Sunday, 1 May 2011

April: some things I read in it

March and April have both been dominated by Lent reading, which is slow, though I actually didn't manage to get through as much of Augustine on the Psalms as I had hoped. Also some of what I read this month was a bit meh. But books I really enjoyed in April include:

Jo Walton's Small Change trilogy: Farthing, Ha'penny, and Half A Crown.
If you think of the 1930s country house set two things come to mind: golden age murder mysteries; and an unfortunate fondness for fascism. Walton combines the two in Farthing, which is set in an alternate England where one such group managed to bypass Churchill in 1941 and agree a "peace with honour" with Hitler. Ever since they have been riding on a wave of popularity with the people, who are understandably quite glad to be done with the bombing and fighting. The novel takes place eight years later at Farthing, the country house where this particular set meets, over the course of a long weekend when a prominent politician is found stabbed in his dressing room. The narration alternates between Carmichael, a police inspector who struggles to solve the case while the aristocrats close ranks, and the daughter of the house, who has disgraced herself in their eyes by marrying a Jew. It's very well done, scarily believable. The next two books continue the story, though with different ingenues each time. The ongoing compromises made by Carmichael, a good man in a hard position, are particularly compelling. I think Jo Walton is great.

Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Michel Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White, The Apple
I reread The Crimson Petal on watching the brilliant BBC adaptation. This is a really extremely good book, and currently available on Kindle for a ridiculously low price. I hadn't read the Apple before. It's also very good, but more like a series of footnotes to the longer novel, to help you cope with the novel's famously abrupt ending.

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