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Showing posts from December, 2012

Review: Away, by Jane Urquhart

Pages: 356 Original date of publication: 1993 My edition: 1993 (Penguin Books) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Philly used bookstore, July 2012
Although the back cover of the book states that the book is about several generations of one family, Away only really focuses on two generations: Mary, who experiences a vision when a stranger washes up on the Irish shore. To release her from her “demons,” she must marry, and with her husband Brian has two children: Liam and Eileen, on whom most of the second half of the novel focuses. From the Irish potato famine to the Canadian wilderness, this is a pretty amazing story about familial bonds.
The story is structured pretty well, and I loved the historical details. There are some truly interesting characters, too, in particular the two eccentric Sedgewick brothers, the Irish landowners who dabble in naturalism; and the mysterious Aiden Lanighan, with who Eileen falls in love. But particularly interesting was Eileen herself, who turns…

Review: The Judge, by Rebecca West

Pages: 430 Original date of publication: 1922 My edition: 1980 (Virago Modern Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Philly Book Trader, March 2011
The Judge is set in 1910s Edinburgh and focuses on the love story between a young typist and suffragette, Ellen; and Richard Yaverland, a charming explorer who has literally been all over the world. Their relationship is overshadowed by the relationship between Richard’s mother and father, creating an intricate tale about what happens when the past starts to catch up and interfere with the present.
Sigh. No matter how hard I try, I just seem to strike out with Rebecca West’s novels. I wasn’t a big fan of Harriet Hume, and I didn’t particularly like The Judge, either. I think it has something to do with West’s manner of exposition; she doesn’t focus on plot, so that all of the action tends to take place in her characters’ heads. She also has this fantastical ability to know exactly what each of her characters is thinking or feel…

Review: The World is Not Enough, by Zoe Oldenbourg

Pages: 592 Original date of publication: 1946 My edition: Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Philly bookstore, April 2012
The World is Not Enough is set in France in the late 12th century. Opening with the marriage of Alis and Ansiau, the reader is immediately thrust into the lives of these characters and the time they lived in, right up through old age. The focus of the novel is on the Crusades, which Ansiau participates in, leaving Alis at home to manage the household and become a person in her own right.
The strength of the novel lies in the amount of detail with which the author provides the reader, but I thought that at times the detail bogged down the pace and progress of the story, making the book at least 100 pages longer than it really needed to be. We also get told a lot of things rather than have them shown to us, which made the novel much less interesting to read. The prose is also stilted, which may have more to do with the translation of the book (originally publi…

Review: Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers

Pages: 501 Original date of publication: 1935 My edition: 1995 (Harper Collins) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2010
I always prefer the Lord Peter Winsey mysteries when Harriet Vane is in them. The more she appears, the better I like her for savvy, intuition, self-sufficiency, and wit—as well as the attraction she and Lord Peter have towards each other, which is based on intellectualism rather than anything else. You can see perfectly why they’re drawn to each other—and why Harriet keeps pulling away.
In Gaudy Night, Harriet attends her reunion—also known as the Gaudy—at the fictional Oxford college of Shrewsbury. While there, she receives a threatening note, the first of several that members of the college receive over the next few months. Harriet is asked to join the staff of the college, ostensibly to work on a study of Sheridan Le Fanu, but really to investigate the mystery of the notes—which eventually lead to vandalism, among other crimes.
Dorothy Sa…

Review: A Favourite of the Gods, by Sybille Bedford

Pages: 311 Original date of publication: 1963 My edition: 1994 (Virago Modern Classics) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Awesomebooks, October 2012
A Favourite of the Gods is an unusual story. Set in the late 1920s it revolves around the impetuous action of a young woman, Costanza, as a result of losing a ring. The story then jumps back in time to Costanza’s childhood, and tells the story also of her mother Anna, an American heiress who married an Italian count. The beginning part of the novel is told from the point of view of Costanza’s daughter, Flavia, although Flavia is never a fully rounded character, only a literary device.
The story does jump around, but in a sense the narrative is a lot like Costanza: impetuous, lively, outgoing, jumpy. Because there’s no real chronology it was a little hard for me to get into the book at first. But once I got used to it, the better the book got for me, because I was immediately drawn to Anna and Costanza, women who were very differen…