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review 2018-06-24 20:56
Sad Cypress
Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie

The court. Faces. Rows and rows of faces! One particular face with a big black moustache and shrewd eyes. Hercule Poirot, his head a little on one side, his eyes thoughtful, was watching her.

   She thought: He’s trying to see just exactly why I did it… He’s trying to get inside my head to see what I thought – what I felt…

   Felt…? A little blur – a slight sense of shock… Roddy’s face – his dear, dear face with its long nose, its sensitive mouth… Roddy! Always Roddy – always, ever since she could remember… since those days at Hunterbury amongst the raspberries and up in the warren and down by the brook. Roddy – Roddy – Roddy… 

   Other faces! Nurse O’Brien, her mouth slightly open, her freckled fresh face thrust forward. Nurse Hopkins looking smug – smug and implacable. Peter Lord’s face – Peter Lord – so kind, so sensible, so – so comforting! But looking now – what was it – lost? Yes – lost! Minding – minding all this frightfully! While she herself, the star performer, didn’t mind at all!

   Here she was, quite calm and cold, standing in the dock, accused of murder.

In my reading of Christie's novels, this is one of the best opening scenes. 

 

And what is more, I thought this was one of the best Poirot novels of the canon, together with Five Little Pigs, which is quite similar in structure. 

There is a little more to Sad Cypress than meets the eye at first, and it doesn't read like the usual formulaic Christie novel. 

 

For a start, the character of Elinor, the MC, is not your happy-go-lucky bright young thing. We meet her as the accused, who hesitates when asked whether she pleads guilty or not guilty. 

From there on, we step back in time to see the story unfold from the start but even then, Elinor, is riddled with doubts and cares. Christie does a marvellous job describing a woman being close to a breakdown throughout the story leading up to the arrest. 

 

By that time, of course we still don't know what happens and whether her state of mind is caused by her guilt over plotting a murder. We won't know this until the end. 

This is another aspect I liked. This book keeps up its suspense until the end - and even then there are elements which remain ... a mystery. 

 

Yes, the murder is resolved, but much of the book is based on the character of the individuals involved in the plot - and one person's reading of a character may put forth a completely different interpretation of the ending than another reader's. 

 

I, for one, tended to find the ending unsettling - in both the ways of what happened to the villain and what happened to the victim. I don't know if Dame Agatha had intended this to be a happy ending, but I can't quite see it that way. 

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text 2018-06-23 23:23
Reading progress update: I've read 51%.
Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie

I'm so sorry, Lillelara, I'm not being a good reading buddy for this - I got side-tracked yesterday by the lovely weather, which made me (yes, made me) play tennis for most of the afternoon, and then I literally was too stiff and knackered to lift my arms...I regret nothing, except for not keeping up with the book. 

 

I managed to read much further today, tho... until the football. Ahem. It took a while to calm down after that finale and now I will probably finish the book tonight/tomorrow morning.

 

:D

 

Anyway, the book:

 

There is so much to love here: 

 

1. The opening scene had me hooked. The description of Elinor in shock was superb, I thought, and such a great setup to the story. It has the two storylines shoot off: One, where we find out how the trial is going to conclude, and the other where we find out about the murder. 

It is very much similar to Five Little Pigs in that structure and I really like it.

 

2. Roddy is a wuss, as Lillelara already described here, but I like him. He's just so ... unsure of everything, including himself.

 

3. Mary's position is described beautifully, and it must have hit home with quite a few people in a similar situation at the time that the book was set and published (tho it was set a few years before it was published (1940) - so, maybe set in the early to mid-30s?), when the class system took a hit and people found themselves in new "stations" and didn't know what to do with themselves. I really feel for Mary. She really wants people to like her. 

 

4. Dr Lord - Oh, gee... I loved him in the tv adaptation (mostly because he is played by Paul McGann...which needs no further explanation) but in the book he's a bit of a patronising git.

 

5. I did enjoy Laura's discussion of euthanasia, tho. Quite a serious topic for a Christie novel. 

 

6. And then we have this cracker: 

‘Aunt Agatha’s Advice column. “Keep your boy friend guessing! Don’t let him be too sure of you!”’

Hahahaha...

 

7. Nurse O'Brien / Nurse Hopkins - I don't like either of them, and it's not because of the the tv adaptation. It's the way they are described in the book and talking about other people.

 

I'm just about to start Part II, which brings HP on the scene. 

