The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2) by Peter May

bookshelves: nutty-nuut, e-book, gr-library, britain-scotland, series, published-2011, spring-2014, mystery-thriller, bucolic-or-pastoral, bullies, casual-violence, contemporary, cover-love, dodgy-narrator, families, handbag-read, hebridean, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, ouch, protestant, religion, roman-catholic, those-autumn-years, tragedy

Read from March 19 to 20, 2014

Description: A MAN WITH NO NAME. An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer. A MAN WITH NO MEMORY. But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child. A MAN WITH NO CHOICE. When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

Dedication: In memory of my dad

‘That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.’

– from ‘The Old Fools’ by Philip Larkin

Opening: On this storm-lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat. It also takes their dead. And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.

Mona and Finn say their goodbyes just down the cobbles from St. Giles on the Golden Mile; sixteen years, ~20% of their lives just written off, and now deeper strangers than they ever had been when they first met. So it’s back to the womb, amongst the Wee Frees on the Isle of Lewis, for our hero Finn.

An eye-scorcher that has definitely ratcheted up a couple of notches from the first book. This is a fictionalised story set around the factual and gruelling Roman Catholic practice of sending orphaned kids to the islands to work as slaves.

Sphagnum bog

Beinn Ruigh Choinnich/Ben Kenneth, S. Uist. Strong Roman Catholic community.

Oiled wool Eriskay jumpers: the individual family patterns were as good as a fingerprint.

The Dean Gallery is an art gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is part of the National Galleries of Scotland. It was opened in 1999, opposite the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is its sister gallery. In 2011 the buildings were renamed Modern Art Two and Modern Art One respectively. The building was originally an orphanage, designed in 1830 by Thomas Hamilton. The conversion of the building into a gallery was designed by Terry Farrell. Since its opening it has housed the Paolozzi Gift, a collection of his works given to the Gallery of Modern Art in 1994 by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. It contains a large collection of Dada and Surrealist art and literature, much of which was given by Gabrielle Keiller. It is also used for temporary exhibitions. (wiki sourced)

3.5* The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1)
5* The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
TR The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)

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The Adventures of Augie March

bookshelves: jewish, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, spring-2014, published-1953, nobel-laureate, picaresque, north-americas, tbr-busting-2014, chicago

Read from April 17, 2013 to March 17, 2014

 

From the description: With this teeming book Bellow returned a Dickensian richness to the American novel. As he makes his way to a full brimming consciousness of himself, Augie careens through numberless occupations and countless mentors and exemplars, all the while enchanting us with the slapdash American music of his voice.

Introduction by Christopher Hitchens.

Dedication: To My Father

Opening: I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that sombre city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes not so innocent.

Reading season? March of course!

Episodic adventures of a boy growing up and trying on all modes of life to see if they suit. The writing is fantastic with sharp and witty observations; the characters are so real they jump out of the page and practically demand to sit down at your table and have a cup of tea.

But I can’t say that I enjoyed it overly much.

The Lost Heart Of Asia by Colin Thubron

bookshelves: under-500-ratings, published-1994, travel, nonfiction, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, politics, turkmenistan, dip-in-now-and-again, spring-2014, books-with-a-passport, lifestyles-deathstyles, uzbekistan, kazakstan, kyrgyzstan

Read from March 05 to 16, 2014

 

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Description: Thubron travelled throughout Central Asia in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union and documented the widespread social upheaval in a region reeling from political change. Thubron is an inspirational writer, intrepid traveller and insightful observer and his The Lost Heart of Asia is an outstanding guide to the history, people and culture of a vast region resonating with history and politics.

Opening: TURKMENISTAN: The sea had fallen behind us, and we were flying above a desrt of dream-like immensity. Its sands melted into the sky, corroding every horizon in a colourless light. Nothing suggested we were anywhere, or even moving at all. The last solid objects in the universe were the wing-tips of the plane.

