Within a Budding Grove

Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past: Within a Budding Grove. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Chatto & Windus, 1966.

Reason read: to continue the series.

If you remember from Proust’s first volume of Remembrance of Things Past our narrator was looking back on his childhood. Now he is thinking back to when he was a young adult; the coming of age stage of life. This time he has a sweetheart named Gilberte, the daughter of M. Swann, and he still has a singular attachment to his mother. Many of the same characters that were in the first installment are back in volume two, only now they are more refined due to their changing circumstances. Family relations change. Gilberte starts to drift away. The chase of Gilberte seemed endless. Twenty pages later and our narrator is still stalking her; looking for excuses to connect with her. The turning point was when he decides to play hard to get himself. The head game of renouncing Gilberte and then realizing this could backfire and he could lose her forever had a very modern feel to it.
Most of the drama takes place in the seaside town of Balbec or Normandy, France. There are times when Within a Budding Grove drags. Entire pages are dedicated to the description of ladies gowns. Society’s dedication to cordial formalities and the quest for the value of Beauty were tiresome. Questioning the possibilities of happiness or suffering seems an age-old topic. Only when the narrator was looking for intellectual distraction in a dinner conversation did I find the situation funny. To see what others had done with the carnation wrapped in silver paper was relatable.

Quotes I liked, “My father had always meant me to become a diplomat, and I could not endure the thought of that…” (p 13) and “There is perhaps nothing that gives us so strong an impression of the reality of the external world as the difference in the positions, relative to ourself, of even a quite unimportant person before we have not met him and after” (p 341).

Author fact: Marcel Proust’s books coined the phrase “romans-fleuves” as a way to describe them.

Book trivia: Within a Budding Grove is also called In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

Nancy said: Pearl does not say anything specific about Budding Grove.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called Romans-Fleuves (p 208).

Fearless Jones

Mosely, Walter. Fearless Jones. Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: Walter Mosely was born in the month of January. Read in his honor.

Paris Minton ingeniously builds his used bookstore from discards and sales from local libraries. For a Negro to own his business in 1950s Watts, California, Minton knows he is an anomaly. What he also is, is unlucky. Soon after a beautiful woman in distress hides in his bookstore he is badly beaten and his store, burned to the ground. Who was the impossibly beautiful woman? Who would want to burn down his store and do that has anything to do with the men who beat him? There is only one thing to do, bail his good friend Fearless Jones out of prison and enlist him to solve the mystery. As Minton tells the story he builds the character of Fearless Jones through their friendship, setting up the character development in future stories.
When you read Walter Mosely expect crackling humor, fast paced action, racial truths, and lots of quick-jab violence.
As an aside, one of the things I like about Walter Mosely’s writing is that his characters use the bathroom. Not many authors include the details of common bodily functions.

Lines I liked, “Being challenged by the law was a rite of passenger for any Negro who wanted to better himself or his situation” (p 4), “The best cop I ever saw was the cop who wasn’t there” (p 87), and “These were men who had lived with Satan before coming to God, and they were still willing to venture over to the wrong side of holiness if the situation demanded it” (p 227).

Author fact: I have twelve Mosely books on my Challenge list, including two nonfiction contributions.

Book trivia: Fearless Jones is the first book in the Fearless Jones series.

Setlist: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, and Pat Boone.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fearless Jones as part of the Fearless Jones series. She didn’t say anything beyond that about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Walter Mosely: Too Good To Miss” (p 168).

Vinland the Good

Shute, Nevil. Vinland the Good. William Morrow & Co, Inc. 1946.

Reason read: Shute’s birth and death month is January. Read in his honor and memory. I also needed a book for the Portland Reading Challenge. The category is a book that is under 150 pages long. Vinland the Good is 126 pages.

