Monday 1 January 2018

A few stray reviews

Christmas and jigsaw puzzles took their toll in December so I didn't read as much as usual. It's always the way I find... too many distractions, loads to do, and it's almost as if I become a bit weary of reading and need the new year to arrive to reinvigorate my love of books.

Anyway, here're a few stray reviews from December and even November, constantly trying to catch up seems to be the story of my life. LOL

The Road to Tholonet by Monty Don.

Monty Don is well known in the UK as the presenter of Gardener's World on BBC2. He's written quite a few gardening books, none of which I've felt inclined to pick up apart from this one about French gardens. Not a subject I know a lot about. To be honest I didn't know if it would really interest me because I haven't visited any famous French gardens and there are only so many descriptions of plants one can read without it becoming a bit samey. Turns out this book isn't exactly what it purports to be. Yes, there is quite a lot about the gardens, Versailles, Giverny and many others... but what it really is a celebration of all things French by the author. He went there for the first time in his teens and fell in love with the country and has clearly kept on going back. If I'm totally honest, I loved all the bits about the French culture, their food, the geography, Don's life experiences, a lot more than the garden details. I'm clearly nothing if not contrary. He has some real insights into the differences between our two countries and I learnt an awful lot. So this book, which I wasn't too sure about turned into a real treat. Maybe I will now pick up more of his gardening books if I see them.

Next, Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne.

I shall use the blurb on the back of the book to describe the plot as it's weeks since I finished it and my brain is not firing on all cylinders due to a nasty cold.

Duchlan Castle is a gloomy, forbidding place in the Scottish Highlands. Late one night the body of Mary Gregor, sister of the laird of Duchlan, is found in the castle. She has been stabbed to death in her bedroom - but the room is locked from within and the windows are barred. The only tiny clue to the culprit is a silver fish's scale, left on the floor next to Mary's body.

Inspector Dundas is dispatched to Duchlan to investigate the case. The Gregor family and their servants are quick - perhaps too quick - to explain that Mary was a kind and charitable woman. Dundas uncovers a more complex truth, and the cruel character of the dead woman continues to pervade the house after her death. Soon further deaths, equally impossible, occur, and the atmosphere grows ever darker. Superstitious locals believe that fish creatures from the nearby waters are responsible; but luckily for Inspector Dundas, the gifted amateur sleuth Eustace Hailey is on the scene, and unravels a more logical solution to this most fiendish of plo

Enjoyed this very much. It has a really strong sense of its setting ie. The Scottish Highlands and the fabulous cover suits the book perfectly. There's quite a large cast of characters in the story and not easy to keep track, if I'm honest the person who jumped off the page at me was the dead woman, Mary Gregor. What piece of work she must've been... fascinating, so well written by Anthony Wynne. I gather there are around thirty in this Dr. Hailey series, written between 1925 and 1950 - Murder of a Lady is book 12 and has been reissued as a British Library Crime Classic. I do love these books, the quality varies but the books are rarely anything less than good and often excellent.

And lastly, The Traveller's Daybook: A Tour of the World in 366 Quotations by Fergus Fleming:

This is a whole year of travel writing, one entry for each day. The editor, Fergus Fleming, does a splendid job of including authors writing about the entire world from the 15th. century to the 20th. Too many to list here but I found old favourites and many many new writers to investigate and read... not always people one would associate with 'travel' writing I have to say. Thrilled with this bargain buy from The Works. Loved it so much I may just read it all over again this year.

Anyway, Happy New Year to you, let's hope for a more peaceful and stable 2018.



Kay said...

I really need to try some of those British crime classics that Poisoned Pen is publishing. So glad that Martin Edwards is working with that (or I think he is). I'm considering doing the Classics Club and if I decide to try it, some of these might work. I'll likely focus on crime novels as my selections.

Nan said...

I love the thing that British Library Crime Classics offered on Facebook. I know you saw it, but in case someone reads this comment and is interested: New year, new you.

Grab a Crime Classics checklist for a unique 2018 resolution... tick them all off by next Christmas!

We can send pdfs via email or facebook message – or message us with an address for a printed copy.

Cath said...

Kay: The BLCC books vary a bit in quality bit mostly I've found them to be very enjoyable. I like the sense of a disappeared age when values were very different. Thus you do get the odd comment that we would not make today but it's all educational. Yes, Martin Edwards... such a talented writer and editor.

Nan: Yes, I saw that but would rather read them slowly at my own pace rather than pack them into just one year.

Nan said...

So, when I was first here at this post, I didn't have a clue who Monty Don was, and now I'm totally interested. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was a shocker about the differences between my life in the US and his life in Provence - the day-to-day things, things we take for granted here. Plumbers, building rules, etc.
I just looked him up because I hadn't thought about him in a while and found he had died.

Cath said...

Nan: I really can recommend Monty's Road to Tholonet. Lots of interesting stuff about his life, not just French gardens.

Yes, I heard Peter Mayle had died. Not long after I read his book I think, so it was quite a shock. Very sad.

Nan said...

Here I am, yet again! I'm not sure if youtube works the same all over the world, but wanted to let you know that I am watching Monty Don in France here: Hope you can get it. Lovely, lovely scenery and gardens. I think he said one third of all French people buy from the local markets. And oh, those markets. Just full of the most beautiful vegetables. I would be in heaven there.

Cath said...

Nan, I don't think I watched it when it was originally on... not sure now but I don't think so. So, thanks to your link, I now can and have bookmarked it into my 'France' folder. Can't wait to watch it when I have a moment. Thank you!

Yes, we've seen those French markets. We were open mouthed at the amount of varieties of lettuce... the size of their radishes. My late sister-in-law grew tomatoes outside and they didn't get blight like ours do (we have to use the greenhouse). Wandering around French villages we were astonished at the size of the cabbages they were able to grow. My sister-in-law had a huge pot of red basil growing in her conservatory during the winter, better light and warmer than us in the UK, so it thrived. Here it would be dead by Christmas. I so envied her that basil... LOL.