O’Connor, Flannery. Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: The Library of America, 1988.
Reason read: September is Southern Writers Month.
Flannery O’Connor’s short stories are like the crack of the whip dangerously close to your head. Sometimes humorous, sometimes peculiar, often times violent, but always breathtakingly true. Imagine the nervous laughter that bubbles up when you realize that whip has missed your face. You laugh because you want it to be a skillful miss as opposed to a clumsy mistake. Imagine the quirkiness of characters who are dangerously misunderstood. There is always something a little sinister about O’Connor. She enjoys the abrupt turn of events that take her readers by surprise. She holds us witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity.
Everything That Rises Must Converge is a compilation of nine short stories:
- “Everything That Rises Must Converge” – we start with the discomfort of a mother’s obvious prejudice.
- “Greenleaf” – a fight over property and propriety.
- “A View of the Woods” – a punch to the gut when you least expect it.
- “The Enduring Chill” – another tale about an overbearing mother.
- “The Comforts of Home” – mother and son disagree about taking a brash girl into their home.
- “The Lame Shall Enter First” – a widower tried to take in a second son with horrible results.
- “Revelation” – another story heavy on the racism.
- “Parker’s Back” – a man obsessed with tattoos
- “Judgement Day” – an elderly and racist father is terrified of dying in New York City.
Quotes I liked, “There was a continuous thud in the back of Asbury’s head as if his heart and got trapped in it and was fighting to get out” (p 565), and “Behind the newspaper Julian was withdrawing into the inner compartment of his mind where he spent most of his time” (p 603), and “In addition to her other bad qualities, she was forever sniffing up sin” (p 655).
Author fact: Flannery O’Connor died too young at the age of thirty-nine. Imagine the books and stories she could have written had she lived to a hundred!
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Everything That Rises Must Converge in “Growing Writers” or “Southern Fiction” but she did mention O’Connor as a great fiction-writer and a classic.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. Once in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107), and again in the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222).
Christie, Agatha. Why didn’t They Ask Evans? New York: William Morrow, 1934.
Reason read: September is Christie’s birth month. Read in her honor.
Bobby Jones cannot play golf to save his life and yet he insists on trying. While out on the links he loses his ball over a fog-shrouded cliff. While searching for it Bobby is shocked to find instead a mangled and dying man. Had he fallen off the cliff in the fog? Was he pushed? Bobby has stumbled onto a mystery. Of course he has! This is an Agatha Christie murder mystery, after all. When the man opens his eyes and with all lucidity asks Bobby, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Bobby is haunted by the question. Exactly who is Evans and what was the question that should have been asked? Bobby shares this strange incident with his friend, Lady Francis Derwent, and together they decide there is more to the story. Their suspicions deepen when Bobby learns a photograph the dead man had been carrying was swapped to hide his true identity. Alex Pritchard is actually Alan Carstairs. Soon there after and out of the blue, Bobby is offered a job in Buenos Ares. When he doesn’t leave England someone tries to poison his beer. It is obvious someone wants Bobby off the case, but who and why? Like a good Scooby mystery, the villain wraps up all the clues.
As an aside, there were details in the story that didn’t make sense. If I found a dying man I wouldn’t ask someone else to stay with the body while I left to go play an organ at my father’s church. I think my father would understand my absence given I had just witnessed a man die in front of me. Also, Frankie gained entry into the suspected murderer’s home by faking a car accident. Under the guise of having a concussion a doctor in on the ruse tells the Bassington-ffrench family Frankie “cannot be moved.” She is to stay with them until she is well. However, in no time at all she is making friends with Mrs. Bassington-ffrench and playing tennis. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable story.
Line I liked, “Ignoring Mrs. Rivington’s treatment of doctors as though they were library Books, Bobby returned to the point” (p123).
Author fact: Christie is touted as one of the best selling authors of all time.
Book trivia: Why didn’t They Ask Evans? was originally published as The Boomerang Clue.
Nancy said: Pearl said Why Didn‘t They Ask Evans? was on her bedside table, waiting to be read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the introduction (p ix).
