Tuesday, July 12, 2016

june-july 2016 books…

More book stuff:
Mystery In White (J Jefferson Farjeon): I admit that reading a crime novel set at Christmas (and amid heavy snowfall and blizzards) did seem slightly surreal in June! First published in 1937, this book (out of print since the 1930s) was subsequently republished by the British Library in 2014. In his day, Farjeon was a highly acclaimed author and, after reading this novel, I can see why. It’s a clever, almost creepy, mystery… in which a group of travellers (whose train becomes trapped by heavy snowdrifts) take shelter in a country house – where fires have been lit and the table laid for tea, but no one is at home. As I say, creepy! A good read.
The Walker’s Guide To Outdoor Clues And Signs (Tristan Gooley): Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascinating book – absolutely full of information and insights for walkers/outdoor-lovers. However, I REALLY didn’t take to Gooley at all! He’s obviously extremely knowledgeable about his subject, but I would hate to accompany him on a walk or attend one of his courses. I could imagine Gooley being critical of the group for not spotting some tiny, very particular, obscure (and, frankly, boring!) detail that had only recently occurred to him… and everyone on the course just looking at each other and thinking: “he’s off his head”! It’s a brilliant reference book though and one that I’ll very much enjoy using over the coming years - but I’d definitely prefer to avoid meeting him in person (he seems like a bit of anorak... to put it mildly!)!
All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes (Maya Angelou): Angelou has written her autobiography in seven volumes. This is book five - somewhat ridiculously, the others I’ve read are books one and six! As I’ve said before, I’ve been a big fan of hers over the years (and can almost hear her voice as I read her books). This one deals with her time in Ghana (she emigrated there in 1962, before returning to the USA three years later).
It’s essentially about Angelou exploring her African and African-American identities and her history and character. She focuses on becoming assimilated in African culture, but ends up finding this unattainable. It’s another fascinating book – her story is beautifully told and full of all the rich insights, colour and humour I associate with Angelou.
Sheila (Robert Wainwright): I enjoy biographies and picked up this book from the £3 Bookshop. I’m also fascinated by what was happening in this country in the 1920s – in terms of art, society, fashion, politics and the like - so, this book appealed on a number of fronts. It’s about Sheila Chisholm, born in Australia in 1895, given the best education given to girls at the time and then, in 1914, brought to London by her mother in order to complete her education by attending “the Season”. Wainwright describes Sheila Chisholm as “vivacious, confident and striking” and she clearly “blazed a trail through London society”, amassing friendships which ran the gamut from Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to Hollywood and the Kennedys. She married a Scottish lord, an English baronet and a Russian prince… and attracted a string of distinguished suitors (you get the general idea!). Frankly, I’d never previously heard of the woman and, on the face of it, reading about high society, privileged birthright, the cavorting idle rich and the ruling classes is hardly my idea of fun(!)… and yet the book DID make compelling and fascinating reading.
The Santa Klaus Murder (Mavis Doriel Hay): Yes, ridiculously, this is the second Christmas crime novel I’ve read this summer (I blame Moira!). Like the earlier book, this was also published in the 1930s (1935) – the golden age of British crime fiction according to the book’s blurb(?). It’s a very clever murder mystery set in a country house and involving an aristocratic setting, a dead earl and lots of red herrings. I liked the novel’s format of chapters written by a handful of the book’s characters (the Chief Constable being the major contributor) as the investigation unfolded. Well-conceived and well-executed (both the book and the murder!).

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