Draining Lake

Indridason, Arnaldur. The Draining Lake. Translated by Bernard Scudder. London: Harvill Seeker, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June in honor of Iceland’s National Day is in June.

One of Iceland’s well known lakes is losing water and shrinking. Scientists from the National Energy Authority come researching the phenomenon because what was a deep body of water has slowly dried up, revealing long held secrets; some more disturbing than others. One such secret is the skeleton of a man murdered thirty years earlier. Anchored down with a Russian listening device from thirty years earlier, Inspector Erlendur and his team are called to the case. The mystery of the dead man brings Erlendur, Elinborg, and Sigurdur Oli back to the college days of the Cold War and Communism. Dancing between past and present, Indridason presents his readers with a thrilling tale of espionage and the very definition of loyalty. Fans will be happy to see a little more of Erlendur’s personal life as well.

Author fact: Indridason was a newspaper man at one point in his life.

Book trivia: Indridason was inspired by the true events of Lake Kleifarvatn.

Nancy said: Direct quote from Nancy: “Optimistic readers can see hope on the horizon…in Draining Lake” (Book Lust To Go p 99).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called “Iceland” (p 99).


Angry Island

Gill, A. A. The Angry Island: Hunting the English. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005.

Reason read: Gill was born in the month of June; read in his honor.

From the very beginning you know you are going to laugh out loud at least once or twice while reading Angry Island. Right in the preface Gill starts off with, “Facts are what pedantic, dull people have instead of opinions.” Well okay! He later states “the national character of the English is anger.” At the time of this writing he was a food and travel critic so he was required to be a little…well…critical. It was expected of him. In The Angry Island his snarky essays cover all kinds of topics from language to war memorials, from sports and animals to drinking. Needless to say, he has a well-barbed opinion about everything. My big question is this, if he was born in Scotland and considers himself Scottish and hates England, why stay there? Why didn’t he move away? He has even less of an opinion about America but that (or Ireland or Australia) would have been an option for an English speaking bloke, especially one with a sharp tongue.

Other quotes I liked, “The purpose of an army must surely be to put itself out of business” (p 237),

Author fact: A.A. Gill is Anthony Andre Gill, born on June 28th. He died of cancer in 2016.

Book trivia: since Angry Island is a collection of essays I was surprised to find an index.

Nancy said: Gill’s essays are “filled with biting, sometimes snarky commentary about morals and mores of England” (Book Lust To Go p 78). I had to laugh when I read the word “snarky” because it’s a favorite of mine and it describes Gill perfectly.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Entering England” (p 76).


Cactus Eaters

White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.

Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.

All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).

Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.

Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.

Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.


Envoy from Mirror City

Frame, Janet. The Envoy From Mirror City. New York: George Braziller, 1985.
Frame, Janet. The Envoy From Mirror City. New York: George Braziller, 1985. http://archive.org/details/envoyfrommirrorc00fram

Reason read: to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

As a writer, Janet Frame branches out beyond New Zealand in Envoy from Mirror City. Personally, she finds her womanhood. I considered this reading timely because of the focus Frame gave to mental illness. (I was reading this before and after the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.) I found it interesting that Frame got herself checked into a psychiatric facility so she could learn “the truth” about her illness and was somewhat disappointed to learn she was not considered schizophrenic. She had been using her illness as a shield against normalcy and everyday life. It was if naivete was catching up with her and she had to learn the coming of age ways of adulthood.

As an aside, there are a lot of chapters for such a short little book.

Lines I liked, “In my first foreign country I still wore the old clothes of prejudice” (p 5), “Nothing would make him change his mind while he was afraid” (p 16), “Strangely, I cherished my ignorance and never inquired” (p 67), and lastly, “Although I did not accept El Vivi’s ring, I did not reject him” (p 86).

Author fact: Frame had all of her books published by George Braziller.

Book trivia: Like the other volumes in Frame’s autobiography, there are no photographs in The Envoy from Mirror City.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Envoy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


Jar City

Indridason, Arnaldur. Jar City. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2011.

Reason read: Icelandic National Day is in June.

