I finished reading Before the Poison by Peter Robinson well before my book club meeting, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time I read it. It tells the story of Chris Lowndes, a British-born American-transplanted composer of film music (“music no one listens to”) who, shortly after his 60th birthday, returns to Yorkshire and takes up residence in Kilnsgate House, where he hopes to compose music that people will actually listen to and enjoy. His wife has recently passed away, and we suspect that he is using this time away to grieve and to sort out his life. While inquiring about the former estate owners, he discovers that there was a family who lived there from the 1930s to the 1950s, but that the wife was hanged for poisoning her husband. Chris, who may be ultra-sensitive to otherworldly spirits, experiences what may be visions of the woman, Grace, during his first evenings in the house, and he is determined to find out more about the story and hopefully uncover the truth, which he hopes will prove that she was wrongly accused and convicted, that she was in fact innocent of the crime for which she was hanged. It’s a British mystery, a haunted house story, a bit of a love story, and a story about what it means to be family. My book club members really enjoyed it. They were very interested in learning about the experiences of WWII for nurses stationed overseas, as was presented in the novel in the form of Grace’s diary entries. One member mentioned the experiences Grace wrote about when being relentlessly attacked by the Japanese, and remembered the attitude of the father in Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, his insistence that the American townspeople realize he and his family were Chinese, not Japanese. We agreed that Grace was in an impossible position regarding her husband at that time in history, and discussed what her options may have been to escape the abusive domestic situation she was in. We thought that Chris was a likeable-enough main character, but some didn’t really believe that the relationship between him and the real estate agent, Heather Barlow, was realistic, given that Heather was so much younger than Chris (one member said that it was a sure sign the book was written by a man!). We discussed the use of different music and films mentioned in the novel, and felt we learned a lot about the use of music in films. All-in-all, it was a successful book selection and a really interesting discussion. By the way, I noticed that a new “Inspector Banks” book should be coming out this year, Children of the Revolution, which makes me a happy reader indeed!
I just finished a novel by Elizabeth Ruth from my “required reading” list, Matadora. This novel tells the story of Luna Caballero Garcia, an orphaned servant girl in Spain in the 1930s who aspires to become a successful bullfighter at a time when it was frowned-upon for women to enter the bullring, and illegal in Spain for women to fight on foot. Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, and including a cast of characters from the artistic circles and revolutionary groups in Mexico and Spain, this novel was far more compelling than I had anticipated. I’m not a huge fan of Elizabeth Ruth, and I was not looking forward to reading a novel which focused on the horrific sport of bullfighting, but I found I couldn’t put it down. Well, I would say that I felt that way until about two-thirds of the way through, when the author brought in too many additional characters and situations that lead this reader to feel she was trying to cover too many issues and was losing the real focus of the novel. It was a surprisingly well-written and interesting coming-of-age story, although I skimmed the parts about the actual bull fighting and killing.
And I was having a hard time choosing another audio book to listen to. I tried listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, which was pretty interesting, in a youthful, silly sort of way, but I think I’ve listened to it before, and it wasn’t really suiting my mood at the time, so I stopped about halfway though, although I may go back and finish it. Then I started listening to The Red House by Mark Haddon. He wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which I really enjoyed reading. I think The Red House will be a great book to read, but not a good one to listen to, as the author uses techniques that I believe will be more effective if experienced visually rather than hearing the book read aloud. I will check out the used book stores for a paperback copy of the book, but if I can’t find one, I will borrow it from the library when I actually have time to read it. (Between two book clubs and the “required reading” for my committee, I hardly have time to read anything I’ve chosen for myself). I finally settled on Beautiful Children by Charles Bock, narrated by Mark Deakin, about a boy who goes missing in Las Vegas, and the ways his parents learn to cope with this loss. I’m not very far into it yet, but will write about it when I finish it.
Speaking of reading something for myself, I just got a copy of The Dinner by Herman Koch from the library, which is not a book club selection and not a book I’m reading for the committee I’m on, I’m just reading it for fun! I read a review in the newspaper a few weeks ago and it sounded great, so I started reading it last night after finishing Matadora. I’m not far into it, but it totally grabbed me from the first page, so I’m hoping to finish it in a few days and I will write about it next time.
That’s all for today…
Bye for now!