Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Water works

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I haven’t been listening to the current book on Forgotten Classics, but I did enjoy the previous one.

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

41. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

I had certainly heard of Childers before Julie read this book, but hadn’t read anything of his; I hadn’t realised he pioneered the spy novel like this. Since I don’t think she’d mentioned it I’d forgotten that he ended up an Irish nationalist, and hadn’t realised until I just read the Wikipedia article linked above just how complicated his allegiences to Britain and Ireland were. I might have to look for a decent biography of the man.

What Julie did explain in some detail was the political relevance and then impact the novel had on British Naval and other military preparations for the (then potential) upcoming conflicts with Germany, which really wasn’t very far away by sea. (RofS was first published in 1903.) While there’s certainly a clear message coming across about the value and importance of covert knowledge of what’s going on in other nations (especially enemies or possible ones) at a time when spying was seen as underhand and not something for gentlemen to take part in, the story is not lacking, and most of the characters come across well.

As someone who’s done a fair bit of sailing (all but one voyage in dinghies, however, although that voyage was aboard the Asgard II, the Irish sail training vessel actually named after Erskine’s own Asgard) I quite enjoyed and appreciated the technical details, although apparently some just saw that as a bit of a necessary evil. I do have to wonder how much of the same geographical and sailing knowledge Childers displays in this book is what he used when gun-running in Asgard

In memory of Asgard II.

Changing by choice

Monday, 31 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011So, it’s the end of January, and I’ve completed the month for NaBloPoMo, and am a month on track for PostADay2011. It’s been basically all books this month, but I have some ideas for getting crafts back in for February, and will make myself do some crochet stuff for March ItCroMo, although I still haven’t come up with a pattern or game for the blog as yet. Hopefully I still will…

Cover of Speech in the English Novel

Cover of Speech inthe English Novel

14. Speech in the English Novel (2nd ed.) by Norman Page

If someone had told me I had to read this book I’d probably have been very annoyed indeed, but when I chose to do so I found it very interesting, and a fairly quick read, for non-fiction. (I tend to read non-fiction a page or two at a time, whereas I devour fiction when I enjoy it.) I didn’t think I liked literary criticism in school, perhaps because it generally seemed to entail focussing on details to the detriment of the story, and without any explanation of how or why this analysis might enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the novel/play/poem/essay under discussion.

However, coming to this book for myself, and bringing my linguistic training to a developing interest (through this blog) in really thinking about what I’m reading beyond whether or not I enjoyed it, I found it both revealing and intriguing.

While the focus of the book is the place and use of dialogue in novels, the scope goes far beyond this, discussing types of speech and speech-like narrative; stylistics and realism within written speech; differentiation between different speakers and what this portrays to the reader, and more. There are plenty of snippets and sections quoted from novels published over approximately 250 years. The author suggests that the focus of this particular work is unusual, and that his purpose is to open up a discussion by setting out various features and definitions.

I’m not sure I’m ready to look into how much this topic has flourished over the past few decades, but I do appreciate that I may now occasionally notice more about the use of speech within all novels, not just English ones (or even ones in English, since Page only tangentially mentions world literature at all). I don’t think I’ll be doing so all the time, nor would I want to, since I still feel that focussing too much on the craft takes me out of the story being told, but I do think I want to follow up and read at least one of the books discussed in some level of detail here, Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens. I’m dithering about simply listening to one of the three different versions on LibriVox only because after learning about the techniques Dickens used I’m inclined to want to see them on the page this time. We’ll see. I could read it on Gutenburg too, seeing as we don’t currently have a physical copy, nor is there one available locally on BookMooch at the moment.

Rereading mysteries

Friday, 20 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logoSo, how is rereading mysteries different from rereading anything else? I know some wouldn’t see the point, since you already know the denouement; others would go straight back (with a decent mystery) and reread to find the clues they had missed or the red herrings they didn’t. After the second time through, though, is it any different from rereading any other novel, even any other book?

