A review round-up

I’ve made my peace with not getting to the end of my Century of Books by the end of 2014 – that’s fine; the rules are very flexible – but I will bolster out the list with some of the others I have read which don’t quite warrant a post to themselves, for one reason or another…

A Painted Veil (1925) by W. Somerset Maugham
I read this in the Lake District, and found it rather enthralling if a little overdramatic and a touch sententious. But it was borrowed from a friend, and I didn’t blog about it before sending it back…

The Listerdale Mystery (1934) by Agatha Christie
This was part of my Christie binge earlier in the year, but slipped in just after my other Christie round-up. This is a collection of short stories, some of which were better than others. It also has one with a novelist who complains that adapted books are given terrible names like ‘Murder Most Horrid’ – which later happened to Christie herself, with Mrs McGinty’s Dead.

It’s Too Late Now (1939) by A.A. Milne
One day I’ll write a proper review of this glorious book, one of my all-time favourites. It’s AAM’s autobiography and I’ve read it four or five times, but have left it too late this time to write a review that would do it justice. But I’m bound to re-read it, so we’ll just wait til then, eh?

Summer in February (1995) by Jonathan Smith
This novel is an all-time favourite of my friend Carol’s, and for that reason I feel like I should give it a proper review, but… well, it’s already seeped out of my head, I think. It was a good and interesting account of the Newlyn painters. I didn’t love it as much as Carol, but it was certainly well written and enjoyable.

The Blue Room (1999) by Hanne Ørstavik
I was going to review this Peirene translation for Shiny New Books, but I have to confess that I didn’t like it at all. But was I ever going to like an X-rated novel about submission? Reader, I brought this upon myself.

Making It Up (2005) by Penelope Lively
I wasn’t super impressed by my first Lively, I have to confess. I heard her speak about this book in 2005, so it was about time I read it – but it’s a fairly disparate selection of short stories, tied together with the disingenuous notion that all of them have some vague resemblance to sections of Lively’s life or people she saw once on the train. Having said that, some of the stories were very good – it just felt like the structure was rather weak. Still, I’m sure there are better Lively novels out there?

The Man Who Unleashed the Birds (2010) by Paul Newman
This biography of Frank Baker (author of Miss Hargreaves) has been on my on-the-go shelf for about four years, and I finally finished it! The awkward shape of the book was the main reason it stayed on the shelf, I should add; it wouldn’t fit in my bag! It was a brilliantly researched biography, with all sorts of info I’d never have been able to find elsewhere – most particularly a fascinating section on his relationship (er, not that sort of relationship) with Daphne du Maurier after he’d accused her of plagiarising ‘The Birds’.

19 thoughts on “A review round-up

  • December 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

    There are lots of better Lively novels, Simon. I'm a fan & determined to find one that you'll enjoy! I think you'd like According to Mark (Booker shortlisted, about a literary biographer who falls in love with the granddaughter of his subject) or How It All Began (elderly woman has accident & observes the consequences of this on herself & her family)

    • December 19, 2014 at 9:17 am

      I was hoping someone would say According to Mark, as that's the other one I have! And, actually, I think I remember Harriet Devine also liking it.

  • December 19, 2014 at 9:20 am

    HEATWAVE 1996 by Lively.

  • December 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Adding a recommendation for City of the Mind, by Lively.

    • December 19, 2014 at 11:33 am

      and seconding Heat Wave.

    • December 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks Lisa! I haven't heard of either of those before…

  • December 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I felt the same about the Lively. Have another to read but not mustering much enthusiasm for it at the moment.

    • December 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Maybe we should both give her another go together!

  • December 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Lively's Moon Tiger is one of my favourites – I've read it countless times. In fact, now that I'm thinking of it, it's been a while…I might hunt it down for the books I'm separating out for the Christmas holidays…! [p.s. I love the blog, Simon. I'm a first-time commenter but a long-time reader]

    • December 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Hi Faye! I always like it when a long-time reader comments :) I tend not to have a good history with Booker winners, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for this one. In fact, I may even have it…

  • December 19, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Yes, According to Mark, and I rather liked The Road to Lichfield, too.

  • December 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    [ Smiles ] It is nice to know that you read a lot.

    Also I like your list of books.

  • December 21, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I'm glad you've made peace with your century of reading – it's not great to force yourself into reading books you don't want to read just then just to complete a project. I say this having got about a third of the way through mine "naturally" – I wonder how relaxed I'll be when I have a third to go!

    I think P. Lively is OK but the books of hers I've read have seemed a little samey.

    • December 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Even if I forced myself at this stage, I don't think it could happen! But that's fine – it's about the least pressured challenge imaginable.

    • December 22, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Sorry about the weird glitch in my comment, should have been "it's not great to force yourself into reading books you don't want to read just to complete a project". But you understood me anyway. It is low-pressure and I like that.

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