This is the historical fiction story of Leif Ericsson and his quest to discover new lands. Cleverly hidden in a history lesson at a boy’s boarding school, teacher Callender describes Leif’s life’s adventures. Callender is back after six years to teach U.S. History and finds a clever way to keep the students engaged despite the headmaster’s disapproval. [Spoiler: there is a section of the story where Leif warns Thorgunna to keep her ladies away from Leif’s men. It is hinted that Leif worries the men could rape the fair maidens. Thorgunna replies that Leif gives sound advice because her ladies have been without variety…]
Vinland the Good comes to us in the form of a treatment for a script as if Shute planned it as a movie or theater production. Stage directions and props describe each scene before narratives begin. Themes in Vinland the Good include forgiveness (when King Olaf lifts Leif’s stigma of being the son of an outlaw and teaches Leif the art of shipbuilding) and the spread of Christianity. You could also call Vinland the Good a tragic love story as Leif and Thorgunna’s relationship blossoms into love and loyalty.

Best quote, “LEIF (Heavily) Thorgunna, as one goes through life one has to make the best decisions that one can, and work on them” (p 70). Amen to that.

As an aside, I love any book that uses the word ‘gloaming’ in some manner.

Author fact: I have read five of the twenty four Nevil Shute books on my list. He has written a bunch more.

Book trivia: Even though a map is included on the free and pastedown endpapers, there are no other illustrations. Bummer.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Vinland the Good.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p).

Confessional: this doesn’t happen to me often. I am proud of the fact that my Book Lust Challenge is very organized. I would like to think I have every book cataloged; so it came as a shock to learn Vinland the Good was NOT cataloged in LibraryThing. It was in all of my spreadsheets (TwistList, MBL list, ToGo list, and Schedule list), but somehow I missed the most important place of all, LibraryThing.

Rum Diary

Thompson, Hunter S. The Rum Diary. Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to celebrate Eugenio Maria de Hostos, philosopher who campaigned for education for women. His life is celebrated on the second Monday in January in Puerto Rico. Additionally, for the 2023 Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I needed a book with a person on the cover.

Paul Kemp, fresh in from New York, begins writing for the Daily News in San Juan. Throughout the entire Rum Diary he comes off as a bumbling and stumbling alcoholic cad who never really writes very much. He spends a great deal of time eating hamburgers at Al’s, chasing women, playing on the beach, getting into various troubles, and of course, drinking gallons of rum. Paul works off a tangle of conflicting emotions through an alcoholic haze. Rum on the island act as a currency.
Thompson’s portrait of Paul Kemp seems three quarters finished. Underneath the swagger and swaying, there lies a decent soul, but you never really understand Paul.
As as aside, I have never been to San Juan so I don’t know why this is a thing, but there seems to be a peculiar animosity towards stray dogs on the island.

Confessional: Reading Doug Stanhope’s Digging Up Mother at the same time as Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary was like a lesson in debauchery. Even though Stanhope’s memories were thirty years later than Thompson’s, the attitudes were much the same. Here’s another trivial similarity – Johnny Depp starred in Thompson’s movie. He also wrote the foreword for Digging Up Mother.

Best lines, “Arriving half-drunk in a foreign place is hard on the nerves” (p 12).

Author fact: Thompson is better known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Book trivia: Rum Diary was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Playlist: Braham’s Lullaby and “Maybellene”.

Nancy said: Rum Diary is an “exuberant” picture of the drinking life in Puerto Rico. She’s not wrong.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean (Puerto Rico)” (p 57).

Brideshead Revisited

Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited: the Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder. Everyman’s Library, 1993.

Reason read: Waugh was born in October; read in his memory.

Brideshead Revisited is twenty years in the life of Captain Charles Ryder and the relationships that sustained him. Friendships with the Flyte family and Brideshead Castle, the military, religion, romance. We learn early on that he compares his waning affection for the military to a marriage in the post-honeymoon phase. I found that to be a really interesting analogy.
I would compare Brideshead Revisited to a lazy river. There is no white water pulse pounding plot twists. Instead it is a pleasant, gentle read that meanders through Victorian life. I can see the reason for its popularity and the various made for television movies it spawned.

