Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Catching up and currently reading

First up, a quick review of The Abominable by Dan Simmons. This was my fourth book for the Historical Fiction reading challenge 2021 which is being hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader. 

The title of this would suggest a book about yetis, otherwise known as The Abominable Snowman, especially given the author's track record for horror stories. This is very much not the case! I knew it because I'd read a few reviews of the book on Goodreads so was aware that it's primarily a book about mountaineering. Specifically Mount Everest but before the three main characters ever get anywhere near there they're preparing in The Alps and Wales. Jake Perry is the young American narrator and with him go a Frenchman and a Brit, primarily to look for a climber who disappeared around the same time as the real-life Mallory and Irvine. Secretly, they also plan to make an attempt on the summit. This is quite a long book, nearly 700 pages, and if you have no interest in minutiae of mountain climbing then I would suggest you give this one a miss. So many pages are given over to ropes and ice picks and breathing apparatus and goodness knows what else that even I, with an interest in this kind of thing, felt it was a bit much. I did enjoy the historical element, lots about various attempts on Everest that was very interesting, and in the last quarter or third of the book it suddenly became a spy story, which took me a bit by surprise but did help the book jog along a bit quicker. All in all, I enjoyed this one but felt it could have lost a couple of hundred pages and been none the worse for it. 

Also read this month was, A Time to be in Earnest by P.D. James.

P.D. James did not write a proper autobiograhy, what she did instead was chart a year in her life, August 1997 to August 1998 and peppered the diary with reminiscences of her long life. It works very well indeed. She was born in 1920 and died in 2014 aged 94 and like a lot of my parents' generation lived through an awful lot of history. She's most famous of course for her Adam Dalgliesh series of books and there is quite a lot of background info on those included in the book... settings, what inspired her to write some of the books, the pubicity she was required to do for each one. James was a busy person, I was rather shocked that she was on the go constantly. What I loved was how much common sense was displayed. So often when reading her opinion on something I found my head nodding in agreement. A sad loss to crime fiction and to us all but she was 94 and no one lives forever. This book was a joy. If you love her crime fiction it's a 'must read'.


And it led me on to this:

 

Jane Austen's Emma. The reason for this is that at the end of that P.D James book is a transcript of a talk she gave in 1998 at the Jane Austen Society's AGM. It was entitled, Emma Considered as a Detective Story. Well, 'that' had never occurred to me before and I wanted to know more. But it's donkey's years since I read it last so before reading the essay I felt I should reread the book for the third time. I thought I would meander through it slowy ho ho. I'm halfway through after just a couple of days and adore it more than I ever remember doing so before. Can't stop reading it and when I'm not reading it I'm thinking about it. I have my sights set on Sense and Sensibility next, and then possibly a reread Persuasion or Mansfield Park which I don't believe I've ever read. 

Don't you just love it when one book leads to another or even a new reading project?


14 comments:

DesLily said...

You don't know by NOW that Dan Simmons can't write a short book?!! lol My last Dan Simmons was Black Hills... It was good for me!

Susan said...

I like books about Mount Everest/climbing, but I think I would find the Simmons book boring with all that detail. I DNF'd THE TERROR because it took SO long to get anywhere. I'll skip THE ABOMINABLE. EMMA, though? Such a delightful book! I haven't read it in a long time, but I remember loving it.

Mary said...

I did laugh at your last comment...don't you love it when...as you talking about Post Captain by O'Brian a few weeks ago set me off in a re-listening (I love the Aubrey/Maturin series on audiobook--excellent narrator) of the series. So in a little less than three weeks, I have gone through the series yet again up to #12, The Letter of Marque which I finished early this morning. Mostly listen to them at night, so that gives you a rough idea of how little sleep I get most nights. :( But, The Thirteen Gun Salute awaits...

I am also listening to Jacqueline Winspear's latest Maisie Dobbs book (#16), The Consequences of Fear. Enjoying it so far. Another excellent narrator, Orlagh Cassidy.

You have also probably set me to re-reading Emma and finding the P.D. James book. So thanks!

Lark said...

Good books always seem to lead to more books! And hearing you talk about Emma makes me want to reread it, too. I love Emma. I love all of Austen's books actually. Maybe I should make it an Austen summer and reread them all this year. :)

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've never read anything by Dan Simmons but, alway meant to. I think all of his books are rather long.

