Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Catching Up With A Century of Books


Hello, friends, I hope that you are having a wonderful week of reading!

Although a vacation took me away from the blog for longer than I intended, the reading for A Century of Books has continued apace. I'm enjoying finding treasures on my bookshelves to read for this challenge. I've a stack of books waiting to be reviewed, so I'm starting with this group.

Here's a rundown of my latest reads for ACOB:

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le CarrĂ© (1963) tells the story of Alec Leamas, a British agent, who accepts the challenge to sow disinformation in East Germany in an elaborate plot. This novel shows how dangerous the spy game was during the Cold War. To make Alec appear a more reliable defector, he's fired from the spy network for which he works, known as The Circus. He proceeds to get a job at a library where he meets Liz Gold, a young woman involved in the local Communist party. Alec and Liz become lovers. Everything that Alec does before he defects to East Germany seems innocuous enough, but it's not. The plot is tightly written. Although it's billed as a George Smiley novel, George only makes a couple of appearances. It's Alec's bittersweet story, and a novel that is a real page turner. My only complaint about the novel is in the characterization of Liz Gold. I wish she hadn't spent so much time being so overwrought. 

Two Days in Aragon by J.J. Farrell (Molly Keane) (1941) takes place during the 1920s in Ireland around the time of the Troubles and the waning days of the large estates. The Fox family lives at the large Georgian estate known as Aragon. There are the two sisters, Grania and Sylvia, their elderly Aunt Pidgie, their eccentric mother, and the family's nurse, Nan O'Neil. Two Days in Aragon appears at first to be the story of two sisters, coming of age. Grania is in the throes of a passionate yet secret love affair with Nan's son, while Sylvia, the pretty sister, has caught the eye of a British officer. The story then becomes Nan's, who has a more profound attachment to the Fox family than anyone suspects. She's an exacting person who wields great power and influence. Nan finds herself confronting forces who want to destroy all that Aragon represents. The second half of the book is powerful and unputdownable.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953) is more of a novella at almost 100 pages. It's a time travel story, and an inventive one. Laski's writing is wonderful and always kept me guessing in this story of an ill woman in the 1950s who decides to leave her sick bed to rest in a sunny room on her Victorian chaise. She awakes in a time and place that unfamiliar to her, in a body that is not hers. The ending left me with lots of questions. The Victorian Chaise-Longue would be an excellent book for a book club because there are so many elements deserving of discussion.

An Academic Question by Barbara Pym (1986), a posthumous work of Pym's is taken from a first draft of Pym's, and worked on by her friend, Hazel Holt, is the story of Caro Grimstone, whose husband is a university professor. She allows him to take the notes of respected old professor who Caro visits and reads to, and unintended (and intended) consequences ensue. While this book is readable, it lacks that certain something. I would recommend An Academic Question for Pym fans but not for someone who has never read a novel of hers.

Not That Sort of Girl by Mary Wesley (1987) made me realize how much I love Mary Wesley's writing. Awhile back, I talked about Patrick Marnham's biography of Mary Wesley, and it made me want to go back to one of my favorite novels of hers. For this second reading, I found the first fifty or so pages to be a bit slow, but after that, I had trouble putting down the novel. Not That Sort of Girl is the story of Rose, one of those respectable, quiet girls. Although she wasn't from a family with money, she married into money with Ned, a respectable husband and heir to family fortune and big house. But Rose has a secret in the form of Mylo, a mysterious young man she meets before she marries Ned. Much of Not That Sort of Girl takes place before and during World War II. When the novel begins, Rose is looking back on her life after Ned's death and thinking about her future. I love this novel and its quirky characters and Wesley's lovely prose.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading this week?

1 comment:

  1. I have the Barbara Pym book on my unread shelf. I actually have a few of hers I need to catch up on. Hope you have been doing well Monica.

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