You know there are sometimes some books that are good, but you can’t think of much to say about them? Well, these four have all been in a pile waiting to be reviewed… but I don’t have a whole review in me. Now that I’ve set sufficiently low expectations…
Where There’s Love, There’s Hate (1946) by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo
Where did I hear of this book? Maybe Kaggsy? Maybe in Martin Edwards’ The Golden Age of Murder? Well, I don’t remember – but this is now the third book I’ve read by Adolfo Bioy Casares (and the first by his wife Silvina Ocampo). They were the hallucinogenic The Invention of Morel and the confusing Asleep in the Sun.
Well, this short novel – with the long title that sounds like a rejected name for a country album – is a murder mystery of sorts. It’s supposed to be a spoof or a send-up or something, but tbh I didn’t really see how it was. Is it a genre that can’t be satirised, because all detectives and all motives and all approaches seem possible? (Having said this, I did enjoy Dr. Humberto Huberman’s insistent belief that he’d cracked the riddle every single time he came up with a new theory.) Perhaps Where There’s Love, There’s Hate will mean more to somebody with more of an expertise than I in Latin American literature…
At Wit’s End (1965) by Erma Bombeck
I have a feeling that this one was a gift from my friend Clare, from my Amazon wishlist, but how did it end up there… You can see that I’m not very good at remembering how I come across books, though I’m always interested to hear how bloggers discover and choose their reads. I suspect this one came when I was on the lookout for books in the mould of the Provincial Lady diaries and Shirley Jackson’s fictionalised domestic autobiography.
This one was fun, but didn’t stray far from the typical. The usual hopeless husband, hapless narrator, and helpless children – tales of domestic disorder and marital disharmony; that sort of thing. I read most of it on the plane up to Glasgow in January, and it passed the time very amusingly, if perhaps not in the same league as Delafield and Jackson. But I did love lines like this: ‘I was going into my eleventh month of pregnancy (the doctor and I disagreed on this point) […]’.
Dandelion Wine (1957) by Ray Bradbury
My friend Barbara recommended this one years and years ago, and I bought it back in 2009. I had intentions to use it in my DPhil thesis, but – clearly – didn’t read it at the time. Fast forward seven years, and I read it – yes – on the train on the way to Edinburgh. It’s the penultimate of the books I read in Edinburgh, guys! (I do feel like I’ve been writing about them for years.)
You might not be able to make out the description on the cover. It says ‘the haunting novel of a summer of terror and wonder’. Well, there is not a single moment in this novel that is haunting; there is not an ounce of terror. Nor is there intended to be. It’s such a weird tagline for a novel that is actually just the sunny, whimsical musings of a boy and his brother enjoying a summer of… well, a little wonder, I guess. It’s all quite hazy and dreamy and a bit overwritten, but enjoyable. It has some very devoted fans, I think. I may not be quite one of them, but I did like it.
Dolphin Cottage (1962) by G.B. Stern
I’ve only read Stern’s books about Jane Austen, so I was excited to have a review copy of Dolphin Cottage, one of Stern’s later novels. So late that a middlebrow domestic novelist ends up talking about TV appearances, which feels a little out of the expected – like the Internet suddenly cropping up in a Richmal Crompton novel or something.
I enjoyed reading this one, but I don’t think I have ever read a novel that felt so very much of its type. Even though the plot was a little curious, the rest was mid-century novel by numbers. Matriarch, daughter seeking freedom, local woman whose ways are not the old ways… I think I might try one of Stern’s older novels next time.