Sam Sattler said...

I agree with everyone here - Dan Simmons kills more trees per book than most authors have managed on their own in the past couple of centuries. I've read a couple of his, but never straight through, always having to take a break or two by reading something else first.

Emma as a mystery, is an intriguing thought. Can't wait to see what you have to say about that later on. I read the book a long, long time ago, and I can't imagine the connection to mystery right off hand. Now I"m very curious...

TracyK said...

Sense and Sensibility is the only Jane Austen that I haven't read yet. I read the other five books in 2017. I have hopes to read it this year. And I am eager to learn how Emma can be considered a detective novel.

I think I would enjoy that book by P.D. James. I had heard about this book but wasn't interested until I read your description. I have read all the Dalgliesh series (and some of them twice).

I am reading books for the 1936 Club right now, but a few days ago I started reading Post Captain. I have read two chapters and enjoyed them a lot. So will most likely finish it sometime this month.

Cath said...

Pat: Well no, I don't think I did know that even though Drood is so big you could use it as a murder weapon in a murder mystery. LOL! I'll look up Black Hills as I don't think I know it.

Susan: Yes, The Abominable is a book to be wary of because of the - I felt - huge amount of unnecessary detail. The other thing to add was that towards the end there was some other unnecessary sexual detail which, although brief, was highly unpleasant. The Terror was on TV recently but I didn't watch as I can read horror but am not that good at watching it on TV. I've already finished Emma, it was wonderful, a thoroughly worthwhile reread. I had forgotten how much I love Jane Austen.

Cath said...

Mary: How funny is that. But I do love being an 'enabler' as they call it these days. So pleased I made you want to experience the O'Brian books all over again. My next one is only book 3, HMS Surprise, which I'm champing at the bit to get to and will be read possibly over Easter. I've heard that it's quite a good installment, West Indies based I think, though I may be misremembering.

My next Maisie Dobbs is book 10, Leaving Everything Most Loved, which promises to be very good, although I've yet to find a bad Maisie book.

Emma is finished, what a joyous reread, I adored it all over again. I haven't read P.D. James' essay yet, later today I expect. Can't wait to hear what she has to say. I may do a post. I also realise I have other things by Austen that I haven't read, Selected Letters, Sanditon and Catharine and Other Writings, so plenty to explore.

Lark: I can't recommend a reread of Emma highly enough, it was joyous. Definitely planning to reread more Austen this year, either Persuasion or S&S. We'll see. I also want to read Sanditon for the first time.

Cath said...

Diane: Yes, I gather from what lots of people have said in response to this post that Dan Simmons has probably never written a short book in his life. LOL!

Sam: I love the way you put that about DS killing more trees per book than anyone else's entire output. I understand why you read him by taking breaks, I think that's a good idea for me next time. I could do a reread of Drood in that manner.

I think I can see where P.D. James might be going with her thoughts but I haven't read her essay yet so will report back as it should be interesting. There is a death in Emma which any crime writer worth his or her salt could turn into a murder mystery. Agatha Christie would've had a field day.

Cath said...

Tracy: I haven't read Sense and Sensibility either, seen the Emma Thompson film many times, but not read the book. The same with Mansfield Park so perhaps I can do a first read of those in the next few months.

The P.D. James book is a delightful read, I can highly recommend it. She talks about her experiences in WW2 and that's really interesting.

Enjoy Post Captain! That first third reads a bit like a Jane Austen novel!

Nan said...

I bought the PD James years ago, and have had it in my head that it was written when she turned 70. When I turned 70, I was so excited to read it. And then I saw that it begins on her 77th birthday and goes for a year. So now I have four years to wait! Isn't it funny the little reading schemes we have. Mine right now seems to be the Second World War.

Cath said...

Nan: I completely understand your reading scheme because I get ideas into my head like that too. All I can say is that when you do get to the book I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

WW2 is as good a reading scheme as any I can think of. I read quite a bit about it too. Also we're currently rewatching all of the Foyle's War episodes. In my opinion the best TV crime series ever.

Nan said...

I do love Foyle's War. Two years ago, I watched it all over again. Did you watch A Family At War when it was on, or in reruns?