Books I have read since Jan 7th

It’s the 22nd of Jan today and I feel I really must put a break on my continuous reading and do something else for a while, like maybe write. Maybe one year I will make a resolution to not read at all for one year. Wonder what that will be like.

1) Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

I am not a fan of this cover but now I am more informed

There are some people born in this world with such genius that it becomes impossible to describe them in mere words to others who are not familiar with them, especially when the genius you are talking about is a master with words. Each book that he wrote has such depth and perception of the human condition that it becomes impossible not to imagine the writing as historical fact instead of fiction. When I had read Great Expectations as a child, it did not influence me favorably at all. Mostly because I was constantly irritated by Mr. Pip and his fantasies about Estella. I have read it often enough after that and slowly but surely I started to realise that everyone is different. That there actually are people in this world who will fantasize about the most absurd things in life, those who will be so ashamed of their origins as to almost completely obliterate them from their lives and other’s who are so deeply wounded that the only satisfaction they can derive in life is from the pain of others as a possible validation of their own suffering. Yes, growing up is difficult and sobering. Pip is an orphan who lives with his sister and her husband Joe. His sister has brought him up ‘by hand’, which I understood to be a polite way of saying she beat him up at every opportunity. The different characters that surround the protagonist Pip are the complete shade of the rainbow from the soft, honest and lovable Joe, the steadfast and strong Biddy, the sad, mentally imbalanced and almost vicious old lady, the upright lawyer, the lawyer’s clerk with the stiff upper lip and a heart of gold, the simple, adorable Herbert and last but not the least the beautiful, cold, proud and to some extent mean heroine Estella. Pip’s journey from childhood, adolescence, youth and maturity is long and not always easy. He is always buffeted by factors that seem almost thrust on him and decide his course of action even before he has had time for thinking about it on his own. Hero’s are not all tall, muscular and morally incorruptible in real life. Hero’s are skinny, weak and have overcome their own personal demon’s before they can bestow little acts of kindness on those around them.

2) Death comes to Pemberley – P.D. James

I like this cover. I wish it had some more illustrations inside

I had read great reviews of this latest offering bu P. D. James as a great sequel to the much loved masterpiece by Jane Austen from the much loved blog Austenprose.com and other great newspapers. I am sorry to say I do not conform to their view. In no way at all does the prose of this novel flow with the grace and fluidity of Jane Austen. That was the first thing that put me off the book. If you are following in the great footsteps of a master do it well. The plot follows Elizabeth and Darcy living in relative calm and harmony in Pemberley and preparing for the annual ball. The calm is shattered when Elizabeth’s younger most abominable sister Lydia appears at their door uninvited and screaming that her husband has been murdered. What follows is a long, unnecessary and tedious search for the killer. The characters seem to have completely changed from what they have started out in the original book. Darcy is no longer the upright and snooty character but seems to be full of insecurities, Elizabeth is suddenly devoid of all the fire that characterized her personality and Col. Fitzwilliam is found to be incredibly shallow and devoid of the simpler human emotions of sentimentality and love. Only Jane and Bingley are the same simple folk completely enamored with each other even after all the years of marriage. I am unable to understand the inclusion of a great grandfather of Darcy who apparently lived alone in a small cottage on the property with his dog and eventually shot himself when his dog died. Is it to try and make the Darcy’s appear more flawed and human instead of the perfect lords of the manor that they would like to be or was it simply a case of artistic license? Again I am surprised by Darcy’s aversion and almost fear of dead bodies. As the strong and proud man that we knew him as in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ he would not have let such matters worry him to the extent that they seem to do in this book. As much as I had looked forward to reading this book for me at least it was a sad let down.

3) The Pyramid – Henning Mankell

Not-so-short Story collection

There is was a new series premiering on television a few days back by the name of ‘Wallander’ adapted from a well known European crime novel. I immediately went searching for the author in an attempt to read at least one work by the author before the series began to compare the two. I picked up the only one I could find without even bothering to read the synopsis. It turned out that this book has been written recently as a prequel to the Wallander novels that have come before. This book contains some short stories introducing us to a young Wallander, a new recruit in the police force and trying to settle into a routine with his then girlfriend and future wife to be Mona. Wallander comes across as a man who is unsure about himself, likes to have a position of power and would like others to believe him to be smarter than he really is. Human failings all. He is curious and gets into the most awful scrapes because he just cannot keep his nose out of anything that he feels has a mystery to it. He is already divorced, fat and getting slobby by the time of the last story that brings us closer to the point where Wallander was first introduced to the public. His relationship with his father is explained in more detail in these short works and the complications seem almost understandable. A son’s need for validation of his work by his father is a theme we see almost everyday around us and that is what Kurt is looking for from his eccentric father. He also has a grown up daughter whom he doesn’t really seem to understand at all even though she seems to make considerable effort to connect to him and talk and visit him. She also seems to have a good relationship with her grandfather which irks her father at some level. The book has been translated from Swedish and at times it shows in the sentence formations. Also, when I started reading I was surprised by the amount of anger that the author expresses towards the criminals and the deteriorating condition of the society at large. It made me thing that the author is probably an older person with the sensibilities of of my grandparents generation. But he is not that old and it made me think that maybe he really is from a place where the crime rates were low and life was simpler for longer than in other parts of the world. The television series is really as visually appealing as the advert’s promised and the actor playing Wallander does seem to fit the bill though he is more sure of himself that the character in the pyramid. The stories are not really very complex but it is fun to follow Kurt on his almost bumbling unsure way.

4) The Voice of the Night – Dean Koontz

This is not the cover I have. I have a 1990 publication but couldn't find that cover online

As I started reading this book I realized that I had already read it quite a few years ago. It is one of those disturbing American thrillers that make you question how much of the artistic license that we give to artists is justified. I remember reading it as a child and being strangely disturbed by it and that feeling returned as I went through the book a second time. It follows two 14 year old boys Roy and Colin in a beach town. Colin has just moved to his new home with his recently divorced mother and Roy is his first friend in school. Colin can’t believe his luck as he is not interested in sports and is a geek who gets straight A’s and collects comic books. He also loves to watch horror films and is certain that the vampires, werewolves and other monsters he watches in these movies actually exist.  Roy is athletic, blonde and good looking and a popular boy at school and is the dominant character of the two. As the story progresses the reader is introduced to the darker and very scary shades of Roy’s personality that threaten to engulf the simple, childish Colin in their tentacles. It is heartbreaking to see the relationship that both boys have with their respective parents. In the beginning of the book itself Roy is trying to convince an incredulous Colin about his pleasure and fascination with death. The first time I read the book I thought the story would jump 20 years in the next chapter never suspecting that the author had no such intentions in mind. It is definitely a scary read since I was so affected by Colin’s fears of ‘monsters under the bed’ that I woke up in the middle of the night with the horrible suspicion that someone was watching me. In that respect I must say that the author caught my attention. He had me scared and uncomfortable and very disturbed as I am sure he intended me to be.

5) Dead Cold – Louise Penny

6) Dissolution – C.J.Sansom

7) The Anderson Tapes – Lawrence Sanders

8) The Bookman’s Wake – John Dunning

9) Blowfly – Patricia Cornwell

I am tired now and I don’t think I will be doing justice to the other books tonight, so lets say ‘to be continued’ and rest our heads on soft pillows for the night.

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