have time to read right now (with all the media fuss and my birthday on Saturday) I find it very difficult to put that one down.

  2. Maxine – You’ve got a nice lot of books up and coming! I really want to read the Solana very much. One of these days soon I will; it’s moved quite far up my TBR. I’m tempted, too by He Knew He Was Right, even though it’s so long. Before that, though, I must read that Cleeves! You know, reading your blog is one of my real pleasures, but ohhhh, my poor TBR list!! 😉

  3. As usual for him, Trollope has many and varied observations, opinions and characters in or related to the clergy, though the book is not primarily a clergy novel. So it should be of amusement to you for this reason as well as others, Dorte!
    Silent Voices is a good quick read, I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. I already returned my loaned copy but sometimes I get books sent to me direct from that particular publisher so if I do I will let you know and see if you want it.

  4. Agree with you about the Shreve. I found it an enjoyable light read but it lacked momentum after the main incident in the story. Plus, I didn’t like the way it was told so that you didn’t ever get to the bottom of people’s motivations. The characters come across as naive and shallow.

  5. I´d certainly love a copy of “Silent Voices” – if you should get your hands on a copy before I have broken my own shopping embargo again. ;D

  6. Can’t wait to read your review of Meet Me In Malmö – “Second-rate journalist, regularly travels to Malmö, Turning Torso on the cover – sounds like someone I know very well!

  7. I too am tempted by the Trollope – though 950 pages is a bit of a stretch for someone who does most of her reading away from home – I shall look for it in eBook or audio format so I don’t get back ache from carrying it. Actually it sounds like it would be a delightful audio book.

    I too am looking forward to the Solana book, my copy is on its way to me via airplane and I think it will be one that I read straight away.

    Things I am looking forward to in the near future inclulde Alex Scarrow’s Afterlight and I have several new-to-me Aussie authors to try. Plus it’s about time I read Nesbo’s 2nd book, and I borrowed 2 more Liza Marklund titles from the library after enjoying Studio 69 very much.

    • Bernadette, thanks for the comment. You can get all or any of Anthony Trollope’s books free in any e-format, thanks to the Gutenberg (or a similar) project – see Amazon. Look forward to seeing what you make of your “next ups”!

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