Ashkhabad

Makhtumkuli – the eighteenth-century founder of Turkic literature.

It is claimed that Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the 12th century.

Bukhara is the capital of Uzbekistan

Samarkand

When God loved us
he gave us Amu Dariya
When he ceased to love us
He sent us Russian engineers

4* In Siberia
3* The Lost Heart of Asia
3* To a Mountain in Tibet
2* Journey Into Cyprus

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The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

bookshelves: published-2014, net-galley, e-book, debut, britain-england, london, historical-fiction, first-in-series, spring-2014, mystery-thriller

Read from February 13 to March 14, 2014

 

Hodder & Stoughton

Description: London, 1727 – and Tom Hawkins is about to fall from his heaven of card games, brothels and coffee-houses to the hell of a debtors’ prison.

The Marshalsea is a savage world of its own, with simple rules: those with family or friends who can lend them a little money may survive in relative comfort. Those with none will starve in squalor and disease. And those who try to escape will suffer a gruesome fate at the hands of the gaol’s rutheless governor and his cronies.

The trouble is, Tom Hawkins has never been good at following rules – even simple ones. And the recent grisly murder of a debtor, Captain Roberts, has brought further terror to the gaol. While the Captain’s beautiful widow cries for justice, the finger of suspicion points only one way: to the sly, enigmatic figure of Samuel Fleet.

Some call Fleet a devil, a man to avoid at all costs. But Tom Hawkins is sharing his cell. Soon, Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder – or be the next to die.

A twisting mystery, a dazzling evocation of early 18th Century London, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA is a thrilling debut novel full of intrigue and suspense.

For Joanna, Justine and Victoria, with thanks

Opening quotes are by Daniel Defoe and John Granto, circa 1728/1729.

Marshalsea prison: John Constable 1703

Opening of the prologue: They came for him at midnight. There was no warning, no time to reach for the dagger hidden beneath his pillow. They had moved as silently as ghosts, crossing prison yard and stealing up the dank, narrow, staircase while he slept on, oblivious.

This has been marked up as Tom Hawkins #1. We gather from the front of this book, in the historical notes, that this story is set in the autumn of 1727 where the country is waiting for George II to be crowned. The debtors’ prisons are full to the gunwales with those who had their finances burst in the pricking of the South Sea Bubble.

Never, well hardly ever, have I been so enthralled at the circumstances at the end of a novel as with this: the potential for books about books and bookshops is staggeringly enticing for future numbers in this series. A great read this.

Page 133: ‘Would you permit me to take Mr Hawkins out into the Borough – perhaps to The George? I was there myself three months ago, sitting where both Dickens and Shakespeare had supped…
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Associated trivia:

The South Sea Bubble by William Hogarth. 400 years of bubbles. The same pattern of bubbles and busts has been repeated many times in capitalist history.

Was the South Sea Shares Fiasco before or after Tulipmania, I shall have to check, however given the propensity at any one time for extraordinary popular delusion and the ever present madness of crowds, expect a bubble.

Rake’s Progress by Hogarth

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My Dirty Little Book Of Stolen Time

bookshelves: published-2006, paper-read, under-500-ratings, spring-2014, one-penny-wonder, fantasy, time-slip, love, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts, denmark, copenhagen, amusing, next

Read from March 08 to 11, 2014

Description: In fin-de-siecle Copenhagen, part-time prostitute Charlotte and her lumpen sidekick, Fru Schleswig, have taken on jobs as cleaning ladies of dubious talent to tide them over the harsh winter of 1897. But the home of their neurotic new employer, the widow Krak, soon reveals itself to be riddled with dark secrets – including the existence of a demonic machine rumoured to swallow people alive. Rudely catapulted into twenty-first-century London, the hapless duo discover a whole new world of glass, labour-saving devices and hectic, impossible romance.

