Monthly Archives: March 2010

Dancing Backwards – Salley Vickers

 I do quite like Salley Vickers – I haven’t read everything she has written, but the bits I have read I enjoyed. I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend.

Mrs Heatherington sets sail alone on a cruise, with hopes of new experience and replenished independence. Vic, the on-board entertainer, has an eye for lucrative freelance work, and sets his sights on the elderly lady, lonely and vulnerable, whose heart he thinks he can unlock as fast as her purse. In this witty and beautifully written new novel, Salley Vickers uncovers the poetry of self-discovery and the possibilities of change for us all.
I found it quite slow to get going and the bits on the cruise didn’t interest me much at all, but when Vi read her old notebooks and the narrative switched back to a time in the past I was intrigued. The writing is beautiful, the characters well-portrayed and realistic.
Unusually for me (I generally think novels need more editing) I thought some of the threads of the story could be fleshed out a bit more. Particularly the other couples on the cruise and Des/Dino.
Here are some other reviews …

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The Interpretation of Murder – Jed Rubenfeld

My Book club is reading The Interpretation of Murder. One of the member’s library suggested it.

My overwhelming impression is one of confusion. At first I found it compelling, but then I couldn’t seem to get to the end. Here’s the blurb …

In this ingenious, suspenseful historical thriller, Sigmund Freud is drawn into the mind of a sadistic killer who is savagely attacking Manhattan’s wealthiest heiresses
Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s only visit to America, The Interpretation of Murderis an intricate tale of murder and the mind’s most dangerous mysteries. It unfurls on a sweltering August evening in 1909 as Freud disembarks from the steamship George Washington, accompanied by Carl Jung, his rival and protege. Across town, in an opulent apartment high above the city, a stunning young woman is found dangling from a chandelier—whipped, mutilated, and strangled. The next day, a second beauty—a rebellious heiress who scorns both high society and her less adventurous parents—barely escapes the killer. Yet Nora Acton, suffering from hysteria, can recall nothing of her attack. Asked to help her, Dr. Stratham Younger, America’s most committed Freudian analyst, calls in his idol, the Master himself, to guide him through the challenges of analyzing this high-spirited young woman whose family past has been as complicated as his own. The Interpretation of Murderleads readers from the salons of Gramercy Park, through secret passages, to Chinatown—even far below the currents of the East River where laborers are building the Manhattan Bridge. As Freud fends off a mysterious conspiracy to destroy him, Younger is drawn into an equally thrilling adventure that takes him deep into the subterfuges of the human mind. Â Richly satisfying, elegantly crafted, The Interpretation of Murder marks the debut of a brilliant, spectacularly entertaining new storyteller.

I found the characters convincing, but the plot was a bit too clever for me. Rubenfeld does a great job of creating early 20th century New York. I enjoyed all of the references to the buildings, constructing the Manhattan Bridge and the social niceties (in fact that bit reminded me of Edith Wharton).  There are many twists and turns in this story (too many for me) and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone by revealing the ending. I will, however, say that, despite my confusion, I did think it was a reasonable ending.

I think this novel would make a great movie and I might even read it again to see if I can follow all the twists.

Here’s the novel’s website …

A reading group guide …

and another review …

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Knit Two – Kate Jacobs

I’m a bit of a knitter (see my knitting blog), so I read the Friday Night Knitting Club which was OK – certainly light entertainment (but I don’t have a problem with that).

Once I’d finished the Bronte, I decided I needed something that could be read quickly with little concentration so I picked up Knit Two  the sequel to Friday Night Knitting Club.

Here’s the blurb from Penguin …

The Sequel to the Beloved #1 New York Times Bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club
The sequel to the number-one New York Times bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club, KNIT TWO returns to Walker and Daughter, the Manhattan knitting store founded by Georgia Walker and her young daughter, Dakota. Dakota is now an eighteen-year-old freshman at NYU, running the little yarn shop part-time with help from the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club.

Drawn together by the sense of family the club has created, the knitters rely on one another as they struggle with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce; for Darwin, the hope for a family; for Lucie, being both a single mom and a caregiver for her elderly mother; and for seventysomething Anita, a proposal of marriage from her sweetheart, Marty, that provokes the objections of her grown children.