Line I liked, “He was the acid test of all these alloys” (p 9).

Author fact: Brideshead Revisited was Waugh’s most successful novel. It was made into a miniseries in 1981 and a movie in 2008.

Book trivia: Waugh made revisions in 1954 (the original was published in 1944). He was of two minds about Julia’s outburst about mortal sin and Lord Marchmain’s dying silioquy. Were they appropriate for the story?

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything about Brideshead Revisited in either chapter.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1940s” (p 177) and from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Oxford: Literary Fiction” (p 170).

Heartburn

Ephron, Nora. Heartburn. Pocketbooks, 1983.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself.

What do you do when you are seven months pregnant and you discover your second husband is having an affair? To make matters worse, you already have a handful in the form of a two year old named Sam. It’s complicated to say the least. Heartburn is fiction but it could be all true. Ephron based this fictional falling apart of a marriage on her own experiences with love gone awry. Told from the perspective of Rachel, a cookbook author who has discovered her husband is having an affair with someone in their social circle. Like all good gossips, everyone knows Thelma is having a fling with someone’s husband. They all take turns guessing until Rachel discovers it’s her Mark Thelma has been seeing. Heartburn is at once heartbreaking and hilarious. Rachel’s revenge is sweet and swift.

Lines I liked, He said it with the animation of a tree sloth” (p 87) and “Second of all, it means even a simple flat inquiry like “How’s Helen?” is taken amiss, since your friend always thinks that what you hope he’s going to say is “Dead.” ” (p 138).

Author fact: Ephron was better known for her romantic comedies, but she was also a journalist and novelist.

Book trivia: Heartburn contains fifteen recipes.

Playlist: Irving Berlin’s “Always”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nora is best known for Heartburn.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).

Clockers

Price, Richard. Clockers. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

Reason read: New Jersey became a state in December and I needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Dig down. Dig beneath the slang and bravado and you will find a gritty story about two very different human beings trying to survive the poverty stricken streets of New Jersey and New York. Rocco Klein has been a homicide detective for too long. He has seen it all and maybe he is too jaded because, as of late, the drug deaths he encounters inch him closer and closer to a yawning apathy. It might be time to retire. That is, until he meets young, barely out of his teens, Victor Dunham. Victor seems to be too innocent to be readily and eagerly confessing to a murder. Klein knows better. Who is Vincent covering for? Could it be his always in trouble drug-dealing brother? The cat and mouse game cops and crook play makes for an adventure (albeit a little long).
As an aside: Clockers is code for drug runners. Cocaine dealers, to be more specific.

Great lines, “At least with enemies, you knew what they were right up front” (p 8),”But the coffee didn’t pour itself, so nothing had come of it” (p 40). Yup. I’ve had those days, too.

Author fact: Richard Price wrote the screenplay for The Color of Money.

Book trivia: Clockers was made into a movie in 1995 and directed by Spike Lee. Of course I have not seen it.

Playlist: Wilson Pickett’s “International Playboy”, the Impressions’ “It’s All Right”, Kool and the Gang, “Ninety-Nine and a Half Just Won’t Do”, “I Found a Love”, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and “One Love”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Price’s novels are hard to define.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 129).

Black River

Ford, G.M. Black River. William Morris, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of New Jersey becoming a state.

This mystery continues to feature hard nosed Frank Corso. He’s a stoic reporter who happens to be a imposing tough guy. This time he is the only writer allowed into the courtroom during the murder trial of Nicholas Balagula, alleged gangster accused of killing 63 people. It’s the crime of the century in the form of faulty architecture of a hospital. At the same time, a murdered man is discovered buried in his truck by the side of a river. Is this murder related to Balagula’s trial and if so, how? The dead man was paying for his son’s expensive medical school on a blue collar salary. How? Was he on Balagula’s payroll? Corso only gets involved when his former lover, Meg Dougherty, has an accident so life threatening Corso doubts it was an accident at all. Someone wants Meg dead. All clues lead Corso back to Balagula in round about ways.

