logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 19th-Century
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-21 16:49
All the bants
The Secrets of Gaslight Lane - M.R.C. Kasasian

Thanks to my friends (Katie, I'm talking to you!) over at Pegasus Books, I was able to get my hands on the latest installment to The Gower Street Detective series before publication (April 11th aka my birthday). Sidney Grice and his plucky assistant, March Middleton, are at it again in The Secrets of Gaslight Lane where they are tasked with solving not one but two locked room murders perpetrated in the same house several years apart. I have to caution yet again that this is not a series for anyone with a weak stomach or an aversion to overuse of adjectives and adverbs. (I think M.R.C. Kasasian possesses the most extensive vocabulary of any author I have ever read.) For those hoping for further resolution to the dramas surrounding Grice's past with March's mother and/or March's relationshiop with Inspector Pound then you're going to be fairly disappointed with this book. This is a case-heavy narrative with complicated facets and multiple characters. It's also chock full of hilarity and acerbic wit. Grice and March are definitely getting in the groove of their partnership and their back-and-forth banter (especially with clients) is delicious. This is a series I could see being re-tooled on Masterpiece Mystery and if cast correctly it would be fantastic. And as with his previous books in this series, Kasasian manages to drop a bombshell at the end which will leave readers salivating for more. 10/10 and I can't wait for Dark Dawn Over Steep House which will hopefully be out at the end of the year.

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-04-05 11:00
A Widower’s Grief: Bruges-la-morte by Georges Rodenbach
Bruges-La-Morte - Georges Rodenbach,Will Stone,Mike Mitchell
BRUGES LA MORTE - GEORGES RODENBACH

Women or men who need to come to terms with the loss of a loved one are popular figures in literature. Often, the grieving find new joy, maybe even new love by the end of the story and at first this also seems to be the case in the late nineteenth-century novel Bruges-la-morte by almost forgotten Belgian journalist, poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach (1855-1898). But he was obsessed with death and so it’s little wonder that his symbolist chef-d'œuvre first published in 1892 is a thoroughly gloomy piece of prose poetry, a short Gothic novel in the vein of his contemporary Oscar Wilde. The book focuses on the melancholy scene of dead or moribund Bruges in Belgium at least as much as on the woebegone protagonist who has chosen the city to indulge in his infinite sorrow after the death of his adored wife and in keeping her memory alive.

 

The central figure of Bruges-la-morte is the widower Hugue Viane who is forty years old and whom the author describes as prematurely aged by grief. In the opening scene, aptly set on a day in November, he has been living in Bruges for five years, i.e. ever since the day after his beloved wife had died. It was the bleak atmosphere of the mediaeval city with its many convents, dark canals and narrow streets that brought him there because it corresponded perfectly with his anguish and allowed him to get completely wrapped up in mourning. In the first edition of his short novel Georges Rodenbach included several black-and-white photos of the city to increase the effect of his very poetical though sombre portrait of Bruges. But he shows the city also as a place of deep religiosity and he makes Hugue Viane live on Quai du Rosaire (Quay of the Rosary!) where a big procession passes every year on Ascension Day. To the widower his house is less a home than it’s a shrine dedicated to his dearest departed. Above all, the drawing rooms serve him as places of adulation. With great skill and in great detail Georges Rodenbach evokes the feeling of two rooms crammed with all kinds of memorabilia of Hugue Viane’s late wife. Some of them can be called her relics with due right, notably the long blonde plait that, on one of the last days of her suffering, he cut from her head instead of just a curl and that he keeps under glass on her now mute piano. The plait is so sacred to him that he doesn’t even dare to touch it! As can be expected of an inconsolable mourner, he leads a withdrawn life following an almost monastic routine. Mostly, he stays at home in his room, but in the late afternoon, he likes to go out for a walk through the city that he loves at this time of day because it’s sad like him. During one of these solitary walks, a woman looking just like his late wife crosses his way. The encounter is so brief that he isn’t sure that he really saw her. Nonetheless, he begins to search her during his walks and one evening there she is again. He follows her into the theatre where she is a dancer. Not without hesitation he addresses her and he can’t help beginning an affair with the woman who seems a second chance for happiness with his wife resurrected. And thus fate takes its fatal course…

 

Overall, Bruges-la-morte by Georges Rodenbach is an impressive short novel that flows over with all kinds of most beautiful allegories and metaphors that not only allow but also inspire thorough analysis. I loved its poetical language that offers lots of remarkable images and that feels exceedingly precise in spite or because of the author’s frequent use of vague or ambiguous words or expressions. For me the read was a great pleasure and I can’t thank enough my friend in Belgium who surprised me with the book past year. It’s a shame that such a marvellous piece of fiction had to remain in the darkness of literary oblivion for a hundred years until someone thought of bringing it back to light… and to the attention of avid readers like me.

