Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Recent books

Now that I no longer keep most of the books I read I like to have them on my blog so that I can look back on what I've read; but I keep forgetting to write them up. Here are five recent ones:

Mr Roberts, Alexei Sayle
This is a pretty short novel, more of a novella, which is a good thing because Alexei Sayle is a great short story writer. It's about an ex-pat Brit community in a Spanish valley. A teenage boy with a difficult young mother finds something odd crashed on a hill.

The Fire Gospel, Michel Faber
Another short one; not hugely substantial but quite entertaining. Reminded me a bit of Michael Frayn's Headlong in that someone finds something which they take advantage of in a naive way without seeing the terribly obvious pitfalls ahead. Frayn's character is actively unpleasant, though, while Faber's protagonist is just terminally hapless. I may have spent too long being a medievalist because I found the extracts from the discovered gospel far more interesting than the main character's travails in the book industry, and also the way that no one cares about its provenance annoyed me a bit.

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite, Beatrice Colin
A bit better than I was expecting -- the cover makes it look a bit too Richard and Judy -- I don't have anything against Richard and Judy choices per se but you can take it too far. It's sort of about film culture in Germany in the decades before the second world war, with a heroine who experiences things of the time without the plot being too predictable. Quite enjoyable but I'll surely never reread it.

Eight Faces at Three, Craig Rice
Slightly mad crime fiction written and set in 1930s Chicago. Craig Rice is the pseudonym of Georgiana Craig, who apparently had an over-the-top life, and wasn't especially happy. It's about a girl who wakes up to find her aunt stabbed, and every single clock in the house stopped at 3am, and is then the police's top suspect. The three detective characters spend a lot of time drinking and then having hangovers. I will read more of her stuff if I come across it, but probably won't try to search it out.

Traitor's Purse, Margery Allingham
Has there ever been a freakier or more sinister mystery writer than Margery Allingham? If you read one of her books you're not in the least guaranteed that the next one will be similar, unlike with Agatha Christie or Ellis Peters and such. I've read this one before, but had forgotten the plot. It starts with a man waking up under arrest in hospital with no memory of anything at all, but a conviction that something truly terrible is about to happen associated with the number 15, and that he is the only person who can stop it. He manages to escape from hospital with the help of a woman he thinks is his wife. Good stuff.

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