Author fact: the G. M. stands for Gerald Moody. I have to wonder if he is related to the Moody family in Maine. You know, the ones with famous diner?

Book trivia: You could walk around Corso’s world just by taking note of the real-life landmarks Ford uses: Elliott Bay, Bainbridge, 7th Madison, Portage Bay, Montlake Cut, Union Bay, Lake Washington

Playlist: Chopin, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Ricky Martin, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, and Barry Manilow.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Black River.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Midwives

Bohjalian, Chris. Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries, 1997.

Reason read: Chief Justice John Jay was born in the month of December.

Imagine anything and everything that can go wrong when trying to midwife a birth: there are complications with an at-home pregnancy in rural Vermont; a storm rages; phones go out and roads are impossibly icy; the midwife’s assistant is inexperienced and immature. The husband freezes, struck and stuck immobile with fear. These are the days before cell phones and computer communications. No VoIP, no texting, no Googling how to perform a cesarean or how to stop a woman with high blood pressure from having a cerebral hemorrhage. There is no way to go for help when this same exhausted woman starts bleeding to death after hours and hours of trying to give birth to a second child. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and seasoned veteran midwife Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to perform an emergency cesarean on this mother. Months later, at her trial for manslaughter, she will tell the court she believed the mother had died. Was it a necessary action or did Sibyl commit callous unthinkable murder? As with all suspicious deaths, Sibyl must be tried in front of a jury of her peers, all the while battling traditional medical opinions and an overzealous community ripe for justice. The midwife culture is one of hippies, people who buck the system and thumb their noses at modern medicine. Midwives give off the vibe they lounge around buck naked while smoking pot. Told from the perspective of Sibyl’s daughter, thirty year old Connie Danforth looks back on her mother’s horrific choice and the subsequent trial that followed.

As an aside, I found myself gritting my teeth through the more difficult sections.

Author fact: Bohjalian also wrote Water Witches. I read that back on April 2010.

Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with an entry from Sibyl Danforth’s journal.

Playlist: Abba, the Shirelles, Joni Michell, and Janis Joplin,

Nancy said: Pearl called Midwives a remarkable mother-daughter novel, yet it is not included in the “Mothers and Daughters” chapter of Book Lust on page 159.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).

Remake

Willis, Connie. Remake. Bantam Books, 1995.

Reason read: Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor.

Remake is captivating. Imagine moviemaking of the future where technology allows you to alter endings to your favorite movies. Don’t like Johnny Depp starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Want to see Ryan Reynolds as the lead instead? With just a keystroke, you can change any detail you want. Live-action filming is a thing of the past. Every little detail can be turned upside-down with a little techno-photoshopping. Nothing is real anymore. Which is unfortunate for one na├»ve young woman named Alis. All she desires is a dance with Fred Astaire up on the silver screen. She knows all of Ginger’s moves and like Alice in Wonderland, believes the right combination of eat-me and drink-me drugs will get her there. Caught up in love with Alis, Tom muddles his way through fixing bad alterations, all the while offering Alis her face on all the great dancers who danced with Fred. Alis doesn’t want a photoshopped image of herself on Ginger’s body. She wants the real deal.
As an aside, I loved how Willis thought. Here’s a twist: when bona fide actors are maliciously altered into snuff films, litigation ensues. Either that, or the wronged actor becomes a popular porn star.

Author fact: Even though Connie Willis has written a ridiculous number of books, I only had ten on my Challenge list. I have read all but three, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Passage, and Unchartered Territory.

Book trivia: there is an insane number of movies mentioned in Remake. I don’t know if they are all real or not, but I took the liberty of listing them all. You’re welcome.

