Thursday, 15 November 2018

Quick Lit November 2018

Linking up as usual with Modern Mrs Darcy. I fitted two book club books into this month´s reviews, reading one last minute and getting the other early via the Internet Archive, a free e-book library I discovered. Since all this month´s book were digital or audio, I have included photos related to a couple of the books and World War I.

Indian WWI troops

Abir Mukherjee - A Rising Man
My first ever book club book! It was time to be brave and make some new friends, so I joined up with the English book club at the American Corner in Trieste. This is a detective story set in 1919 Calcutta. Sam Wyndham has accepted a job from a former commanding officer, Taggart, glad to escape England with its memories of the war and his dead wife. A major case blows up when a civil servant is found dead in an alley, a piece of paper stuck in his throat telling the English to leave India. The case - and even Taggart´s reason for involving him - are quickly not what they seem. It took me a while to warm to the book as it is not my usual genre of choice, but I was certainly swiping the pages by the end.

Barbara Pym - A Glass of Blessings
Like Excellent Women, this book paints a portrait of women´s life in the fifties. Wilmet Forsyth is a well-to-do middle class wife. Forbidden by her husband to take a job, but childless, she realises she is wandering through life, too principled to take a lover, too vivacious to be full of good works. In a more literary novel, that might be a formula for bleak self searching, but in Pym it is a wry comedy of manners that gently points out the absurdities of English middle class life. Pym is now my geeky literary palate cleanser. Her books have a light touch, but are not frothy, always a pleasure.

Vera (who served as a voluntary nurse), and her beloved only brother, Edward

Vera Brittain - Testament of Youth [audio book]
An appropriate read as we come to the end of the centenary of WWI. Although the book is best known, and justly, for its eye witness account of the First World War, it is really the story of how the war shaped a young idealist into a political and social activist. The book starts off slowly, building the necessary background for Brittain´s world that is about to be turned on its head. But once it got into the First World War, well, gripping is a clichéword, but at times my insides were literally gripped with emotion. I highly recommend this in audio (mine was read by Sheila Mitchell) - it was like Brittain was with me, telling her story.

Ann Enright - The Gathering
November´s book club book, a Man Booker prize winner. The protagonist, Veronica, embarks on a stream of consciousness journey as she deals with the death of her brother, who committed suicide. There are finely crafted sentences, and the narrative structure is interesting, but Enright includes crude references almost every few pages, and the climax hinges on an event that, as Veronica states right at the beginning, may not have actually happened. Enright described this book as a Hollywood weepie for intellectuals. No, Ms Enright, Testament of Youth is a weepie for intellectuals. This is a weepie for people obsessed with genitals. I confess to skim reading the last half since I felt obliged to finish it for book club, but I felt tainted afterwards.

The Somme. Lest we forget.


  1. Looks like a good reading month! Way to go on meeting up with a book club. This is on my list of things to try, but I haven't happened on the right group yet. Maybe that will happen for me soon :)

    1. Thank you. To be honest, I have not yet decided if it is for me, either. It is hard to find a whole group of people who share my odd taste in books!