Evanovich, Janet. To the Nines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I started the Stephanie Plum series in January in honor of Female Mystery Month. I am now on #9. To the Nines is the penultimate Plum book on my Challenge List.
The best thing about Evanovich’s Plum series is the consistency of characters and timeline. With every book, Stephanie’s life progresses with little backtracking or inconsistency. Evanovich does a great job catching the reader up, especially if someone is jumping into the series in midstream and hasn’t read books one through eight. Reading the entire series is helpful, but not necessary.
Even though I am irked about Stephanie’s relationships with Morelli and Ranger (more on that later), I appreciate the growth in them. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that at the end of To the Nines Stephanie drops calling Morelli by his last name and moves onto calling him Joe. Is that a subtle hint that she is ready to get more serious? She did just move back in with him and gave up her apartment to her sister. Speaking of Valerie, she just had a baby (out of wedlock) and that definitely has Stephanie’s biological clock ticking a little louder. Enough of that. Onto the plot:
The bounty hunting part of Stephanie’s life takes more of a back seat in To the Nines. This time around, she is more on the side of the hunted. Someone is sending her creepy messages coupled with a calling card of one rose and one carnation. It’s the same message sent to several other victims. Could she be next on this serial killer’s list? This time Ranger and Joe make a concerted effort to protect Stephanie as she tries to figure out who is capable of getting so close to her they can take a lock of her hair?
Spoiler alert: for those interested in Stephanie’s vehicular destruction, her new sunshine yellow Ford Escape survives the entire story.
Things that irked me: what in the world is so special about Stephanie Plum? Why does she have not one, but two very hot men giving her all the attention in the world? What makes them stay around even though she can’t chose between them? In all actuality, Ranger probably isn’t a choice. He’s probably just a plaything, but still…Hmm. I have to admit, I liked Stephanie as a hypocrite. She can flirt with Ranger but still get jealous when she thinks Morelli is up to no good with another girl.
Another thing that irked me was less of an appearance by Rex. He barely factored into To the Nines at all.
Lines I liked, “I know emotion covers a lot of ground, but I couldn’t hang a better name on my feelings” (p 84), “There’s a difference between being trusting and stupid” (p 294).
Author fact: Evanovich has won the John Creasy Memorial Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards.
Book trivia: To the Nines features pineapple upside-down cake, as usual.
Playlist: Eminem and Tom Jones.
Nancy said: To the Nines is not exactly a murder mystery according to Pearl. She did say you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Toole, John. Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. New York: Grove Press, 1980.
Reason read: Why was this book on my list? I completely forgot. Probably something having to do with Hurricane Katrina.
Confederacy of Dunces is like cilantro: either you love it and you want it on anything and everything, or you hate it and you think it tastes like soap; you can’t come within ten feet of it. Meet Ignatius J Reilly, the trumpet and lute playing, obese and unemployed, lazy and insolent video gamer still living with his mother at thirty years old. He truly is the master of the deadly sin of sloth.
Reading Confederacy of Dunces was like playing the Untangle Me Game. You know, the one you play with string. Take twenty extremely long pieces of string, tangle them all around a room and then have twenty people chose an end to each piece of string. They must try to crawl over and under one another in an effort to untangle the mess. There are usually prizes at the other end of each string. Trying to follow the plot of Confederacy of Dunces was like trying to crawl under someone with extremely bad body odor in the hopes your entanglement will wind its way far, far away from the offending smell. Except. There was no prize at the end. I didn’t get it. In addition, I have a low tolerance for repetition and Confederacy is redundant on multiple levels. I will say, the best part of Confederacy was the culture of New Orleans. It lived and breathed like an unintended character. The parts about New Orleans I laughed about.
Line I liked, “When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip” (p 6). Okay. Funny.
Author fact: John Kennedy Toole at thirty-one committed suicide in a remote field. Maybe he was too much like Ignatius and couldn’t find his way to success.
Book trivia: Many different people have tried to make A Confederacy of Dunces into a movie. I don’t think it has happened yet.
Nancy said: Pearl said that A Confederacy of Dunces is an example of “What Mothers Ought Not to Do” (p 160). She also called it a “raucous tragicomedy” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160) and again in the chapter called “New Orleans” (p 168).