  • 3 Sailors and a Girl
  • 42nd Street
  • African Queen
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • All About Eve
  • American in Paris
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • An Affair to Remember
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Athena
  • Babes on Broadway
  • Back to the Future
  • Bell, Book and the Candle
  • Belle of New York
  • Bells are Ringing
  • Ben-Hur
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • The Birds and the Bees
  • The Blue Max
  • Born to Dance
  • The Boyfriend
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Brigadoon
  • Broadway Melody of 1940
  • Broken Blossoms
  • By the Light of the Silver Moon
  • Camelot
  • Camille
  • Can-Can
  • Carefree
  • Carousel
  • Casablanca
  • Cat Ballou
  • The China Syndrome
  • Chorus Line
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Collector
  • The Color Purple
  • Dance
  • Days of Wine and Roses
  • Death Wish
  • Double Indemnity
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Dumbo
  • East of Eden
  • Educating Rita
  • Fantasia
  • Field of Dreams
  • Flying Down to Rio
  • Follow the Fleet
  • Fools
  • Footlight Parade
  • Footloose
  • For Love or Money
  • Frankenstein
  • Funny Face
  • Gaslight
  • Gay Divorcee
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Giant
  • Gigi
  • Girl Crazy
  • Godfather
  • Godfather II
  • Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Good News
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • Graduate
  • Great Expectations
  • Greed
  • Gunga Din
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Hallelujah Trail
  • Harvey Girls
  • Hats Off
  • Hello Dolly
  • High Road to China
  • High Society
  • House of Wax
  • How the West was Won
  • How to Marry a Millionaire
  • I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
  • I Love Melvin
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Into the Woods
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Kid from Brooklyn
  • Let’s Dance
  • Little Miss Marker
  • Lost Horizon
  • Lost Weekend
  • Love Story
  • Magnificent Seven
  • Maltese Falcon
  • Mame
  • Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • Man with the Golden Arm
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
  • Music Man
  • My Fair Lady
  • Ninotchka
  • Notorious
  • Now Voyager
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Oklahoma
  • Oliver
  • On the Town
  • One Touch of Venus
  • Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
  • Palm Beach Story
  • Party
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • Phantom Foe
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Philadelphia Story
  • Pinocchio
  • Plainsman
  • Postcards from the Edge
  • Pretty Woman
  • Psycho
  • Public Enemy
  • Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Purple Taxi
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Rio Bravo
  • Rising Sun
  • Risky Business
  • Saratoga Trunk
  • The Searchers
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Seven Year Itch
  • Shadowlands
  • Shall We Dance
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
  • She’s Back on Broadway
  • Showboat
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Small Town Girl
  • Snow White
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Spellbound
  • Stagecoach
  • Stage Door
  • Starlift
  • Star is Born
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Strike Up the Band
  • Summer Holiday
  • Swingtime
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Tea for Two
  • Ten Commandments
  • Terminator
  • Thief of Bagdad
  • There’s No Business Like Show Business
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Three Little Girls in Blue
  • Three Little Words
  • Time After Time
  • Thin Man
  • Too Much Harmony
  • Top Hat
  • Topper
  • Towering Inferno
  • the Trouble with Angels
  • Two Weeks In Love
  • Valley of the Dolls
  • Vernon and Irene Castle
  • West Side Story
  • What’s New Pussycat
  • Where the Boys Are
  • White Christmas
  • Wings
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Yankee doodle Dandy
  • You Can’t take It With You

Setlist: “Abba Dabba Honeymoon”, “Anything Goes, “Buckin’ the Wind”, “Crazy Rhythm”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Moonlight Lullaby”, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, and “You are My Lucky Star”.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Remake.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good to Miss” (p 247).

Cat Who Came for Christmas

Amory, Cleveland. The Cat Who Came for Christmas. Little, Brown and Company, 1987.