Arnaldur Indridason doesn’t sugarcoat his protagonists with sweet personalities. They aren’t perfect people with mundane lives. Inspector Erlender is a divorced father with a drug addicted daughter living on the fringe of society. She occasionally scrounges Erlender’s flat for money or a meal. And like any parent who loves his child to the brink of insanity, Erlender takes whatever attention he can get from her. In the meantime, he has a murder to solve. An elderly man has been bashed in the head with an ashtray. It wasn’t a robbery so who would want to kill a frail and quiet man in his 70s? As Erlender digs into the victim’s past he uncovers horrible truths about the dead man. An unsolved cold case suddenly heats up and Erlender discovers just how complicated blood ties can be.

Author fact: Arnaldur won the Glass Key award in 2002.

Narrator fact: Guidall also narrated A Widow For One Year by John Irving. I knew his voice sounded familiar.

Book trivia: Jar City is not the first in a series of Reykjavik thrillers. Sons of Dust is the first to feature Erlender.

Nancy said: “The mysteries of Arnaldur Indridason are fine examples of police procedurals” (Book Lust To Go p 99). She also mentioned reading them in order which I really appreciated since she doesn’t often do that.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Iceland” (p 99).


Confessing a Murder

Drayson, Nicholas. Confessing a Murder. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2002.

Reason read: June is the first month the weather is nice enough to be on the water. My father-in-law just put his boat in on the 2nd of June.

Confessing a Murder starts with a question, “It is sweet to name a thing, for is it not by naming that we gain possession?” (p 2).

In the style of nameless narration this is the story of a scientist, exiled from England. He has been stranded on an active volcanic island for three seasons, studying the flora and fauna of his entrapped environment. He knows time is running out and hints by stating things like, the mountain has “other plans.” He tells the story of how he got there interspersed with detailed descriptions of his discoveries on the island. Just this alone would make a fascinating story, but Drayson takes it a step further by included the fictionalized character of Charles Darwin as the unknown naturalist’s friend and companion, implying, and then later announcing, the theory of evolution was imposed upon Darwin by this friend. This is a story of blind love and deaf, dumb, and blind greed.

As an aside, I couldn’t get over the fantastical wildlife our nameless protagonist discovers. Birds that hibernate under water, vampire plants which suck the blood of birds. and many, many more.

The one quote I loved, “I do not know why we betray the things we love” (p 32). Hang onto this sentence because it will come back tenfold.

Author fact: In addition to Confessing a Murder Drayson wrote A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, which is also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Confessing a Murder is Drayson’s first novel.

Nancy said: Nancy said the components that make up Confessing a Murder are the perfect ingredients for a novel to enjoy, “and Drayson does it up beautifully” (p 167).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oceana, or Miles of Isles” (p 164).


Angel at My Table

Frame, Janet. Angel at My Table: An Autobiography: Volume Two. New York: George Braziller, 1984

Reason read: to continue the autobiography started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Angel at My Table being the second volume in Janet Frame’s autobiography, covers her unwillingness to become a teacher, a myriad of mental health struggles, and Frame’s continued desire to impress people as a “true” poet. Despite being at the University for a teaching career Frame was dead set against becoming an educator. When it came time for her to be observed in the classroom she simply excused herself and walked out, never to return again. All she wanted to do was write and it was her ability to do so that ultimately saved her. Scheduled to have an lobotomy, her book, The Lagoon, a volume of short stories, was published just in time for her to receive a stay of operation. From there Frame floundered trying to make a living until she met Frank Sargeson. As a fellow writer he was able to develop a partnership and mentorship that ultimately shaped Frame’s future. At the end of Angel at My Table we leave Frame as she is ready to embark on a new journey; leaving New Zealand for the first time.

Lines to like, “Nola suffered from asthma and the complication of being in a family of brilliant beautiful people” (p 110) and “There is a freedom born for the acknowledgement of greatness in literature, as if one gave away what one desired to keep, and in giving, there is new space cleared for growth, an onrush of a new season beneath a secret sun” (p 153).

Author fact: When Frame died obituaries called her New Zealand’s “best known but least public” writer.

Book trivia: Angel at My Table was made into a movie in 1990, starring Kerry Fox.

Nancy said: Not much. She just mentioned that Frame’s second book was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).