I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel. It came highly recommended, and it’s one of those books that I’m sure won’t leave anybody indifferent.
This is not a book heavy on plot. It is a novel narrated in the first person by a would-be writer stuck in writers’ block and seemingly unable to unleash the immense and unique talent for literature he believes he has. He uses all the tried and tested methods most readers will be familiar with (drinking heavily, navel-gazing, taking drugs, isolating himself, constantly trying to call the muses…) and some pretty unique ones (he is obsessed with submarines, and a particular Russian submarine disaster; he is also interested in air disasters; he has a penchant for peculiar interior decorating and a unique sense of fashion; he loves his fish and model-making [submarine again]). He adopts a variety of names and identities throughout the book, and seems intent on outraging and destroying things around him in frustration for not being able to create something, although when he dreams of literary fame, it isn’t what most people would think a writer would dream about.
Rather than helping, everything he tries seems to send him down a slippery slope of self-destruction (and a fair deal of vandalism and petty crime as well), and as readers, we are privileged witnesses of this journey towards… Well, if you read it you can decide by yourselves.
Although Bukowski has been mentioned in several reviews, the main character made me think of several books and authors I’ve read as well, some quite recently. He did remind me of the main character in Malibu Motel, who is so self-involved and unrealistic that he keeps digging holes for himself. Inkker (to give him one of his adopted names) has more insight (even if fleeting), and there is something more genuine about him, although he keeps it under wraps and well hidden. It also reminded me of Eileen and other protagonists of Ottessa Moshfegh’s work, but her characters are more extreme and even though less likeable, we normally get more of a background and a better understanding of where they are coming from. And, the way Inkker’s angry simmers and boils until it explodes in outrage, reminded me of a fantastic essay I read many years back by John Waters (the film director) called ‘101 Things I Hate’ published in his collection Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. What starts like a list of annoying things Waters is sharing with us, gets more and more outrageous as he gets more and more irate, and you can hear him shouting at you from the page by the end. It’s impossible not to nod and agree at many of the items on the list, but there is something at the same time darkly funny and scary in the way his emotions run so raw and close to the surface.
The book is beautifully observed and written, although, of course, it being in the first-person and the narrator a pretty unreliable one, we have to take all his comments and his opinions with a huge pinch of salt, and that goes for his depiction of other characters (and there are a few: an indie writer —of all things— and his girlfriend, an elderly neighbour, the guests at a disastrous dinner party, the locals at a pub, a couple of women, one he had a one-night-stand with and one he goes on a date with…). As you might suspect from the description, he is not particularly skilled in the social graces either and that results in some scenes that feel like watching a train wreck. It’s impossible to look away even when you know it’s going to get ugly, and I’m sure some of them will remain imprinted in the minds of readers for a long time.
Rum Hijack, which was first published in two separate parts, is darkly comedic (his quips at most writers, especially at self-published ones, will be ‘appreciated’ by those in the profession although perhaps not so much by readers not familiar with Twitter or with indie authors’ marketing techniques), and although in the face of it there is nothing particularly endearing about the protagonist, there is such vulnerability, such contradictions (he is reckless but careful, anarchic but worried about getting caught, a self-proclaimed outsider but eager to be admired and loved), such need, and such self-loathing behind many of his actions that it’s impossible not to keep reading about his adventures and hope that things might take a turn for the better.
This is not a book for readers eager for adventure and action, who love a complex plot and consistent characters. It is not for those who dislike first-person narrations or prefer clean, edifying and inspiring plots and messages. If you enjoy literary fiction, books about writing (or writers’ block), are eager to find new voices, and love your humour very dark, check a sample of this book. You will either love it or hate it (yes, it’s a marmite kind of book). It’s up to you.
Oh, as a clarification to readers here on Booklikes, my review refers to the whole novel, not only to part one. It's called Rum Hijack, and I couldn't find it here.
"Illiterate" (read: dyslexic) working class home help kills her well-meaning but utterly clueless upper class employers. The end. (And because it's an inverted mystery, we know literally from the first sentence that this is going to happen.) Aaaannnd ... I'm out.
I'm not merely bored, though.
Chiefly, I'm furious at Rendell for deliberately framing dyslexia:
(1) as a class issue (which it patently is not and never has been), and
(2) what is infinitely worse, as the trigger that causes a psychopath who is secretly morbidly ashamed of her lack of literacy to fatally lash out at others.
