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The Sunday Salon: the Privileged Post

December 14, 2008

The Sunday Salon.comPrivileged? Because my laptop has decided to cooperate and turn on and let me use the internet and everything! Yay-I can blog from home! And since that’s a rare occurence nowadays, I appreciate the privilege. Now on to the salon…Since I didn’t feel better before Friday, I had a lot of time on my hands to do nothing but read. (My fibro not only makes my muscles screwy, it also makes my brain fuzzy…so, studying is pretty much impossible…very frustrating!)

The Wisdom of the BonesFirst this week, I finished Alan Walker’s The Wisdom of the Bones. Shockingly enough, I’ve actually reviewed this one, so you can read more about what I thought here.

The Complete StoriesIn between, I managed to read every short story Dorothy Sayers has written, conveniently collected in The Complete Stories. Remember how I said mysteries are my comfort read? Well, when I got the Christies, I also wanted some Sayer (how do I love thee, Lord Wimsey? let me count the ways…), but the library only had this one (versus the full-length novels). Nevertheless, I had 472 pages of Lord Peter Wimsey glory, which were written with the sparkling wit, intelligence, and British understatement I expect from Sayers. My favourites were “The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man With No Face,” which shows Wimsey at his best, intellectually and emotionally, “The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention,” a sort of homage to “Hound of the Baskervilles,” and “Talboys,” which is the last chronologically in Wimsey’s life and presents such a picture of domestic bliss I couldn’t help loving it. Following that, I met a different detective of hers, Montague-Monty to his friends-Egg. He’s a humble travelling salesmen, purveyor of fine wines and ports. I quite enjoyed his ability to see the vital clue in a variety of murders as he moves about the country, and he’s constantly quoting impressively rhymed, iambic advice from the Salesman Handbook (a taste: “Discretion plays a major part in kaing up the salesman’s art, for truths that no one can believe are calculated to deceive.”). While he didn’t have Lord Wimsey’s artistocratic polish and dash, he had his own charm and I enjoyed the 140 pages I spent with him. The last roughly 200 pages were spent in random stories, many of which had a P.D. James flavour to them. They felt like experiments, sketches Sayer did, rather than the fuller explorations of her steady detectives. I wouldn’t say this is the best starting point for a Sayer neophyte, but as a confirmed Sayer devotee I loved it.

My Cousin RachelWhile looking at my shelves, I realised I had gotten over two-thirds of the way through Rebecca du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel months ago and just left it. So I decided to go ahead and finish it up. It’s another a gothic horror book, like most du Maurier, this time narrated by a young Englishman whose uncle/guardian dies mysteriously in Florence after a sudden, unexpected marriage. When the widow Rachel comes to visit, she casts a powerful spell over the narrator. But is she as innocent and helpless as she appears? I think the fact that I left it languishing for so long sums up how I feel about it. Stick with Rebecca and Jamaica Inn and The House on the Strand!

West With the NightThen I realised I was running way behind on the Orbis Terrarum challenge! Nadine Gordimer had sunk me in South Africa, so I decided to just move on to the next book on the list: Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Night. Markham pretty much grew up in Kenya, and was a great outdoorswoman and pilot. The book is a collection of stories from various points in her life, from when she was a child hunting with native Kenyans who lived around her father’s farm, to her young adult years as a horse trainer, to her work as a pilot. It’s not in chronological order, and the writing often veers off into tangents, but it’s always interesting and evocative. And look at that portrait: Markham was so English it’s almost unbelievable…I can totally see her as Lord Peter Wimsey’s long-lost female twin. ;) She writes exactly as that picture would make you expect. A very good book, highly recommended!

The Reluctant FundamentalistFinally, I decided to just keep moving down the OT list: Mohsin Hamad’s slim book The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I love that the big is written in second person; a tricky thing to pull off, but when it works, it draws you in like nothing else. :D The format is that the narrator has run into an American at a cafe in Lahore and decides to tell him about his experiences in America (first at Princeton and then at his first job in NYC). My favourite parts were the sprinkles of Lahore…when the narrator orders food or tea at the cafe, and his brief visit home. Other than that, I liked the quiet tension of the book, but it’s not a must-read (the narrator’s arc in America feels like it’s been done before, and better, by the likes of Lahiri, and the alluring yet unreachable girl love interest is stronger in the hands of Green).