As the club’s projects—an afghan, baby booties, a wedding coat—are pieced together, so is their understanding of the patterns underlying the stresses and joys of being mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Because it isn’t the difficulty of the garment that makes you a great knitter: it’s the care and attention you bring to the craft—as well as how you adapt to surprises

I liked it. I liked how the focus was on finding what it is you want and then doing that. I also liked all of the knitting references and the sense of community created by the women.

Having said that, I’m not sure I’ll read the third (if there is a third).

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The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte

This is the first Anne Bronte novel I have read. I’ve read Emily Bronte  Wuthering Heights (which I hated), and Charlotte Bronte  Jane Eyre (I liked it) and Shirley (I liked it).

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It was very long and religious – not for a modern audience – but still I finished it.

Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia …

The novel is divided into three volumes. In the first part, narrated by prosperous farmer Gilbert Markham, a mysterious widow, Mrs. Helen Graham arrives at Wildfell Hall, a nearby old mansion. A source of curiosity for the small community, the reticent Helen and her young son Arthur are slowly drawn into the social circles of the village. Initially, Gilbert Markham casually courts Eliza Millward, despite his mother’s belief that he can do better. His interest in Eliza wanes as he comes to know Mrs. Graham. In retribution, Eliza spreads (and perhaps originates) scandalous rumours about Helen.

With gossip flying, Gilbert is led to believe that his friend, Mr. Lawrence is courting Mrs. Graham. At a chance meeting in a road, a jealous Gilbert strikes (with a whip) the mounted Lawrence, who falls from his horse. Unaware of this, Helen refuses to marry Gilbert, but gives him her diaries when he accuses her of loving Lawrence.

Part two is taken from Helen’s diaries and describes her marriage to Arthur Huntingdon. The handsome, witty Huntingdon is also spoilt, selfish, and self-indulgent. Helen marries him blinded by love and resolves to reform Arthur with gentle persuasion and good example. Upon the birth of their child, Huntington becomes increasingly jealous of their son (also Arthur) and his claims on Helen’s attentions and affections.

Huntingdon’s pack of dissolute friends frequently engage in drunken revels at the family’s home, Grassdale, oppressing those of finer character. Both men and women are portrayed as degraded, with Lady Annabella Lowborough shown to be an unfaithful spouse to her melancholy but devoted husband.

Walter Hargrave, the brother of Helen’s friend Milicent Hargrave, vies for Helen’s affections. While not as wild as his peers, Walter is an unwelcome admirer: Helen senses his predatory nature, something revealed when they play chess. Walter tells Helen of Arthur’s affair with Lady Lowborough. When his pack of friends depart, Arthur pines openly for his paramour and derides his wife.

Arthur’s corruption of their son — encouraging him to drink and swear at his tender age — is the last straw for Helen. She plans to flee to save her son, but her husband learns of her plans from her journal, and burns her artist’s tools (by which she had hoped to support herself). Eventually, with help from her brother, Mr. Lawrence, Helen finds a secret refuge at Wildfell Hall.

Part Three begins after the reading of the diaries when Helen bids Gilbert to leave her because she is not free to marry. He complies and soon learns that she returned to Grassdale upon learning that Arthur is gravely ill. Helen’s ministrations are in vain. Huntingdon’s death is painful, fraught with terror at what awaits him. Helen cannot comfort him, for he rejects responsibility for his actions and wishes instead for her to come with him, to plead for his salvation.

A year passes. Gilbert pursues a rumour of Helen’s impending wedding, only to find that Mr. Lawrence (with whom he has reconciled) is marrying Helen’s friend, Esther Hargrave. He goes to Grassdale, and discovers that Helen is now wealthy and lives at her estate in Staningley. He travels there, but is plagued by worries that she is now far above his station. He hesitates at the entry-gate. By chance, he encounters Helen, her aunt, and young Arthur. The two lovers reconcile and marry.

I didn’t like it enough to spend too much time on it, but here are some other reviews.


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