Shame on you, Baroness. You ought to have known better.
Let no part of the blame fall on Carole Hayman, however, whose spirited reading made me give this book way more of my time than I should have.
The aim: To diversify my reading and read as many books as possible (not necessarily 80) set in, and by authors from, countries all over the world. Female authors preferred. If a book is set in a location other than that of the author's nationality, it can apply to either (but not both).
On the map I'm only tracking new reads, not also rereads.
This is a project continued from 2019. 2020 reads for a country already covered in 2019 will override the 2019 reads. (2019 books listed below the page break.)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We Should All Be Feminists (new)
Agatha Christie: The Grand Tour: Letters and Photographs from the British Empire Expedition 1922 (new)
Yaa Gyasi: Homegoing (new)
Gaël Faye: Petit pays (Small Country) (new)
Martha Wells: All Systems Red (new)
Sarah-Jane Stratford: Radio Girls (new)
Various Authors, Lee Child (ed.): Mystery Writers of America Presents: Vengeance (new)
Tamora Pierce: Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hands of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant (all new)
Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora (new)
Sonia Sotomayor: My Beloved World (new)
Charles Portis: True Grit (new)
Sara Paretsky: Indemnity Only (new)
Lee Goldberg: Lost Hills (new)
Anne Fadiman: Confessions of a Common Reader (new)
Martha Grimes: The Horse You Came In On (new)
Anthony Boucher: The Case of the Baker Street Originals (new)
Otto Penzler (ed.) & Various Authors: Murder at the Racetrack and Dangerous Women (both new)
Jamaica Kincaid: A Small Place (new)
Mia Alvar: In the Country (new)
Rafik Schami: Murmeln meiner Kindheit (My Childhood's Marbles) (new)
Barbara Cleverly: Ragtime in Simla (new)
Australia / Oceania
Gladys Mitchell: Death Comes at Christmas (aka Dead Men's Morris) (new)
Agatha Christie: 12 Radio Mysteries, Towards Zero, Ordeal by Innocence, The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, and Cat Among the Pigeons (all revisited on audio)
E.M. Delafield: The Diary of a Provincial Lady (new)
Dorothy Dunnett: The Game of Kings (new)
David Ashton: McLevy, Series 1 & 2 (new)
Elizabeth George: I, Richard (revisited on audio)
Ngaio Marsh: Scales of Justice (twice), Overture to Death, Light Thickens, Dead Water, Death at the Bar, Enter a Murderer, A Man Lay Dead, Death on the Air and Other Stories, When in Rome, Singing in the Shrouds, False Scent, and Final Curtain (all revisited on audio)
Tony Riches: Jasper and Henry (both new)
John Bercow: Unspeakable (new)
Patricia Wentworth: The Case of William Smith, The Case Is Closed, and Pilgrim's Rest (all new), Miss Silver Comes to Stay (reread)
Colin Dexter: Last Bus to Woodstock (revisited on audio)
Raymond Postgate: Somebody at the Door and Verdict of Twelve (both new)
Ellis Peters: The Sanctuary Sparrow and An Excellent Mystery (both revisited on audio)
J. Jefferson Farjeon: Thirteen Guests (new)
Terry Manners: The Man Who Became Sherlock Holmes (new)
Margery Allingham: The Beckoning Lady, Black Plumes (both new), Death of a Ghost, Mystery Mile, Sweet Danger, Dancers in Mourning, and Flowers for the Judge (all revisited on audio), My Friend Mr. Campion and Other Stories (new), and The Case of the Late Pig (reread)
P.D. James: BBC 4 Radio Collection (7 full cast adaptations) (revisited)
Keith Frankel: Granada's Greatest Detective (new)
Cyril Hare: Tragedy at Law (new)
Georgette Heyer: No Wind of Blame (reread)
Joy Ellis: The Patient Man (new)
Anne Perry: Defend and Betray (new)
Michael Cox: A Study in Celluloid (new)
Emmuska Orczy: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard (new)
Val McDermid: Broken Ground (new)
Josephine Tey: Miss Pym Disposes (new), A Daughter of Time (reread), and Dickon (as Gordon Daviot) (new)
Detection Club: Ask a Policeman (new)
Susanna Gregory: An Unholy Alliance (new)
R. Austin Freeman: The Red Thumb Mark (new)
Alan Melville: Weekend at Thrackley (new)
Dorothy L. Sayers: Busman's Honeymoon and Love All (plays) (both new)
Bernard Capes: The Myystery of the Skeleton Key (new)
Ruth Rendell: A Judgement in Stone (new)
P.G. Wodehouse: Thank You, Jeeves and Jeeves in the Offing (both new)
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: The Legacy (new)
Patricia Moyes: Dead Men Don't Ski (new)