Manning, Olivia. Friends and Heroes. New York: New York Review Books, 1966.
Reason read: to finish the series started in June in honor of the Bosnian War.
When we catch up with the newlyweds, Guy and Harriet Pringle, they have escaped the Balkans to Athens, Greece. World War II is ramping up. Mussolini is ever encroaching yet the Greeks refuse to believe the Italians could invade them. No! Not them! In the midst of a global conflict, the Pringle marriage is also at conflict. Harriet still hungers for Guy’s attention. It’s a little off-putting how needy she is. Having escaped Bucharest Harriet believes her husband will finally put her first. She is not the outsider in Greece as she was in the Balkans. However, Guy continuously lives for the undivided attention of his students no matter where he is relocated. As an unemployed lecturer, he fills his time putting on plays with his admiring students and friends. He is so preoccupied with their rapt attention he doesn’t notice or care that his wife slips away for long walks. In truth, he often encourages it. His continual pawning her off to other companions soon leads to her actively seeking out a new crush. The Pringle marriage is so trying that I wanted her to go with the man who seemed to love her back.
This being the third installment of the Balkan Trilogy, many characters remain. Yakimov and his greed end up in Greece. I found his character to be an exaggerated caricature: always hungry and riling people. But speaking of characters, Manning is able to make all of her characters give a political commentary on World War II without having the rely of detailed descriptions. It is all in their dialogue.
Quotes to quote, “He only had to arrive to take a step away from her” (p 654), “No one would dance while friends and brothers and lovers were at the war” (p 657), and “She told herself that animals were the only creatures that could be loved without any reservation at all” (p 962).
Author fact: Manning lived the life of Friends and Heroes. She and her husband spent the war years in Rumania before escaping to Greece and then Egypt.
Book trivia: Friends and Heroes could be a stand-alone novel, but is best read as the finale of the Balkan Trilogy.
Playlist: “Tipperary,” “Yalo, Yalo,” “Down By the Seaside,” “Clementine,” “Bells Rang Again,” and “Anathema,”
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Friends and Heroes. It’s not mentioned at all.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1960s).
Lawrence, D.H. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. New York: Signet Classics, 1959.
Reason read: Let’s talk about sex.
You know a book is trouble when it’s published privately in Italy in 1928 and again in France a year later. It wasn’t published openly to the masses until 1960 when it was promptly banned across the world. The United States, Canada, Australia, India, and Japan all found fault with it. Finally, when it was at the center of a 1960 British obscenity trial, things came to a head. No pun intended. Not really.
Who doesn’t know this story? Lady Chatterley is an attractive upper-class woman married to an equally handsome man who happens to be paralyzed from the waist down. Connie is young, spoiled, and has certain…needs. Her husband says he understands, but a man and wife’s varying perceptions of the same marriage are striking. Clifford Chatterley doesn’t really understand the resentments of his wife. A poignant scene is when Connie watches a mother hen protect her eggs and feels empty. She wants a child. She wants a lover. She finds solace in the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, who lives on the grounds. His cottage is a short distance from the estate…It is the classic tale of class differences. Lawrence goes a bit further by exploring themes of industrialism (Clifford wants to modernize mining with new technology) and mind-body psychology (the struggle between the heart and mind when it involves sexuality, especially when it is illicit in nature). The ending is ambiguous, as typical of Lawrence’s work, but it ends with hope.
As an aside, I would have liked more insight from Connie’s sister, Hilda. Hilda helped Connie have her affair even though she sided with Clifford Chatterley. Another aside, I have often wondered how many people self-pleasured themselves with Lady Chatterley or her lover. Wink.
Lines I liked, “What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know doesn’t exist” (p 18) and “If I could sleep with my arms round you, the ink could stay in the bottle” (p 282). Sigh. So romantic.
Author fact: Lawrence went into self-imposed exile because he refused to stop writing about the human condition. His critics couldn’t handle the truth and often banned or censored his work. Lady Chatterley is rumored to be autobiographical in some places.
