Reading: Wuthering Depths; My October Roundup

I read 13 books in October, these final five during my continuing Twitter and cultural exile which I am experiencing literally in the shadow of Camp Contamination; this entry is what I thought of those. (If you missed what I wrote about the first eight I read in October you can click HERE from October 11 and HERE from October 13 and HERE from October 17. ) I didn’t really LOVE anything I read in October although I did enjoy my series reliable, Rhys Bowen. Otherwise, I was sore disappointed (and angered, in one case) by the Man Booker nominees I read and full of “meh” about most everything else. I got all five of these books from the library. In fact, all 13 of October’s books were gotten from the library. While I may not have loved anything I read, I do love my library. Thanks for reading and pass me on, would you? Now that I don’t even sign in on Twitter, my blog is dying. Oh well. I am fading away, into the mists, my own Wuthering Depths. Oooh, I’ve been looking for a name for this apartment since I moved away from Sepia Fallows; Wuthering Depths it is. Maybe I’ll rename the blog? Later, dears.

trespasserTHE TRESPASSER, Tana French, hardcover, 449 pages, Viking This is my third Tana French novel and my least favorite of those. Ms. French has a real gift for poetic, evocative prose, and, too, for plotting. However, this novel felt overworked and too long, leaving me with the feeling I was reading multiple sketches of the same scene all included because no one could decide what to cut. The narrator is Antoinette Conway who appeared to much better effect for me in The Secret Place. Conway rightfully feels abused in her squad, and is made lead detective on a case of a woman murdered in her home, evidence around which seems to indicate the new-ish, not-quite-boyfriend with whom she was to have dinner the night she died. Of course, it is not so simple, not what it seems, and along the way to the solve, Conway discovers that parts of her own life are not exactly how she perceived them either. I didn’t dislike this, I was just exhausted by its length. The story is good but wrapped in too many words and the same points pounded again and again.

crowned-and-dangerousCROWNED AND DANGEROUS, Rhys Bowen, hardcover, 307 pages, Berkley Prime Crime This is the tenth in the series, Her Royal Spyness, about near-destitute Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line for the British crown in the early 1930s, and I have read every single one. I love these books. They are my favorite cozies, along with the Agatha Raisin series by M.C.Beaton from which they could hardly be more different. In this one, Lady Georgiana’s fiance — almost, he’s Catholic and so she needs permission to remove herself from the order of ascension to the crown — Darcy O’Mara, broke as Lady Georgiana, must forgo their plans for a secret elopement so they might at last consummate their love, to assist his father who has been accused of murdering the wealthy American who bought the O’Mara family estate. Very British shenanigans ensue. Good breeding, comic tom(and tina)foolery, and lots of tea drinking — wait, that was me, I can’t help myself when I get to dive into one of these. They are marvelous fun, the characters are charming — even the obnoxious and murdering ones — and it’s all sort of Downton Abbey as interpreted by Tracey Ullman. Great fun.

all-that-man-isALL THAT MAN IS, David Szalay, hardcover, 362 pages, Graywolf Press This is the fourth of the Man Booker Fiction finalists I have read, finishing it on the day the winner, The Sellout by Paul Beatty {I WROTE ABOUT IT HERE} was announced. I still have two more to read, but thus far I find this the least objectionable of the lot. This is composed of nine short stories, or, movements, because they really are almost musical variations on a theme which is, I am guessing, what prompted this being called a novel — because, well, it’s not. The first story is about a seventeen year old, existentially lost and struggling with who he is and who he is supposed to be, his own and his family’s and world’s expectations, and the disappointments of being alive. Each successive story features an older character, until finally in number nine there is a seventy-three year old who is related to the seventeen year old with whom we began. What is constant is the existential angst. It morphs, but none of these men are what one would call happy, and most are slightly unpleasant. Also in common, the face and persona they present to the world is at odds with the interior self, the voice in the head — now, that dichotomy is indeed universal, all that each human is; who doesn’t struggle with the spaces between who we are, who we want to be, who we pretend to be, who others think we are, who we think others think we are, and on and on. But, that said, this book’s title is a bit hubristic, certainly what is contained within is not — I hope (and I am sure I am hardly the first to have said this in response to this book) “all that man is” — not even close. All that said, there is a level of observed detail here which is truly compelling. Mr. Szalay has a unique voice, easy to listen to, even when he is describing what in all nine stories here is mostly a journey to despair.

hag-seedHAG-SEED, Margaret Atwood, hardcover, 301 pages, Hogarth Shakespeare I loved Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddam trilogy, and I am fond of Shakespeare, so I am surprised how little I liked this book. This re-imagining of The Tempest is an accomplished literary matryoshka; an homage inside a retelling of a play inside a play, many a storm tossing within it, a calamitous conflagration of the damaged and the dismissed, social commentary and huge slabs of wit and inventiveness. Yes, all that, but still, I only admired it rather than ever feeling moved by it. The characters were more sketched than well drawn and thus uninvolving; no matter the trademark Atwood wit, I gave not one (or, at least, very few) whit for any of these people. And my god what an awful lot of plotting and names — blame Shakespeare, I suppose, but isn’t one of the points of this Hogarth project of re-imagining to calibrate and renovate the tales in ways that make them newly affecting for a modern literary as opposed to theatrical audience? For me, it was all effect unaffecting.

home-harlan-cobenHOME, Harlan Coben, hardcover, 400 pages, Dutton This is the 11th in the Myron Bolitar series, and though I’ve not read all of that series, this is the 11th of Mr. Coben’s books I’ve read. They are reliably fast, one-day reads. They are like episodes of a loved television series. One knows what to expect. The good guys are kind of bad. The bad guys are sick awful. The universe is complicated. And a moral compass is a difficult thing to maintain. These are unpretentious, straightforward, well-crafted works which seem deceptively easy and — I have tried so I know — are nearly impossible to write well. Much respect to Mr. Coben.

And like I said at the top, October was — by and large — a disappointing month. Not just in reading, alas. But, blessings counted — even though I’ve gone the month without much leaving my apartment other than to head to the gym or grocery store or drive my Mom around, and have seen nothing of most of my IRL friends, even so, despite those less than ideal circumstances, I have gotten to regularly see my dear, dear A; I have lost fifteen pounds; I was invited to an orgy; my three year mystery digestive illness has remained in remission except for one day (MIRACLES!); I was offered a jaunt to New York (which I had to turn down, long story); and, while this hermit/disconnect existence I am currently experiencing feels — saddish —I still sometimes think that somewhere inside the piles of accumulated shit, there must be a pony. So, there’s that, right?

Love and Light, dears.

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