Reason read: December is the month for Christmas

Every December I look for a few books that are lighthearted and funny. The Cat Who Came for Christmas fit the bill for the most part, being both a memoir about a specific stray cat coming into Cleveland’s life and a didactic nonfiction containing interesting facts about cats. Here are a few examples: Cleveland delves into the theory of a cat having nine lives; he provides names of politicians and rulers who either loved or detested cats; he shares the dirty secrets of animals shelters, testing on animals (ouch), and price gouging of veterinarians. He shares stories of his work with animals rights organizations. It is not just a warm and fuzzy story about a cat named Polar Bear. But let’s be fair. Polar Bear is the star of the show. The full blown, complete sentence dialogues Cleveland would have with his cat are hysterical.
Cleveland is in good company of famous people who enjoyed cats: Mark Twain, Colette, Walter Cronkite, and Robert De Niro to name a few.

Quote to quote, “You do not, after all, have to walk a wife (p 6).

Author fact: Cleveland likes to drop names. He was good friends with Cary Grant and George C. Scott.

Book trivia: the advance praise for The Cat Who Came for Christmas is star-studded. Bea Arthur, Walter Cronkite, Norman Cousins, and even Doris Day all give a glowing review. See what I mean about the name dropping?

Nancy said: Pearl said many people enjoyed The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy” (p 51).

Persuasion

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Read by Michael Page. Blackstone Audio, 2016.

Reason read: Persuasion was published in December 1817. Jane Austen was born in December. I also needed a one-word title for the Portland Public Library 2022 Reading Challenge.

As you probably remember from your high school literature class, there is not a whole lot of excitement happening in Persuasion. This is a character driven story based on personality, dialogue and society. Austen’s keen sense of observation was not in what people did, but how they did them.
Confessional: sometimes the characters drove me crazy. Maybe it was a Victorian societal thing, but I was annoyed with one character who was disagreeable to be in the confidences of other residents, especially when they constantly bitched to her about others. Mary is annoying with her fashionable hysterics, ailments and imaginary agitations. I liked the more clever persuasions, like when Anne was persuaded to think the engagement an indiscreet and improper mistake. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Anne as isolated and unloved as she was.
Jane Austen had a tongue-in-cheek humor. My favorite line was something like, “He took out a gun but never killed. Such a gentleman.”

Author fact: Austen was only 41 years old when she died. One of her aunts was named Philadelphia. I have never heard of a person being named Philadelphia before. What a cool name!

Book trivia: Persuasion was unfinished at the time of Austen’s death. Her brother found the manuscript and was able to publish it as Austen’s last novel. I ended up reading an anniversay edition of Persuasion which included exhausting and exhaustive footnotes and some photography that was out of context or referred to other Austen stories. To compliment the anniversary edition I listened to an audio version by Blackstone Audio.

Nancy said: Pearl said Austen’s writing is lighter in tone.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “An Anglophile’s Literary Pilgrimage” (p 19) and again in “Lyme Regis” (p 134). True story: somehow I missed cataloging this entire chapter on my Challenge spreadsheet. Woops.

Black Path of Fear

Woolrich, Cornell. The Black Path of Fear. Ballantine Books, 1982.

Reason read: Woolrich was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

To read a Woolrich mystery is to be pulled into a compelling, fast-paced drama that has you turning page after page after page to figure out what happens next. In Black Path of Fear, a chance meeting between a newly hired chauffeur and his mob boss’s beautiful wife sets the stage for a story of gangster vengeance and betrayal. Scotty steals Eva away from her marriage and together, they manage to escape to Havana, Cuba. They have escaped, but not undetected. Soon after their arrival, Eva is quietly and cleverly murdered. All evidence points to Scott. He bought the murder weapon hours earlier. Did he murder the gangster’s wife to avoid the jealous wrath of organized crime? Partnering with a mysterious woman primed for revenge herself, Scott is trapped in Havana. How to extricate himself from the crime is the mystery he and his new partner, Midnight, must solve. [As an aside, I loved the character of Midnight. She is the element of spice that makes the plot all that more delicious.]
Someone said the plot is fiendishly ingenious and I cannot help but agree. I read this in three sittings.
Details matter to me. There is a part of Woolrich’s narrative that did not make sense to me. Scott is chauffeuring Eva, Jordan and Roman to a nightclub. He observes how the three get into the car, saying, “they sat on each side of her.” Yet, when they arrive at their destination, he describes their exits as, “she had to alight before them, and they brought up the rear.” How is that possible? If she was in the middle, how did she get out before them? Would the men allow a woman in an evening gown to crawl over one of them? Unless they were in a limousine, which they were not…

