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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-14 22:18
Unspeakable
Unspeakable - Dilys Rose

What a disappointment.

 

Here was a book with a great premise: a historical fiction story set in Edinburgh and telling the story of the last man to be trialled for blasphemy in the UK. 

 

Unfortunately, the book turned out to be less of an investigation into the historical details of Thomas Aikenhead's life and trial, and more of a study of missed chances. Missed chances for the storyteller, that is.

 

If you're setting out to write a story that has a charge of blasphemy at its heart, don't forget to discuss what blasphemy is and how it was viewed in the time the story is set. Or, if this was a fairly recent law (which it was in this case) how it came about. I want to know these things. This is what I came here for together with this next aspect:

 

The trial. Surely, if the premise of the book is that it is about the last person put to trial for blasphemy, it is not too much to expect at least an attempt at a 17th century version of a court room drama?! 

 

But no, we basically got that young Thomas was arrested, put in jail, had a brief private exchange with the people who accused him (this part had to be made up by the author as this certainly would not have been in the official records), then his charge is read in court, and a couple of pages later the judges put on their black caps... Ugh.

 

I need more than this. I need to know how the trial was handled. Did he have a defense? Did the legal system at the time allow for a legal aide to be provided? What considerations were made by the court? How come the prosecution ask for a penalty that should only have been available for a third offence, but not a first as this was? How come the court followed through with this? What was the public reaction? 

 

I have so many questions. But, yet again, we get only a very few pages right at the end of the book. 

 

Btw, I marked this review as containing spoilers, but really since the author and the publishers have decided to give away the outcome of the trial in the very first line on the back-cover of the book, I might not have given a damn about the spoiler warning.

 

Just as I really could not give a damn about the first 75% of the book which were all building up to the offence, the prosecution, trial, and punishment. 

 

So, apart from a book of missed chances, this also was a book of misunderstanding between me and the author - I skipped much of the book between pages 99 and 158, and the author somehow managed to skip writing a story worth reading.

 

Oh, well.

 

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text 2018-08-14 20:18
Reading progress update: I've read 99 out of 272 pages.
Unspeakable - Dilys Rose

Observations so far:

 

Good:

 

The story is told in a form of Edinburgh vernacular.

The descriptions of life in Edinburgh at the close of the 17th century are quite vivid.

 

Questionable:

 

The story is told in a form of Edinburgh vernacular.

This is not a gripping read.

The story features some clear political bias. Even if I agree with the sentiment in general, I'd rather not have this rubbed in my face on every second page.

 

Bad:

 

Why did the publisher and author think it was a good idea to give away the ending in the first line on the back cover blurb?

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review 2018-08-14 18:31
Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile
Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile - Fran├žoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse & A Certain Smile, both novellas by Sagan have been on my TBR for years, and I am so glad I finally read them. 

There was no particular reason I wanted to read them other than that I heard so many readers speak of them, tho not about them. I was intrigued.

 

I had no idea that Sagan was only 18 when she wrote Bonjour Tristesse, but reading the novella I had been wondering what age group the author was writing for. You see, I didn't connect with the main character. She was quite young mentally and I was wondering if this was a novel that would now be found in the YA/NA section, except the writing is far too accomplished for NA. 

On the other hand, there are far more issues and layers to the stories than I'd probably expect from a YA (never even mind NA...) book. So, even if the novellas fit on either of those shelves - both certainly feature the angsty young people pursuing love interests as their main plot - the novellas are also more than they appear. I'm just not sure, that the reader is given much of a chance to explore the additional issues before the main plots - the romances in both novellas - end.  

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text 2018-08-12 22:33
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 272 pages.
Unspeakable - Dilys Rose

Let's follow up Ranke-Heinemann's epic demythologisation of the church with a wee novel about the last person in Britain to be tried for blasphemy... 

 

I would have saved this one for Halloween Bingo but I don't think it fits into any of the categories on my card.

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text 2018-08-12 01:58
Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 297 pages.
Putting Away Childish Things - Uta Ranke-Heinemann
Nein und Amen. Mein Abschied vom traditionellen Christentum - Uta Ranke-Heinemann

Ok, this one has turned out unexpected in several ways:

 

1. On page 2, I realised that I had bought this book twice...in two different editions. The other edition I have is the original German version. I'm reading both in parallel, which is rather fun.

 

2. This is a much faster read than I had expected from a book about theology. But then Uta Ranke-Heinemann is a good communicator and her writing is clear and structured.

 

3. This book has made me laugh out loud quite a lot. I'm not sure why I was surprised at that because I've followed her interviews for ... a long time.

 

4. I thought there may be sections which I am not going to be interested in, but so far I have not been tempted to skim or skip anything.

 

5. I think I will be a little bit sad when I finish this book. Luckily, I have another one of hers on a shelf somewhere... ;D

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