My reading this week was all over the map. Do you tend to read randomly, like that, or do you notice themes emerging in the books you choose?

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2008 12:51 pm

    Eva: I have My Cousin Rachel on my TBR stack (I LOVED Rebecca), so I am sorry to hear it was a disappointment. I’ll still give it a try though. I read Hamid’s book as well – thought it was good (thought provoking) but not a GREAT book…just very good. I think it works well as a discussion book (which was why I read it). Have a great week ahead!

  2. December 14, 2008 1:36 pm

    I read all over the place all of the time and always have except when at university. Your remarks on The Reluctant Fundamentalist have remeinded me that I want to get my paws on a copy – thank you.

  3. December 14, 2008 2:30 pm

    I’m adding Beryl Markham’s West With the Night to my list. Thanks, Eva.

  4. December 14, 2008 4:40 pm

    Hello, fellow Sunday poster! So we’re both travelling this week :-) Have a good trip! Get lots and lots of rest and TLC at home!

  5. December 14, 2008 9:15 pm

    hey Eva! I hope that everything is going well for you. Hows school?

  6. December 15, 2008 1:51 am

    The next time I see West With The Night I’m going to grab it. Hemingway said she was a terrific writer and that’s good enough for me. In addition, Markham looks so hot in her aviator cap…it’s induced a bit of a girl-crush on my part.

  7. December 15, 2008 11:48 am

    I actually like it when my reading is all over the map. That way I’ll always have something for whatever mood I’m in :)

    I’ve had West with the Night sitting on my shelves for years. Must get to it one of these days!

  8. December 15, 2008 12:58 pm

    I adore West With the Night. It’s a wonderful book, and I don’t care if her husband really did write it. There was a big controversy about the book’s authorship a couple of years ago.

    It’s a great book whoever wrote it.

  9. December 15, 2008 1:50 pm

    Wow, I really can’t switch my brain over quick enough to read that randomly. I used to be able to, but not these days! Interesting book choices!

  10. December 15, 2008 5:55 pm

    I’m happiest when my reading is random, myself. Keeps the synapses firing.

  11. December 15, 2008 6:33 pm

    My Cousin Rachel didn’t do much for me. I agree — stick with Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, The House on the Strand. Frenchmen’s Creek is another good one.

    My reading is all over the map, yep. I like a wide variety. In fact, if I read too much of one genre, I start to simply shut down. I have to have variety.

  12. December 15, 2008 7:48 pm

    I am definitely a random reader, although my tastes tend to be a bit more confined in general than yours are. I love hearing about all the neat things you find to read!

  13. December 16, 2008 7:12 am

    Whoa…what a pile of reading! Though I’m very sorry about the reason you were able to get so much done, Eva.

    Yay, you like The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I have in my stacks. Crap, you didn’t like My Cousin Rachel, which I think I’m getting for Christmas (because I bought it and told Rich to give it to me ;-) ).

  14. December 16, 2008 10:23 am

    Wendy, I hope you have better luck with it. :) I can see Hamid’s book becoming a good discussion one.

    Juxtabook, glad I’m not the only eclectic reader!

    JenClair, good to see you back!! West With the Night is definitely awesome. :D

    Susan, thanks for all the good wishes-you have a safe trip too.

    Jessica, my fibro’s been acting up so badly, school’s not going so well. :( But I’ll be home soon, so that’s what I’m focusing on now.

    Bybee, you should! And I have a girl-crush on her too. ;)

    Iliana, I like eclectic reading too. :D

    CB, I didn’t see anything abotu the controversy…it’s so distinctive, it’d be weird if her husband wrote it. I didn’t even realise she was married.

    Michelle, my poor brain is used to it. ;)

    Janet, agreed!

    Nancy, I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt that way about My Cousin Rachel. I’ll have to check out Frenchmen’s Creek next.

    Becca, aww-thanks!

    Debi, that’s an interesting way of getting Santa to bring what you want, lol. Maybe you’ll enjoy it more than me. :)

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  1. Women Unbound: a New Reading Challenge « A Striped Armchair

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