Book trivia: The genre for Lady Chatterley’s Lover is literary erotica and yet some libraries (including my own) catalog this in the juvenile section. True story. I happen to be reading the Signet Classic edition which is the only complete unexpurgated version authorized by the Lawrence estate. According to the back cover, “no other edition is entitled to make this claim.”
Nancy said: Pearl included Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the list of “stellar” examples of literary erotica.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sex and the Single Reader” (p 218).
Evanovitch, Janet. Hard Eight. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month.
It is hard for me to dislike Stephanie Plum. No matter how bumbling she is when she tries to catch a fugitive, I have to laugh at her antics. No matter how conflicted she is about the attentions from two different men, I root for her. No matter how food motivated she can be, I like her. I can’t help but bond with a girl who likes peanut butter, potato chip, and pickle sandwiches as I do. But. But! But, as a bounty hunter, she sucks. She still sucks eight books later. Much like trying to collar Eddie DeChooch in Seven Up, Stephanie can’t seem to capture Andy Bender. She goes through four sets of handcuffs trying to bring him in.
A more serious second “job” involves a child custody case. Hired by her neighbor to find a missing granddaughter and great granddaughter, Stephanie inadvertently gets herself caught up in a dangerous battle with a psychopath. She isn’t a detective, but doesn’t dare say no to the family who has lived next door to her parents for years. Even if it means finding snakes in her apartment, tarantulas in her Honda, or a dead man on her couch, Stephanie (and sidekick Lula) go on the hunt for a woman running from a nasty divorce. She even gets her two love interests, Morelli and Ranger, involved in the adventure.
Here are the consistent details: Rex the hamster is still alive and kicking. He has to move to Stephanie’s parent’s house when her apartment becomes a crime scene (again). Grandma Mazur is also alive and kicking. She doesn’t frequent the funeral homes looking for a date as much in Hard Eight, but she’s still feisty. Ranger is still a mystery but Stephanie is slowly cracking that nut. She had sex in the bat cave.
Lines that made me laugh, “”Home is supposed to be the safe place, I said to Morelli. Where do you go when your home doesn’t feel safe anymore?” (p 163). I laughed because Stephanie’s worry is so ironic. Her apartment gets broken into on a regular basis and only now she isn’t feeling safe?
Author fact: I just found out Evanovich has the same birthday as my sister. Interesting.
Book trivia: Hard Eight sets up the relationship between Stephanie’s sister, Valerie, and divorce lawyer Albert Kloughn.
Nancy said: Pearl said Evanovitch’s series couldn’t be called mysteries. You’ll laugh too much.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. New York: Random House, 2008.
Reason read: In Rockland, Maine, there is a festival dedicated to lobsters. Read Olive Kitteridge in honor of the critters.
Comprised of thirteen short stories with varying narratives, Strout cleverly tells the story of Olive Kitteridge. Olive is lurking in most of each connecting tale. Sometimes characters gossip about her, like in the story called “Winter Concert.” In the first story “Pharmacy” Olive’s husband, Henry Kitteridge, doesn’t seem to have a happy life since he retired from his old fashioned pharmacy. Olive is presented as a woman who doesn’t suffer fools easily. She shows the world an angry and proud face most of the time. I think they call it “Yankee stoicism.” Other stories:
- “Incoming Tide” – Olive is present when a woman tries to commit suicide.
- “The Piano Player” – Angela O’Meara plays the piano for ungrateful guests.
- “A Little Burst” – Olive’s only son is getting married to a woman she doesn’t like.
- “Starving” – Harmon is starving in his marriage while he befriends a girl with anorexia.
- “A Different Road” – a couple are victims of a crime by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Winter Concert” – A couple attends a concert where the wife learns of her husband’s secret rendezvous.
- “Tulips” – bitterness.
- “A Basket of Trips” – a death cuts a marriage short.
- “Ship in a Bottle” – a girl is stood up on her wedding day.
- “Security” – Olive tries to visit her son in New York; a story about expectations.
- “Criminal” – the story of a neurotic kleptomaniac.
- “River” – My favorite story of the the bunch. Olive is a widow and learning to be polite.