 

:D 

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review 2018-06-23 14:09
What's a girl gotta do? by Holly Bourne
What's a girl gotta do? - Holly Bourne

This was the third book in Holly Bournes trilogy, The Spinster Club. For those who haven’t read it, the spinster club is not a club for old woman, it’s a term that’s been turned on it’s head. It’s what 3 college girls call their feminist group that meets at each other’s houses, cheesy snacks at the ready. This whole trilogy has its roots in feminism, although this is the first book in the series where it took centre stage.

 

I started this series 2 or 3 years ago with the first book, Am I Normal Yet. It was about 1 of the 3 friends, Evie, although they hadn’t become friends at that time. It mostly focused on mental illness and it was only towards the end the theme of friendship and relationships took hold. I really enjoyed that first book, but not so much the second, which was from Amber’s perspective, another girl from the group. This was from Lottie’s perspective, the one who started the spinster club to begin with. She’s the smartest of the 3 apparently and is pipped to go to Cambridge University. This book and the first are set just outside London, in an unnamed town, whereas the second book is set in the US when Amber goes to see her mother. In this one it’s the last year of college for the girls, after which time they’ll be forced to separate.

 

So, the plot. After being subject to verbal harassment on the way to college one day, Lottie decides on an extra-curricula project. She plans to call out every instance of sexism she witnesses for a whole month, along with the girls from her feminist society at college. She’s doing this alongside her hefty college work and preparation for an interview with Cambridge University. At the start, Lottie doesn’t know what a big project she’s getting into and soon begins to feel the strain. She also gets involved with a guy, which complicates things more.

 

Even though feminism is an issue that transcends age, I don’t think I was the intended audience. I think it might benefit younger people more who are just getting into feminism. They can learn some of the fundamentals and are poised to be inspired. During Lottie’s project it became obvious just how much sexism women have to put up with on a daily basis, so it really helped shed more light on the issue for me.

 

If you’re thinking the novel sounds overly preachy, you’d be right and wrong. There was a good deal of finger-pointing in the name of feminism, but at no point did I roll my eyes and think it was too much. It was all pretty much justified. There were also plenty of side plots to divert from this issue, such as a romance between Lottie and the film student who was filming her during her project for a YouTube channel dedicated to it. There was also a strong focus concerning friendship, which has always been a big theme in each of these books.

 

The writing was nothing fancy. It was very much to the point, with few descriptive elements to speak of. Apart from the odd reference to appearance and a little about the surroundings, there wasn’t much. That didn’t particularly matter to me, as it’s what I’ve come to expect from the YA genre at large. Holly Bourne has just written her first adult novel, though, so I would be interested to see if that changes. I doubt it, though. What this was instead was a really fun read, with just enough seriousness to prevent it from falling into being too light. It was exactly what I needed, a fun read.

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text 2018-06-23 13:01
Reading progress update: I've read 240 out of 360 pages.
An Old-Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott

"Then, my dear, can't you bear a little ridicule for the sake of a good cause? You said yesterday that you were going to make it a principle of your life, to help up your sex as far and as fast as you could. It did my heart good to hear you say it, for I was sure that in time you would keep your word. But, Polly, a principle that can't bear being laughed at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, isn't worthy of the name."

"I want to be strong-minded in the real sense of the word, but I don't like to be called so by people who don't understand my meaning; and I shall be if I try to make the girls think soberly about anything sensible or philanthropic. They call me old-fashioned now, and I 'd rather be thought that, though it isn't pleasant, than be set down as a rampant woman's rights reformer," said Polly, in whose memory many laughs, and snubs, and sarcasms still lingered, forgiven but not forgotten.

"This love and thought and care for those weaker, poorer, or worse than ourselves, which we call Christian charity, is a very old fashion, my dear. It began eighteen hundred years ago, and only those who honestly follow the beautiful example set us then, learn how to get genuine happiness out of life. I 'm not a 'rampant woman's rights reformer,'" added Miss Mills, with a smile at Polly's sober face; "but I think that women can do a great deal for each other, if they will only stop fearing what 'people will think,' and take a hearty interest in whatever is going to fit their sisters and themselves to deserve and enjoy the rights God gave them.

 

There is this good natured, sensible tone to this chapter, where the proto-feminism clashes with the marching of time and the result is some "fair for it's time" result...

 

Oh, and in the plot I see maybe an early version of what turned out to be May Flowers.

 

And we always come back to work being good for the soul.

 

 

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review 2018-06-17 17:54
A lightning felony in the jinx of harsh reality
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