Many blurbs for this book, however this one is on the cover…

‘Unashamedley gleeful: a kind of topsy-turvy Jane Eyre with added time travel… Sit back, suspend your disbelief and enjoy’ Daily Mail

Dedication: For Matti, Raphaël and Laura

Opening: Last night I deamed I went to Østerbro again, flying towards my little quadrant of Copenhagen streets just as a fairy might, or a homing bird.

The beginning opens out in 1897 and our narrator is a street girl totally broke because her two main clients have abandoned her. The one to jail for fraud, and the other a bad oyster rendered him a metre under.

Too slapstick for my taste, although I am amazed at the scope that Liz Jemsen picks to wrie about.

4* The Rapture
4* The Uninvited
TR Ark Baby
2* My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
5* The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

Trivia: Liz Jensen is married to author Carsten Jensen:

5* We, The Drowned
3* I Have Seen the World Begin

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The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul, Martin Aitken (Translator)

bookshelves: mystery-thriller, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, denmark, impac-longlist, series, translation, newtome-author, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, dodgy-narrator, lit-richer, lifestyles-deathstyles, spring-2014

Read from February 27 to March 10, 2014

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.

Dedication: With thanks to Herman and Gustav

Opening quote:

May they come together,
happy in heart forever,
who long to be as one!
SWEDISH BALLAD (trad)

Opening: The night before, we sat in the living room. I had coffee; he drank a beer. We watched a police drama. ‘I wouldn’t mind looking like her,’ I said, referring to the detective, Danish TV’s only mature heroine. ‘You don’t, though, do you?’ I looked over at him. Women’s faces shrivel; men acquire substance. ‘You’ve acquired substance,’ I said. ‘Where?’ he asked, worried. ‘Ha ha ha,’ I laughed, mockingly.

This is number eight in a series and I ordered it not because it is a series I have been following, but because some flisters have returned positive reviews and high star ratings. 3* and up is a good result, isn’t it. This is also a book that qualifies for IMPAC 2014.

Books in this Peirene Press collection where the strapline is fab: ‘Two-hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: Literary cinema for those fatigued by film.’

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Uneasy Money by P G Wodehouse

Uneasy Money - P. G. Wodehouse

bookshelves: published-1916, fraudio, filthy-lucre, spring-2014, tbr-busting-2014, palate-cleanser, amusing

Read from March 07 to 10, 2014

 

Nigel Lambert as Narrator.

Description: These are strange times for the English aristocracy. When hard-up William Fitz William Delamere Chalmers, Lord Dawlish – otherwise known as Bill – sets off for America to make a fortune, he does not expect to be left one by an American millionaire with whom he strikes up a passing acquaintance. Honour demands that Bill Dawlish should restore this unexpected windfall to the rightful heirs, but this involves him in complicated adventures with greedy relations, haughty dowagers, dogs, chickens and an angry monkey. Calm is eventually restored but not before Bill has met the woman of his dreams and married her in the church on Fifth Avenue.

3* The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves, #2)
5* Carry on, Jeeves (Jeeves, #3)
4* Right Ho, Jeeves (Jeeves, #6)
4* Jeeves in the Morning (Jeeves, #8)
3* The Mating Season (Jeeves, #9)
4* Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen (Jeeves, #15)
4* Something Fresh (Blandings Castle, #1)
TR Leave It to Psmith (Psmith, #4 ; Blandings Castle, #2)
3* Service with a Smile (Blandings Castle, #9)
TR The Man With Two Left Feet
4* A Damsel In Distress
3* Love Among the Chickens
3* Uneasy Money
3* Summer Moonshine
4* Joy in the Morning
3* Summer Lightning
3* Service with a Smile
3* The Small Bachelor
TR Barmy in Wonderland
3* Eggs, Beans and Crumpets
3* Uncle Fred in the Springtime (Blandings Castle, #6)
4* Right Ho, Jeeves (Jeeves, #6)
3* Summer Lightning (Blandings Castle, #4)