 

Bruges-La-Morte - Georges Rodenbach,Will Stone,Mike Mitchell 

 

Nota bene:

Since George Rodenbach died already in 1898, the original French versions of his work are all in the public domain and can be downloaded legally and free from sites like Ebooks libres et gratuits. If old translations of this impressive short novel exist, they might be in the public domain too, but all English editions that I found are of very recent date and therefore copyrighted.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-26 06:07
An Inside Job
The Moonstone (Evergreens) - Wilkie Collins

I had no idea that this book existed until my bookclub decided to make it the book of the month. In fact I had never heard of Wilkie Collins until this book was mentioned in passing. As it turns out (or at least according to some of the members of my bookclub) Wilkie lived under the shadow of Charles Dickens. In fact Wilkie and Dickens were good friends, that is until they had a falling out, and Dickens went out of his way to trash the works of Wilkie (and vice versa – I guess we can work out who won). I'm not really all that sure of any of the details beyond that, namely because I can't be bothered looking it up, even though this statement seems to be based upon a rumour that I heard from another person. The other thing about Wilkins, and this book in particular, was that I had some trouble finding it in a bookshop and ended up having to order it in, only to wander into a secondhand bookshop a week later to see a copy of this book, and Woman in White sitting on the shelf – it always happens like that.

 

So, the Moonstone is about this huge diamond that is stolen from India and finds its way to England and into the possession of a wealthy young lady (who inherited it from her uncle, who had originally stolen it from India). On her eighteenth birthday party she proudly wears it, but later that night it goes missing, and suddenly the mystery as to what happened to the diamond and who stole it begins. However, unlike most detective stories that I have read, where the mystery is pretty much solved within 24 to 48 hours of it happening, it isn't and everybody goes home. However, a year later the hunt for the diamond begins again in ernst and the mystery is eventually solved, though not as we would expect it to be solved.

 

Apparently The Moonstone is the first ever detective novel, though there was a discussion as to whether Wilkie or Poe were the first to write in this specific style of genre (apparently Poe was first, but because his story was a short story Wilkie is attributed to having the first full length novel). However the interesting thing is that it doesn't necessarily set the standard for how the genre developed in the future, though as I have said numerous times in the past, the detective novel, or even crime fiction, isn't a genre that really catches my attention. I have tried to read Agatha Christie, and despite really enjoying And Then There Were None I wasn't able to get into any of the other novels of hers that I read (though I'll probably try a couple more but I am not rushing out to do so). As for Doyle, as I have also previously mentioned, while at first I really enjoyed Sherlock Holmes, as the series dragged on I become less and less enthralled with the character and the stories.

 

The thing is that in my mind the idea of the detective fiction is that it is a game between the author and the reader to see if they can actually solve the problem before everything is revealed at the end, however my Dad, who is an avid reader of the genre, suggests that this generally isn't the case. For instance the Butler never, ever actually does it, and if he does it is generally considered to be so clichéd that the book is tossed into the recycling bin before anybody else can pick it up and have their intelligence insulted. As for Agatha Christie, my Dad suggests that her conclusions are so contrived that it is almost impossible to work it out (for instance in one of the books it turned out that everybody did it, though I still hold to my theory that Miss Marple is the real criminal, it is just that she is so clever at being able to throw the scent off the trail and pin the crime onto somebody else that she is never ever suspected, let alone caught).

 

Mind you, when I read a detective novel I generally give up trying to solve the problem pretty quickly, namely because that isn't the reason why I read – if I wanted to solve problems I would go and try debugging computer programs, or even write my own, or have an extended session on Duolingo – to me novels aren't designed to solve problems, but rather to open up one's mind to other possibilities, and to explore these possibilities through sites like Goodreads, or even my own blog. The other thing is that I suspect this style of detective fiction is rather new and wasn't the way that the original authors of the genre intended it to be.

 

The other thing about The Moonstone is that it was surprisingly amusing, which also baffled me because I never considered classical literature to actually be funny. Mind you, they probably are quite amusing, it is just that the style of humour, and the subtle references, are something that we generally wouldn't understand. Okay, I have known, and even done so myself, people who have burst out laughing at the plays of Aristophanes, and I also note that we have a few Roman comedies available, however it seems as if for quite a while most pieces of literature were actually quite serious, but then again we do have Shakespeare so I guess I am just talking rubbish again.

 

The really amusing thing about this book was the character who swore by the book Robinson Crusoe, which I have to admit does have a tendency to poke fun at those of us who happen to be religious. In fact sometimes I wonder myself at the absurdity of putting one's faith in the writings of a group of people that lived thousands of years ago. In fact a lot of people completely write off the writings of the ancients in that as far as they are concerned, if it was written over a thousand years ago then it has absolutely no application to the world today. Personally, I would disagree, though I guess the whole idea of basing one's life around Robinson Crusoe is that there is a difference between somebody who simply blindly follows a religious text, and those who go out of their way to completely debunk the text only to discover that no matter how hard they try the text stands up to scrutiny. Mind you, this does eventually come down to the way that you go about debunking the text.