Author fact: Strout also wrote Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me. Both are on my Challenge list. I read Amy & Isabelle in 2007 and I read Abide with Me in 2013.
Book trivia: Olive Kitteridge won a Pulitzer in 2008.
Playlist: “Good Night, Irene,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The First Noel,” “We Shall Overcome, “”Fly Me to the Moon,” “My Way,” “Feelings,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” Beethoven, “Fools Rush In,” “Whenever I Feel Afraid,” Phish, Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” and Debussy.
Nancy said: Pearl said Olive Kitteridge would be an excellent choice for a book club.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the curious chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).
Voigt, Cynthia. Dicey’s Song. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Reason read: to finish the series started in July in honor of Kids month.
When we catch up to the Tillerman family (after reading Homecoming) they are in Maryland living with the grandmother they never knew they had. Dicey is a teenager starting to come of age with homework and budding, albeit reluctant, friendships. Her two younger brothers, James and Sammy, are in thriving in school. Her only sister Maybeth is a musical prodigy. Her family is becoming self-sufficient. Everything should be great for Dicey as the eldest sibling. Her family is not on the run. They have a roof over their heads every night. They have food on the table at every meal. They have someone to look after them. They are all in school. But, for Dicey something is intrinsically wrong. For the longest time she had control over her family. Keeping them together and safe was all she knew. It is what she did best. When her siblings start exercising independence Dicey isn’t sure how to feel about it. Throughout the story she struggles to learn to let them go their own ways, together but apart. At the same time Dicey deals with the internal confusion of becoming a young woman without her mother’s guidance. My favorite moments were whenever Gram’s hardened exterior softened as each child reached for her love.
Author fact: Voigt has written over a dozen young adult novels.
Book trivia: Dicey’s Song is a Newbery Award winner.
Playlist: “I Gave My Love a Cherry,” “Amazing Grace,” “Who Will Sing for Me?” “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “Pretty Polly,” “Amazing Grace,” Beethoven, and even though they didn’t name the song, I recognized the story of “Matty Groves” (thanks to Natalie Merchant).
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Dicey’s Song.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 169).
Head, Bessie. When Rain Clouds Gather. Oxford: Heinemann Education Publishers, 1995.
Reason read: Confessional – For weeks I have been calling this book When Storm Clouds Gather. I have no idea why.
In the most rural part of Botswana, untouched by western agricultural technologies, political refugee, Makhaya, and Englishman Gilbert Balfour try to revolutionize traditional farming methods. For the tribespeople of drought-ridden Golema Mmidi, this change is not always welcome, even if it means the end of entrenched poverty and the threat of starvation. Traditions run deep and when your tribal chief doesn’t approve of the new ways, the battle is more uphill than ever. Set against the backdrop of farming is the subject of love. Despite unrelenting unfavorable climate, the tribespeople of Golema Mmidi are passionate people. Head drew details for When Rain Clouds Gather from her own experiences as a refugee, living at the Bamangwato Development farm. It is hard to tell if the romantic parts are autobiographical as well.
Quotes to quote, “He was a platform speaker who never got down from the platform” (p 58), “It meant that if you loved people you had to allow complete invasion by them of your life, and he wasn’t built to face invasions of any kind” (p 67),”There were too many independent-minded people there, and tragedies of life had liberated them from the environmental control of the tribe” (p 141), and “You have to be loved a bit by the time you die” (p 179).
Author fact: Bessie Head was a biracial South African author and lived as a refugee like her character, Makhaya.
Book trivia: When Rain Clouds Gather was Bessie Head’s first novel.
Nancy said: Pearl said When Rain Clouds Gather is Bessie Head’s best-known novel. She also included what a librarian said about the book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Botswana” (p 42).
Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. New york: Back Bay Books, 2009.
Reason read: I picked this up in honor of Wallace’s birth month. Take note of the date.
To be honest, the sheer size of this book was daunting even before I cracked it open. Add to its heft four complicated subplots, over 380 footnotes, corporate sponsorships, and a futuristic timeline and I waved the white flag. I didn’t feel bad about my decision after I came across a YouTube video of Bill Gates explaining why he couldn’t be bothered either. the one element of Infinite Jest I thought I was missing out on was all of the references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I think I would have enjoyed teasing out those details.
