Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Luminaries – Eleanor Cattan

The Luminaries - Eleanor Cattan

The Luminaries – Eleanor Cattan

When this first came out I was quite adamant that I wouldn’t read it – it was too long and too Victorian (I can only do so many of those). However, I needed something on my Kindle and this novel kept popping up in my recommendations. I am glad I read it. I enjoyed it is long and Victorian-like, but it is also compelling. It is reminiscent of a novel version of a Guy Ritchie film – in fact this would make a great film.

Here is the blurb …

It is 1866, and young Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is a brilliantly constructed, fiendishly clever ghost story and a gripping page-turner.

This is quite a sprawling novel with a large cast of characters and I must admit to getting confused at times – not with the plot but with the characters – was that one the owner of the opera, the agent, clerk at the bank? I suspect on a second reading that this novel would be even better (but who has the time?). There are unexpected connections between people, co-incidences and plenty of mysteries. There is also a mystical element to it all – what happened to the bullet fired from Anna’s gun?

It requires – and rewards – careful reading ( and possibly monogamous reading). It is definitely worth the effort particularly if you have read any 19th century literature.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/books/review/eleanor-cattons-booker-prize-winning-luminaries.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/eleanor-cattons-the-luminaries-the-stars-align-20130822-2sca9.html

 

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The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations: A Family Chronicle – Charlotte Yonge

The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations: A Family Chronicle

The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations: A Family Chronicle

I tackled this in my usual Victorian novel method – 2% a day. However, I found it quite compelling and foccussed solely on reading this for a while.

Here is the description …

The Daisy Chain “Charlotte Mary Yonge’s Victorian bestseller is a domestic story, a novel of female education, and a detailed survey of the controversies and practices of High Church Anglicanism in the 19th century. Its portrayal of the bookish, awkward heroine, Ethel May, paved the way for stories of literary heroines like Jo March and Anne Shirley, and its emphasis on the domestic life of the May family illuminates the Victorian doctrine of separate spheres, the seemingly contradictory gender politics of the Woman Question, and the relationship between religion and the rights of women in the 19th century. Absorbing, moving, and intricately plotted, The Daisy Chain is Yonge’s best-known novel; this edition will provide the 21st century reader with a comprehensive education in Victorian culture, not to mention a tremendously satisfying reading experience.” – Kelly Hager, Simmons College.

Although each part of this novel is easy to read, it is long – Bleak House long if you know what I mean and found myself wishing there was fewer daisies! To be honest I think this novel will now (I can’t believe how popular Miss Yonge was in her time) only appeal to die hard Victorian fans – it is very religious and very didactic. The characters spent an inordinate amount of time analysing their motives, thinking of their behaviour and trying to be better people. There is no plot as such it is as the title states ‘a family chronicle’. Events happen some dramatic some not, the characters react, and then the characters study their reactions and determine to be better.

At about 70% (I was reading it on my Kindle) I ran out of steam. I pitied poor Ethel who seemed the one sacrificed to look after the father (obviously she had made peace with this through much prayer and thought it her duty and a duty accepted gladly always brings contentment), and poor Flora who has something awful happen (don’t want to give away the plot) and then is told it might be the best thing to happen because it will bring you back to god – I wanted to give up then, but pushed on to the end.

From a social history point of view this is an interesting novel to read – Miss Yonge was immensely popular in her time and was compared to Austen, Trollope and Eliot. I can only assume people thought much more about their soles then than now. To me it read like a very long Sunday School story.

 

 

 

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The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith

Someone at my book club selected this one. I must say I had a few doubts because I found The Casual Vacancy to be very grim. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here is the blurb …

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

I enjoyed this novel – like a lot of books I thought it needed a bit of editing (perhaps it is me). I did guess the murderer/villain early on, but there was a twist (which I shan’t reveal) that I didn’t see coming. The novel reminded me of old black and white detective films – I keep expecting a ‘fast talking dame’ to appear – Cormoran is down on his luck, living in his office when John Bristow hires him to investigate his sister’s death, which he (John) thinks is murder and everyone else thinks is suicide. Cormoran takes this job for the money (he is living in his office after all) and finds all is not as it seems.

I liked the relationship between Cormoran and his new ‘temporary’ secretary, Robin – I can see that they are going to be quite the crime-fighting duo and I was glad the relationship wasn’t romantic (at least in this novel).

This novel reminded me of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series.  I do plan to read the next one in the series.

More reviews …

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jul/18/cuckoos-calling-robert-galbraith-jk-rowling-review

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-cuckoos-calling-20130920-2u4cy.html

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Colette’s France Her Lifes Her Loves – Jane Gilmour

Colette's France - Jane Gilmour

Colette’s France – Jane Gilmour

This was a Christmas present – I have been learning French in part because I want to be able to read french novels. This is a beautiful book – thick pages and lovely illustrations. I have read the Claudine novels but nothing else and knew very little of Colette’s life.

Here is the blurb …

A lavishly illustrated biography of the lively and often controversial life of Colette, the French writer, artist, and intellectual. Colette’s France is a beautifully illustrated biography of French writer Colette, a key figure in French radical, artistic, and intellectual life in the early twentieth century. Told through the locations in France where she lived, worked, and loved, her lively life story moves along through her many different relationships and homes—from Burgundy to Paris to Brittany to St. Tropez and more—revealing her deep and personal love of France and the natural world. Colette’s life and writing spans a special time in French literary history, the renowned artistic period of Belle Époque Paris. Her companions were the great French writers, artists, actors, and intellectuals, and her life plays out against a backdrop of great creativity and style, liberation and rebellion. Colette wrote about love and experienced love in the most independent, sometimes outrageous, sense—numerous lovers, several marriages, a lesbian affair, and an affair with her seventeen-year-old stepson. Told through the authoritative voice of Jane Gilmour and complimented by stunning, rarely seen photographs and illustrations, Colette’s France brings Colette’s story to life and evokes the style and fashion of the times.

This book was quite an eye opener – she wrote this to her ten year old daughter…

‘I am waiting for something of your father and your mother to appear in you. And I find that I am waiting a long time. Do what you can so that this expectation is no longer disappointed. […] We didn’t bring you into this world to be just an ordinary little girls, to be mediocre’

I think this is a good first biography of Colette – it is quite short and not packed with information, so if you already know a bit you might know all of this. However, it is beautiful and might be worth a look just for the illustrations.

Another review

http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/books-feature/9032491/colettes-france-by-jane-gilmour-review/

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