Book Review – Nemesis by Agatha Christie

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(My Rating 3/5)

While the Joan Hickson Miss Marple TV series has long been a favourite of mine, this is actually the first Miss Marple book I have read, thanks mainly to my newfound interest in crime novels. I must say that I think this is one of those uncommon good adaptations of book to TV series.

In Nemesis, Miss Marple receives a posthumous request from an acquaintance of hers to solve a mystery for him. He doesn’t however give her any information as to what the mystery is! What a brilliant way to draw you into the book! I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s layout of the book with bits of information given at just the right moment, her writing style and of course the endearing character of Miss Marple. However the final outcome of the mystery was a bit of a letdown for me – it wasn’t extremely surprising. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book a lot and will be reading more Miss Marple, especially as it’s been a while since I watched the show, so I’m sure I’ve forgotten what happens in most of the books/episodes.

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Book Review – The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

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I haven’t, as I usually do, given this book a rating, because while I have finished reading it, I am not yet done with it! This is the most difficult book I have read and I intend to return to it again. What follows then is not so much a review as an exploration of my first impressions on reading the book for the first time. In fact, I think this is a book that must be discussed, not reviewed. And so, this ‘review’ might not even make sense to someone who hasn’t read the book!

The story, which is split into four parts revolves around the Compson family and is set in Mississippi. Three parts are set in 1928 and one is set in 1910. The main characters are the father – Jason Compson III, the mother – Caroline Bascomb Compson , their four children – Quentin, Caddy (Candace), Jason and Benjy – and Dilsey, the maid who, along with her children, looks after the family. It attempts to describe the circumstances that lead to the falling apart of the Compson family, by explaining events through the thoughts of three of the main characters.

The first part is told in the first person by Benjy, the youngest of the four Compson children. He has a mental disability and is 33-years old at the time of narration. This is an extremely disjointed section as Benjy’s thoughts flit back and forth between the present time and the time when he was a child.

While reading this section, I thought I understood parts, but more often than not, I realised that what I thought to be true a few pages earlier, might not in fact be the case! I nearly gave up a few times, but then when I realised that the first section was only 60 pages long, I decided to plod on.

Then an odd thing happened. The confusion I felt while reading the first section, seemed to disappear when I had completed it and the fragmented thoughts, on reflection, seemed to make sense, in retrospect, as a whole. I felt like I was immersed completely in Benjy’s head. And I’m guessing that that was one of the main reasons for Mr. Faulkner writing the book this way – to put us into the minds of each of the characters, without any distractions in the form of third party narratives. Continue reading

Book Review – Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

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(My Rating: 4/5)

Published in 1953 and set in pre-Independent India, (or perhaps just after Independence – I could not ascertain which) Kingfishers Catch Fire is about fickle, illogical and dreamy Sophie, a British lady, who after travelling around India with her two young children, as and when a new fancy struck, finally decides to settle down in a remote part of Kashmir.

She is of the firm belief that she will fit in seamlessly with the locals and that she and her family will be accepted as one of them. Of course, the reality is something quite different and this is what the novel explores. It brings into focus much of what the situation in India was, specifically the hierarchical relationships between the Indians and the British – the unspoken barriers that existed, where everyone had their place and no one questioned those places or tried to alter things. Sophie however, is an exception; she does question and does try to change things. The scenario that unfolds – what happens to this single mother of two – as portrayed through Godden’s story, is a very believable one.

The characters are very interesting and well fleshed out. Sophie is the kind to go off on a whim and make plans without examining the practicality of their execution. For example, when she is short on money and decides to settle down in rural India, she emphatically declares to her daughter- “We shan’t be poor whites. We shall be peasants.” Continue reading

Book Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

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(My Rating: 3/5)

In The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is the first of the Cormoran Strike detective series by J.K. Rowling writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, Strike is hired to investigate the apparent suicide of a supermodel who has fallen to her death from her apartment balcony in Mayfair.

I generally prefer to watch TV shows such as Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple and the like, rather than read Crime/Mystery novels, so this is a new area for me. I enjoyed it and I think it’s a good genre to intersperse my usual reading with.

It was a very readable novel, paced well enough that you want to know what happens next, yet it does not hurtle along so fast that you’ve forgotten what happened five pages ago. I felt that the attention to detail Rowling paid while creating the wonderful magical world of Harry Potter for us is here translated into meticulous attention paid to creating numerous interesting characters and their interactions, a good plot and a well rounded story, that doesn’t cut corners just to make it go faster. And of course, as we already knew, she writes well and knows how to tell a good story!

I would definitely read more Cormoran Strike.

And finally, amidst getting all caught up in the story and eager to find out whodunit, there was a paragraph towards the end of the book that made me stop and re-read it a few times. I thought it was so true and so distressing, because it was so true:

“How easy it was to capitalise on a person’s own bent for self-destruction; how simple to nudge them into non-being, then to stand back and shrug and agree that it had been the inevitable result of a chaotic, catastrophic life.”

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 15 – Persuasion by Jane Austen

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(My Rating: 3/5)

I am disappointed that I am unable to give this a higher rating than 3 stars, because I thought I was really going to love this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read it!

Anne Elliot, who was being courted by Captain Wentworth, was persuaded by a close family friend, Lady Russell, not to marry him, as she didn’t think it a suitable match, mainly because they came from different social backgrounds.

The book begins eight years later, when the two former lovers are brought into each other’s company once again. Now Captain Wentworth is courting someone else and Anne, wisened by the interim years, begins to examine the reasons that her relationship with him did not go any further. The reader now begins to wonder whether there is a chance that they will get back together again. Continue reading

Book Review – The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

(My Rating 2 / 5)

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This is a nice book to read in a hilly, chilly, rainy place, which was exactly where I was, on a pre-birthday-long-weekend-getaway last week.

Dianne Setterfield has drawn inspiration from gothic tales to write The Thirteenth Tale and in keeping with the theme, the novel is replete with dilapidated mansions, unusual twins, hidden mysteries, ghosts and old ladies with secrets they’ve been hiding for decades.

Margaret Lea, who has written a few biographies on fairly obscure people, receives a letter from Vida Winter, one of the world’s most famous novelists. In the letter, Winter, who has always been evasive about her past, invites Margaret to document the “truth” about Winter’s life story – the aging author finally wants to reveal it all and for some mysterious reason, she has chosen Margaret Lea. Continue reading

Book Review – Villette by Charlotte Brontë

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(My Rating: 4/5)

This 657 page book is, I believe, the longest book I have ever read, and dear reader, I am afraid my review is going to be a rather long one as well. I found it a difficult book to review and thus you may find the following post a bit all over the place.

Getting into it, I was a bit apprehensive, since I hadn’t read a classic in a while. I thought I might end up labouring through it, but surprisingly it moved along at a nice pace. Perhaps the fact that Brontë’s writing is just so lovely had something to do with it. (I also found myself wanting to begin every bit of communication – including every blog post, email and text message – with “Dear Reader”.) Mercifully the phase has passed now that I have finished the book.

Villette is about Lucy Snowe, a young lady who finds herself in unfortunate circumstances and decides to do something to improve her life. She leaves England and heads for imaginary Villette (which according to what I have read up was meant to mean Brussels).

There she finds a job as an English teacher at a school and the rest of the novel revolves around her life in Villette over the next couple of years. Continue reading