 

As for basing your life around Robinson Crusoe, well, I'm sure it is possible, but I'm not really going to give it a try. Maybe I'll just stick with Mr Men (though I hope I haven't lost the one that I thought I put in my bag this morning).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1938970519
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-06 11:16
He's Back
The Return of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

When we last left our fearsome detective he was plummeting to his death having cornered his arch-nemesis Dr Moriarty on the Reisenbarch Falls. Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle (Arty to his friends, and me) had thought that he has seen the last of him and was planning on taking it easy having put the famous detective to rest. Unfortunately that wasn’t going to be the case because we now see the beginning of what has since become the term ‘back by popular demand’. Well, sure, the fans may not have been satisfied with the short stories and couple of novels that had been released, but it seems that Arty had pretty much become sick of Holmes and the only reason that Holmes managed to survive the fall is not just because of public pressure, but because the financial gain that no doubt was heading Arty’s way was quite alluring.

 

Anyway, in the first story we learn that not only had Holmes survived that fateful encounter, but that he had been lying low for quite a while because he wanted to make it appear that he was actually dead. The main reason for that is because Moriatey’s second in command had taken over the organisation and Holmes wanted to bring it to an end without alerting his enemies. Anyway, he manages to do so, and then solves a multitude of other cases and finishes us preventing a European wide war when he steps in and locates a note that the Prime Minister of England had believed that he has lost. Actually, the final adventure in this particular book has the Prime Minister of England coming to Holmes for his assistance.

 

Okay, this collection of short stories appeared around ten years after the previous one so there was no doubt a long time between drinks. Maybe the reason Doyle decided to bring Holmes back from the dead is the same reason that bands from the 80s and earlier do come back tours – they have run out of money. For instance, I saw John Cleese live a year ago and when I mentioned that to a friend he made mention that the only time John Cleese goes on tour is when he runs out of money. Maybe that is why Simon and Garfunkle put aside their differences and went on a world tour (though I suspect that even a rumour of a comeback tour would be enough to set them up for the rest of their lives).

 

The thing is that I really didn’t think all that much of this book. In a sense the things that I loved about Holmes were missing. His cocaine addiction and his brothel visiting habits (as well has being a prize fighter) actually made the character seem really really cool. However, come short story collection number three and all of the sudden he seems to be little more than a cardboard figure that seems to have no personality beyond being able to solve crimes. Okay, they are short stories, and the audience most likely wanted more of these short, easy to digest, crime stories, but I personally wanted something a little more. Further, the cleverness of some of the stories that appeared in the first couple of collections no longer seem to be the case here – they are just good old murder mysteries. Well, not all of them, but there is at least one dead body appearing in most of the stories.

 

Interestingly Inspector LeStrade makes an appearance now. The only reason that LeStrade comes to mind was because he appeared in an adventure game that I played as a kid called, not surprisingly, Sherlock Holmes. I was a bit baffled as to the significance of this character, but my Dad pointed out that he was a police officer that would always come to the wrong conclusions. Mind you, he didn’t come across as bumbling in that sense, rather lazy. Anyway, two more to go (and a re-read of Hounds of the Baskervilles), but I think I’ll put my next dose of Sherlock Holmes on hold for a little while.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/470322583
Like Reblog Comment
review 2017-03-03 04:50
Lark Rise - Flora Thompson

Lark Rise, the first book from Flora Thompson's trilogy, is a history of the English hamlet famously depicted in the BBC adaptation Lark Rise to Candleford. Thompson's story is semi-autobiographical, drawing from her childhood and those who featured in it.

 

She writes with humor and heartwarming nostalgia. Each chapter is focused on an aspect of the country lifestyle with which she was accustomed. Her memories are rendered with profound detail, allowing for the type of visual imagery that makes a reader feel as if he or she is lying among soft blades of grass or greeting the morning sun before milking the cows.

 

So much of the intricacies of hamlet life are vivid through Thompson's character Laura, who's reprimanded for her precociousness and whimsical appreciation of life. I read this book after watching the television series twice. I had begun to read this novel with the hopes of better understanding the characters I had grown to love from the screen.

 

My dismay lies in the fact that Lark Rise was not plot driven, nor did Thompson particularly invest in character development, rather they were used as eyes with which she could guide the reader along the roads of her hometown. Nevertheless, the fleeting moments wherein Thompson offered information about Edmund or Twister had me verbally pronouncing (alone in my room where no one could hear me or question my sanity) my pain upon knowing the dismal futures they had yet to discover. These endings were not demonstrated in the show, and therefore they served as a great surprise for me, albeit a sad one, while reading it on the page.

 

Finally, because Thompson is a woman recounting a personal history at a point in time where technology has distracted from the natural delicacies of nature and life has essentially progressed beyond farming and spring fairs, Lark Rise reads as a melancholic dream of long ago, an intimate love letter to a simpler time.

 

 

AND the illustrations for each of the chapters were absolutely beautiful etchings 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?