Plot One concerns a group of radicals from Quebec who plan a violent geopolitical coup.
Plot Two centers on a group of students in Boston all suffering or coping with substance addiction.
Plot three takes place at a tennis Academy in Connecticut.
Fourth plot is the history of the Incandenza family. All plots are connected by the movie “Infinite Jest” by James Incandenza, but are not in chronological order.
As an aside, when Bill Gates says he can’t be bothered to read Infinite Jest it makes you wonder why you’re reading it.
Author fact: Wallace attended Amherst College just down the road from me. The fact he committed suicide is a tragedy.
Book trivia: Infinite Jest has made an impact on pop culture with references in television and music.
Nancy said: Pearl called Infinite Jest an “excellent pomo book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in one of my least favorite chapters called “The Postmodern Condition” (p 190).
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Reason read: July is Kids Month. Read in honor of being a kid at heart. I still love this series.
The beginning of the adventure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins innocently enough. To avoid the bombings of World War II in London, four siblings are taken to Professor Digory Kirke’s expansive mansion in the countryside for safekeeping. On their first rainy day they decide to explore the many rooms of their new home in a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek. Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon a room where the only piece of furniture in it is an old wardrobe. She decides it would make a marvelous hiding spot until she discovers, just beyond the fur coats, a whole new world. From here, the tale turns fantastical with a land under an evil spell of constant winter that never reaches Christmas, fauns and centaurs and giants, talking animals, and good and evil magic all around. Now that I have sufficiently reminded you of the story, you know the rest.
As a child, I can remember the scene with Aslan and the Queen scaring the beejeezus out of me. My eyes would skim that scene as if reading it faster would make it easier.
Author fact: Clive Staple Lewis has a website here. I especially appreciate the timeline of his life.
Book trivia: Everyone knows The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia. However, it is Lewis’s preference readers start with The Magician’s Nephew as the true beginning of the tale.
Nancy said: Pearl aid she could remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the Introduction (p x).
Murdoch, Iris. Bruno’s Dream. New York: Dell Publishing, Co., 1969.
Reason read: Murdoch was born in the month of July (7/15/1919); read Bruno’s Dream in her honor.
Someone once said Murdoch’s books are full of passion and disaster. Exactly! At the center of Bruno’s Dream is the complication of family and all the confusing dynamics that can happen between members. The lust and the hate and everything in between spill out of Murdoch’s stories. The relationships surrounding protagonist Bruno are sticky, web-like, and ensnaring (pun totally intended as Bruno is a philatelist and arachnologist of sorts). Much like a spider in a web, he lays bedridden and dying, waiting for people to come to him. Most loyal to Bruno is Nigel. Of all the characters Nigel is the simplest. Throughout the story he remains uncoupled despite his best attempts. Knowing Bruno doesn’t have long to live, he urges Bruno’s estranged son, Miles, to visit his dying father. Son and father have been apart since Miles married an Indian woman much to Bruno’s disapproval. After the death of his first wife Miles remarries but his father has never met the second wife, Diana, due to the prejudicial falling out. Diana’s sister, Lisa, complicates Miles’s household when she arrives and Miles can’t help but seduce her. When it comes to women, Miles is a very busy man. More loyal to Bruno than his own son is son-in-law Danby, once married to Bruno’s daughter, Gwen. Gwen died before the reader picks up the story. As an aside, if you would like to keep track, three wives have died: Bruno’s wife, Miles’s first wife, and Danby’s wife. Danby at some point carried on a secret affair with Adelaide, Bruno’s nurse, but doesn’t stay faithful to her. Adelaide and Nigel’s twin brother also have an affair. Lots and lots of partner switching.
As an aside, I felt that nearly everyone in Bruno’s Dream was crazy. I didn’t really care for any of them.
Interesting lines, “The television had been banished with its false sadness and its images of war” (p 5), and “The flake of rust, the speck of dust, the invisible slit in the skin through which it all sinks down and runs away” (p 27). I’m not even sure I know what Iris is talking about here.