Lines I liked, “It’s surprising how much easier it is to be ethical when you are well fed” (p 50) and “A change of opinion doesn’t make any noise” (p 57),

Author fact: I have six “Black” books of Woolrich’s on my Challenge list. I have only read two so far.

Book trivia: Black Path of Fear is a very short novel. Barely 160 pages, it is a quick read.

Playlist: “Jesus Loves Me”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Siboney”.

Nancy said: Pearl said all Woolrich’s stories are filled with “melodramatic plot twists, doom and dread” (Book Lust p 66).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crimes Noir” (p 65). It also could have been included in the adjacent chapter called “Cuba Si!” (p 68). Just saying.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Narrated by Jeff Woodman. Blackstone Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Christmas Present to Myself.

Everyone needs a Christopher John Francis Boone in their life. He is smart, funny, truthful, and loyal to the core. It doesn’t matter that his behavioral problems cause him to be violent when touched or that he hates the color yellow to the point of obstinance. Chris is, at heart, a really good kid who has been dealt a rough hand in life. His mother died of a heart attack and his father is his only family. So when Chris is accused of killing a dog with a garden fork, you feel for him. He knows he is innocent, but he can’t articulate this fact well enough to keep from being arrested and locked up. Eventually the police let him go, but that isn’t good enough for Chris and so begins his crusade to clear his name. The only way to really prove his innocence is to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes and discover who actually stabbed his neighbor’s poodle with a garden fork. This leads Chris down a path of more than one mystery. His journey is both courageous and inspiring.
Everything about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is clever. The way Chris notices even the smallest detail to help him navigate his way through life. The way Chris uses the powers of deduction and reasoning to solve mysteries.
As an aside, it reminded me of Wonder by Palacio.

Author fact: Haddon won the Whitbread Book Award in 2003. He also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and a Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He has a low-pri website here.

Book trivia: the title of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on the 1892 short story by Arthur Conan Doyle and all the chapters are in prime numbers.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time “terrific” and “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p 158) and again in the chapter called “Other People’s Shoes” (p 181).

Swann’s Way

Proust, Marcel. “Swann’s Way,” Remembrance of Things Past: In Search of Lost Time. Volume One. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Illustrated by Philippe Jullia. Chatto & Windus, 1964.

Reason read: Proust died in the month of November. Read in his memory.

The theme of remembering: the way a cake tastes when dipped in tea; an involuntary memory when least expected. Like experiencing that first kiss, we spend our lifetimes trying to recreate all of the sensations of that first time of anything. It is impossible to do. Proust has a sensory understanding of the world at large and our place in it. Memories of certain foods or music or places have sentimental value because their taste, sound or sight are evocative of childhood’s sweet innocence. A simpler time is romanticized. Most of Swann’s Way takes place in the country home of Combray where Charles Swann is a guest of the unnamed narrator’s parents. Mr. Swann’s way is one of extreme correctness and high society. Much like the novels of Austen, not much happens in Swann’s Way. Proust’s focus is on society.
Dialogue is interesting and accurate. First talking about Mme. Sazerat’s dog and then jumping to Francoise’s asparagus is how dinner party patter often sounds.

Lines to like, “What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing” (p 59).

Author fact: Proust has been compared to James Joyce. Proust’s full name was Valentin L:ouis Georges Eugene Marcel Proust. No ownder he shortened it to just Marcel Proust! Proust was also a recluse due to health reasons.

Book trivia: my copy was illustrated by Philippe Jullian. Very lovely drawings.

Nancy said: Pearl used Proust as an example of an early roman-flueve.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 207).