You already know I’m a rereader, so can guess that I have no problem going back to a well-written mystery. I enjoy both picking up on things, and reminding myself of the story and sequence.

24. The Disappearing Dowry by Libi Astaire

As I’ve said here before, this is a well-written and well-researched historical mystery, set in early 19th century London among the Jewish community. It seems clear enough to be enjoyable both by those who know Jewish law and custom well, and those who don’t at all, and it uses the narrative voice of a sheltered teenage girl cozily but not cloyingly. I have been looking for the sequel since January (I emailed the publishers last Autumn to find out when it’d be out, and that’s what they said then), but the bookshops don’t have it listed or available yet, annoyingly, so perhaps I should try the publishers again…

Halfway, for now

Saturday, 17 July 2010

15. The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith

Another reread of a fun children’s book, although I never actually readowned (I suddenly have a vague recollection of reading a friend’s copy, although I can’t be sure it’s correct. I certainly was the kind of child who’d go to a friend’s house and read their books (with permission), though!) this one as a child. I haven’t seen the Disney cartoon in decades (I’m only presuming I’ve ever seen the full film straight through), and I haven’t seen the more recent live-action version at all, but regardless of how good they may be, the book is good enough that it must be better!

While there are stereotypes and exaggerations aplenty in the characterisations, there is also reality in both the dogs and the humans (not to mention a few other animals) and fond interaction galore. The story hangs together well and I enjoy going back to it.

Playing favourites

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

I’m nearly finished reading through a book I’m actually looking forward to telling you about, so I suppose I should try to get a bit further through the rest of the list… (It’s not even a reread, as the vast majority of the rest are.) The next one most definitely is, however. Once again it’s

14. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Hm, apparently I’ve only previously reread this book once since beginning the blog, and that over two years ago, so I wasn’t pushing my luck this time after all. We still don’t have local copies of volumes 2, 3, or 4 of the Lymond Chronicle, so I might just skip over to 5 and 6 (it’s not like I don’t know the story…) for now. As my mother said when she was here, we appear to have a volume of Dunnett on every bookshelf (we’ve just started trying to organise the shelves after the move…), although it’s not like we have a complete set of Niccolos either. The rest of her books are on my “To buy when we have the disposable income” list, of course, presuming I don’t find them in any of the second-hand bookshops. Dunnett’s good enough that people don’t appear to dispose of her books, however.

Once we do have them all I’m looking forward to my DH reading them, as this is one series I refuse to spoil, and I really want to talk them over with him and get his opinions.

I’m sorry; this has to be about the most useless book post I’ve done yet (and that’s saying something). Dunnett’s erudition has evidently not rubbed off on me…

Suffering holes altruistically

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

This evening saw my first really easily successful platelets donation in quite awhile, from arriving on time (no big traffic jams on the way home from work!) to accidentally passing the (stricter) male finger-prick iron test (my donor carer put the first drop in the wrong tube, so we had to repeat it in the right one) to the needle going straight into the vein with no fiddling about (both the nurse – one of only two there who will still attempt my vein – and I were happily surprised) to the donation going straight through with no pulling. The way, in fact, it goes for the vast majority of people every time.

There are lots of YouTube videos about platelets donation, but this one, while American-focussed, explains what the different blood components are and why they are wanted separately.

While I was there I pretty much finished my next book (I got right to the end on the way home afterwards).

32. Kaleidoscope by E. Toker

It’s not too badly written, although it suffers from a common malady of novels serialised in the Jewish weeklies: trying to tell at least two completely separate stories side by side, even though the original readership is having to take months over reading it. I really don’t get why so many of them have to do this. Surely this fashion should have had its day by now. Yes the tales will be brought together at the end, but in the meantime the poor readers have to try to remember multiple stories over months, for no excellent reason that I can see.

I could pick plot and research holes, but apart from a repeated reliance on unlikely coincidences of time and place they aren’t too bad. (Unlikely as much because for consistency some of them should have happened far far earlier as not at all.)