Author fact: Iris is not Murdoch’s true first name. It’s Jean. Like myself, she chose to go by her middle name.
Book trivia: Bruno’s Dream is Murdoch’s twelfth book and was short listed for the Booker Prize.
Nancy said: Pearl placed an asterisk by Bruno’s Dream to indicate it’s one of her favorites.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss” (p 161).
Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Spoilt City. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.
Reason read: to continue the series started in June.
When we catch up with Guy and Harriet Pringle in the next installment of the Balkan Trilogy, the English newlyweds have been in Bucharest for ten months. Harriet is making friends despite being the newcomer to the region. Guy is as busier as ever trying to hold together his post as lecturer at University. Despite the German advancement, the Pringles refuse to show fear or flee the city; not even under the guise of a holiday. The presence of the Iron Guard puts the entire city on edge yet people are in denial, claiming Rumania is neutral and will never be affected by war. Even when Guy makes it onto a suspected terrorist list and the Gestapo roll into town, he is not worried. His bravado continues despite the fact others named on the terrorist list are either beaten or murdered one by one.
As an aside, now that Manning had set the stage in the first installment of the Balkan Trilogy, The Spoilt City‘s plot moved along much faster. Reading it didn’t feel as much of a slog.
Quotes to quote, “Freedom, after all, was not a basic concept of marriage” (p 351), “And yet, she thought, they were the only people in this spoilt city whose ideals rose above money, food, and sex” (p 390), and “Reflecting on the process of involvement and disenchantment which was marriage, she thought that one entered it unsuspecting and, unsuspecting, found one was trapped by it” (p 526).
Author fact: Manning was a striking person. Her eyes are simply haunting.
Book trivia: The Spoilt City is the second book in the Fortunes of War: the Balkan Trilogy.
Playlist: “The Swan of Tuonela,” “Capitanul,” “We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line,” and Beethoven’s fifth Pianoforte Concerto.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Spoilt City (or The Balkan Trilogy for that matter). It bears noting that The Spoilt City was not included in the index.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175).
Brockmann, Suzanne. Over the Edge. New York: Ivy Books, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Brockmann’s birth month.
If you have read any of Brockmann’s other Troubleshooter books you will know she has a formula for her plots. They all include Navy SEALs who are blindingly, devastatingly, glaringly, or outrageously handsome and the women they lust after, deeply love, or obsessively desire are all undeniably gorgeous, remarkably good looking, or intensely (or sinfully) attractive. Everyone, male and female, has exotic eyes or cheekbones, lush, full, or bee-stung lips, and they always, always, always a hard body to die for. No one seems to have an ounce of fat or ugliness or plainness anywhere. Despite everyone being impossibly beautiful that wasn’t what really bothered me. What irked me is the amount of sex on the brain. Someone could be talking about the abuse they suffered as a child but thinking lustfully about the person across from them. A murder could happen right in front of someone’s face and within minutes he or she has forgotten the death because they’re too busy trying to unzip their pants. Every couple seemed to be either arguing, miscommunicating, making assumptions, or having blistering hot sex. Seriously, there were so many sex scenes I started to skip them to the detriment of the plot. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say the hijack rescue, despite taking the whole book to set up, was over in a matter of minutes. Oh yeah, back to the plot:
In Over the Edge the plot alternates between a present day plane hijacking and a forbidden love during the early days of World War II. Terrorists land a plane in Kazbekistan in hopes of trading hostages. The Navy SEALs are brought in to negotiate a rescue of an American Senator’s wayward daughter. The most interesting character who tied present day with the past was Helga Schuler, a journalist and Holocaust survivor who is losing her memory.
Author fact: Brockmann has written over fifty novels.
Book trivia: I got nothing.
Playlist: “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis,
Nancy said: I like what Pearl said about Brockmann’s novels. She said Brockmann gives a “female slant to the James Bond ethos.” The characters are “sharply drawn” and the reading of her work is “interesting.” Too bad I didn’t agree when reading Over the Edge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our love is Here to Stay” (p 203).