Reading is proving a bit difficult at the moment as I have conjunctivitis. So I've stuck to casual reading this last week - a *very* short little book and a book of short stories.
First up Address Unknown by Kressman Taylor. This short work of fiction was apparently written in 1938 for a magazine and then published as a book. It concerns two friends and partners in an art gallery. One is an American Jew who lives in San Francisco, the other a German who moves back to Germany in 1932. The two correspond. At first the letters are just family greetings and news. Then the American, Max, starts to ask questions about Hitler and events in Germany. He's not easy about it - he has a sister working in Vienna etc. His friend, Martin, at first reassures him but gradually the letters take a more sinister turn. I won't say any more about the plot but this little book packs a real punch and I found it very disturbing. It only took me 45 minutes to read so I would say get it from the library if the subject interests you.
I found this cheap little Wordsworth Classic paperback a few months ago and couldn't resist it as it includes several authors I've not tried before and I thought it would be a good way to see what I thought of their writing. The stories are by authors such as Dickens, Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells, Guy de Maupassant, Mrs. Gaskell, Anton Chekov and so on.
I definitely had favourites though really they were all good. Several, like The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Judge's House by Bram Stoker and the Sherlock Holmes yarn, The Red-Headed League, I'd read before but it was nice to reacquaint myself with them.
A little about two of my favourites:
The Squire's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell. This one concerns the arrival of a certain Mr. Higgins in a small village and charts his progress as he buys a house and settles down to marry. Slowly you realise there is something not quite right about the gentleman but there is only one woman who realises it. Beautifully written and very absorbing. I own and have read a couple of short story selections by the author but not read any novels. I must put that right but can't decide whether to read Cranford *before* it comes on the TV or after...
The Journey to Panama by Anthony Trollope. Shamefully I've read nothing by Trollope so this little story was an introduction to his writing for me. The story is a simple one about a young woman who is sailing from England to the West Indies and on through the Panama Canal. She's travelling with a family she doesn't know but becomes friendly with a young man. She starts to spend a lot of time with him and confides that she is travelling to be married but is dreading it. The point of this story is that people behave very differently to normal when confined for long weeks aboard ship and Trollope illustrates the point very well with this story.
Other stories I enjoyed were, The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy (again, never read any of his novels), The Sphinx Without a Secret by Oscar Wilde, The Kiss by Anton Chekov and Juke Judkin's Courtship by Charles Lamb. Worth every penny of the £3.97 I paid for it.
I'm now reading my first ever novel by Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth. I've read a few of her short stories but never anything longer so I'm going to take my time and enjoy it. And hope this wretched conjunctivitis goes away quickly!