J. Jefferson Farjeon: Seven Dead (new)
Freeman Wills Crofts: The Cask (new)
Read in 2020, to date:
Books by female authors: 69
- new: 37
- rereads: 32
Books by male authors: 26
- new: 25
Books by F & M mixed teams / anthologies: 4
- new: 4
LATIN / SOUTH AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN:
EAST / SOUTHEAST ASIA AND OCEANIA:
MIDDLE EAST AND CENTRAL ASIA:
EASTERN AND CENTRAL EUROPE:
WOMEN WRITERS (global list):
When I bought this joint edition of Busman’s Honeymoon and Love All, the obvious pièce de résistance, for me, and the reason why I spent some time hunting down an affordable copy at all, was the stage version of Busman’s Honeymoon – the final full-length outing of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (later transformed into a novel of the same name) and just about the last published bit from Dorothy L. Sayers’s own pen still lacking in my collection, at least as far as Lord Peter and Harriet are concerned. Love All, in comparison, looked like an also-ran – interesting, certainly, but surely no dice on the star turn of Sayers’s recently-married supersleuths?
Oh, ye of little faith.
Ostensibly, Love All (which Sayers co-wrote with her Somerville College friend Marjorie Barber, and which in an unpublished manuscript version bears the alternative title Cat’s Cradle) is a drawing room comedy, set first in Venice and later in London – but Sayers wouldn’t be Sayers if a drawing room comedy was all she had given us here. In fact, this is the theatrical expression of the thoughts also expressed in the two addresses jointly reproduced under the title Are Women Human? – that it is women’s given right as human beings to live a fully realized life, which most definitely includes the right to choose their own professional path, and the freedom not to have to place a man’s needs and demands over their own (as, however, so many of her female contemporaries had to do).
The play was never published in printing during Sayers’s lifetime and only had a limited stage exposure outside of London (and none at all in London itself); possibly as a result of clashing – as Sayers herself put it – on its opening night “with Mr. Hitler’s gala performance in Norway and Denmark” (i.e., the Nazis’ 1940 invasion of Norway). Another reason may have been the strictures imposed by Sayers’s son Anthony Fleming, who – jealously protective of his mother’s standing as a writer – even in this 1980s’ “resurrection” prohibited any editorial reference to Sayers’s private life or to himself, even though the play features a young boy brought up by relatives in the country while his mother is pursuing a literary career in London. And according to the play itself, he definitely had a point; the boy's mother, a successful dramatist, is observed rebutting a journalist (on the phone): “Oh, no, Mr. Mackenzie – Not the personal angle, please. No, really, what has one’s private life to do with one’s work? Well, I daresay that is the question, but I don’t want to discuss it.”
Whatever the reasons for the play’s having been allowed to slip into oblivion, it is a pity that this should have happened, as Love All compares favorably with other plays in a similar vein that actually have survived until today. – As the alternative title suggests, to even try and sum up the plot would be giving away major plot points, so I’m just going to end with a few of my favorite quotes:
“LYDIA: I thought it would be nice to marry Godfrey […] his books were so thrilling. They made me go all soppy, only he isn’t really a bit like his books.
JANET: Authors never are. They write themselves out into their books, and the real person is just the odds-and-ends left over.”
“LYDIA: And after dinner he’d read me what he’d done.
JANET: Just so. And ask for your opinion and advice.
LYDIA: Sometimes I tried disagreeing with something for a change.
JANET: How did that work?
LYDIA: Then he explained why he was right. I found that took rather too long.
JANET: It does, rather. Has he done much scrapping and rewriting?
LYDIA: He’s always scrapping and rewriting bits. Except the bits I disagreed with. He always kept those.”
“LYDIA: Every great man has had a woman behind him.
JANET: And every great woman has had some man or other in front of her, tripping her up.”
“LYDIA: Is the next book going to be about a devoted woman who sacrificed her career for her lover?
JANET: No, darling; that was the one he wrote just before he met you.”