A passage to India – E M Forster 

I started reading this as a library book and enjoyed it so much I bought the beautiful Hodder and Staughton edition pictured above.

This is a story about colonial India and how the British and Indian cultures clash and come together during that time.

It’s very much a book of its time and it portrayal of Indians is at times racist, however it’s also very scathing of the British treatment of India and their attitudes so it makes an interesting read. 

The language is poetic and the story ambles a little, it takes a long time to get to the point of the story. However once you realise that it takes about two thirds of the story to get to the main scenes it’s a very book to give you the colour and feel of the time and place it’s set in.

There’s no great plot, no twists or turns or unexpected happenings. It’s quite straightforward and very honest. A good read. 

Death on the Riviera – John Bude 

Another of my British Library Crime classics collection. This one by John Bude, I have several of his books now. Apart from a propensity to litter his books with repetitive Latin words his books are very enjoyable.

This one is less about a murder than you might think from the title and more about counterfeit bank notes. However towards the end of the book the murder of course does happen in a nicely fantastic, improbably, but possibly could just work fashion.

A very enjoyable read and possibly one of my favourite of the collection so far. It manages to capture some of the flavour of the Riviera too and even has a little romance involved. I think my next BLCC may well be another John Bude. 

Aspects of the novel – E M Forster 

This book is actually a series of lectures which were given by Forster at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1927. The lectures are broken down as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. The story
  3. People
  4. People continued
  5. The plot
  6. Fantasy
  7. Prophecy
  8. Pattern and rhythm
  9. Conclusion

The style is very approachable and chatty. I was worried that this would be quite a full, dry book but it’s actually quite an engaging read in parts.

The book starts well and in people he introduces the famous ’round’ and ‘flat’ characters and some interesting concepts.He ‘s also not above tearing some quite famous authors world to pieces which adds to the interest.

However around fantasy and prophecy it seems to lose it’s its way a bit and become loose and woolly and it never really recovers from there which is a shame.

Nevertheless it’s a good read for any aspiring authors or book critics, or anyone with a love  for E M Forster’s works.

Weekend round up

Things I ‘ve seen over the week that are of interest…

  • Vintage will be launching their Vintage mini series in the summer – I think they look like a great collection in the making
  • I’m following @bookishsteph1 on Instagram in a British Library Crime Classics readalong for 2017. The idea behind it is to read one BLCC each month for the year, although I may read more than 12 this year! Follow along or participate with #blccchallenge
  • Felix the railway cat is being released in February . I am a massive fan of Felix the Huddersfield Station cat on Facebook so I’m really looking forward to getting this
  • Haruki Murakami’s Men without women will be out in May this year, it’s a collection of short stories and looks to be good.

The mystery at Underwood House -Clara Benson

This is the second book in the Angels Marchmont series, this time it is written directly from Angela’s point of view.

I felt like I got to know Angela better in this story. There were interesting snippets about her life, her background, and her personality. It certainly left me feeling like I would like to get to know her better.

The writing was better in this book too, not that it was bad in the first one by any means, but it felt like the author was really getting into her stride.

I’d read a few reviews of both the books and they all said the murderer was less easy to guess in the second book than the first, but I actually guessed who did it in this book quite quickly, along with most of the reason why. It was probably just a lucky guess though and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.

This certainly isn’t high brow reading but if you are lying home at bed I’ll  (like I currently am unfortunately) then these books and a cup of tea sound like heaven. Mine’s  a peppermint tea please…

The murder at Sissingham Hall – Clara Benson

This is the first in the Angela Marchmont Mystery books, a set of detective/crime novels set in the 1920’s.

Despite being a modern book this has all the hallmarks of a classic 1920’s crime novel, a house party, a spurned liver, an affair, an Inspector from Scotland Yard who is shown up by a amateure detective, what’s not to love?

In the whole it’s an enjoyable book. It’s not written from Angela Marchmont’s perspective, in fact she seems to be a secondary character in the book and I don’t feel at the end of the story that I’ve really got to know her at all.

There’s some good personal realationship storylines to the book and the murderer isn’t immediately obvious, and there’s a plot twist.

It’s probably not the most difficult crime novel out there, and I thought the ‘big reveal’ of whodunit was a bit to East. Nevertheless I enjoyed the feel of the story and the setting. It felt a bit Georgette Heyerish to me, (detective not regency) but with a better plot.

I ordered the second one in the series at the same time, so that’s tonight’s reading sorted.

The pursued- C S Forester 

I picked this book up at random from the library just before Christmas and I’ve only just got round to reading it. I’ve read a few of Forester’s Hornblower books, but because I never enjoyed them as much as Alexander Kent’s Bolitho series I never really made an effort to seek his books out.

This one caught my attention because it wasn’t a Hornblower book. I wasn’t aware that Forester had written several crime novels. This one was referred to as his ‘lost novel’ as a variety of circumstances meant it wasn’t published until 2011, a good many years after it was first written in 1935.

It’s quite a brutal, chilling novel. Marjorie arrives home to find her sister dead’ apparently it’s a suicide. But their mother suspects differently and eventually they realise Marjorie’s husband is responsible. The book chronicles how they deal with this.

The storytelling is interesting, in that whilst it’s told through Marjorie’s point of view it’s actually the story of her mother that you are reading.

This is not for the feint hearted, there are some quite disturbing scenes in the book. However it’s a fascinating read and an interesting glimpse into middle class life in the 1930s.

Cotillion – Georgette Heyer

This was picked at random out of a collection of Georgette Heyer’s when I was rush out the other day and needed a book in my handbag as a just in case book. As it happened I didn’t need it (we seemed to be plagued to sit in traffic jams last year and I got a bit frustrated the second time in a week when I didn’t have a book with me.

When I got home I decided to re read it anyway. This has never been one of my favourite Georgette Heyer’s and when I re read it I couldn’t think why. For some reason this time, and it’s probably  about the 7th time I’ve read it, I’ve suddenly realised how good it is.

There’s no strong dashing hero for the heroine to fall in love with, Freddie is considered a bit of a fool by his family. Jack, who could be a strong dashing hero is instead a bit of a cad.

Whilst Kitty, whilst determined, lacks some of the strong minded independent streak that some of my favorites Heyer heroines have, such as the grand Sophy, or Fredricia.

However I like the slow build in this story, the gradual romance. There’s less dictatorial passion and a more protective kindness. The resulting couple would be a blaze of glory, but actually this is one of Heyer’s pairings that I could really see resulting in longstanding happiness.

So this quieter, but rather charming book, has inched its way up the list into one of my favourite Heyer’s, one of the ones I’ll reach for when I’m ill or in need of a comforting pick me up.

The subtle knife – Philip Pullman 

This is the second instalment in Philip Pullman’s trilogy, and I enjoyed it far less than the first. In fact once I finished it I remembered that I never actually bothered with the third one as a child.

I didn’t mind the change of point of view from Lyra to Will, and I enjoyed seeing things from other secondary characters points of view. But there are too many characters to keep track of easily, I prefer David Eddings who usually keeps his numbers down to 5 or 6 in the main group.

There were also several new worlds introduced in this book and at times it what hard to remember who was doing what in each world.

The motivations behind the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides are vast and a bit incomprehensible. The whole thing is turning into a theological debate and I think I should have read some Milton first.

I will try to persevere this time and read the third book, just to see what happens, but I hope it recovers the charm, consistency and direction of the first instalment. This one seemed to go everywhere at once and achieve very little.

Silent nights – edited by Martin Edwards

I came across the British Library Crime classics a few months ago and since then have bought about 8 or so, there three of them recently as they are Christmas themed in one way or another.

These Books, being republished by the British Library, were all written in ‘The golden age of crime writing’ around the 1920s and 1930s, and whilst it would be rather odd to match my reading to my favourite furniture, also of that era, apparently that’s what I’ve been subconsciously doing recently between these and F Scott Fitzgerald.

Some of the books in the series are better than others but I haven’t found any I don’t like at all. This one is made up of short stories, starting with a Sherlock Holmes one, and like all collections of short stories it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

The stories included are:

  • The blue carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Parlour tricks by Ralph Plummer
  • A happy solution by Raymond Allen
  • The flying stars by G.K. Chesterton
  • Stuffing by Edgar Wallace
  • The unknown murderer by H.C. Bailey
  • The absconding treasurer by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • The necklace of pearls by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • The case is altered by Margery Allingham
  • Waxworks by Ethel Lina White
  • Cambric tea by Marjorie Bowen
  • The Chinese apple by Joseph Shearling
  • A problem in white by Nicholas Blake
  • The name on the window by Edmund Crispin
  • Beef for Christmas by Leo Bruce

Rather than go into all the stories in detail I am just going to say a bit more about my top three favourites and my least favourite.

My top three favourites are:

Waxworks – there isn’t a clever crime in this one, but it does build an amazing amount of tension and suspense for such a short story. A reporter staying the night in a seemingly deserted waxwork museum. Is her mind playing tricks on her or is one of the waxworks really someone out to kill her?

The unknown murderer – this story cleverly links three apparently unconnected murders and does it in an elegant way. Whilst I did have a suspicion who the murderer was going to be it was nevertheless a good read.

A problem in white – a train journey goes wrong when snow on the line halts the train and a man is murdered. It seems like practically all the characters mentioned could have been responsible for the murder, and in fact the story itself doesn’t tell you who did it, although there is a solution in the back if you can’t work it out. It wasn’t an obvious answer and I couldn’t guess it from the start. Skillfully written.

My least favourite story is:

A happy solution – I have a feeling this story is a lot cleverer than I realise, but not being a chess player most of the subtlety and intrigue is lost on me. It’s still worth a read as a non chess player but its frustrating to not be able to quite get the point.

I find short story collections a but hard to get into sometime. Just as I’m developing a feel for a character and really starting to get into a story it stops and I have to start all over again. I tend to have to push myself to finish books of short stories and this was no exception but that’s not to discredit the book, just an indication of my tastes.

Whilst the stories are all round Christmas in one way or another, its importance varies throughout the book as do the setting and types of crime stories. It’s a well thought out collection and has introduced me to a few new (to me) authors I would like to read more of.