It’s Monday morning, and I’m drinking my hot cup of steeped chai on a cool, quiet morning, the first I’ve enjoyed since my summer vacation began. You know that children’s rhyme, “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker”... Well, last week my rhyme was “Bang-a-bang-boom, four men in my home, the plumber, the painter, the patio-door makers”, all week long! And so, not surprisingly, I got no reading done at all, not even the book we were discussing on Friday for my book club. I’ll give you a short update on the discussion, then I will tell you about an audiobook I finished listening to last week.
The book we discussed this month was One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. I’ve read several of Bryson’s books in the past, travel writing about his experiences in different countries, as well as book about his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. These books were light and humourous and easy to get through. I realize he has written others that I haven’t read, including a book on the history of the English language and a short history of “nearly everything” (I think that’s actually the title of the book!) But One Summer was a lengthy look at the events that took place in America during the summer of 1927, including the nonstop transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh, the Great Mississippi Flood, Babe Ruth and the baseball season of the NY Yankees, the presidency of Calvin Coolidge and the beginning of the talking-film era with the release of “The Jazz Singer”. The part that I read (the first 49 pages out of 450), was well-written and clearly well-researched, and I look forward to reading the whole book and savouring every detail. Only two members were able to come out on Friday, and they had, thankfully, both read the whole book. They discussed Bryson’s presentation of Lindbergh as both the heroic aviator and the not-so-favourable fascist-sympathizer. His complicated personal life is also discussed in the Epilogue of the book. They discussed the Cotton Club, an elite club where black entertainers performed for all-white clientele. One of the ladies listened to this as an audiobook, which was narrated by the author - that doesn’t happen very often. She said he did a good job, and of course, since he wrote the book, he would know how he would want it to be read, what parts to emphasize, what tone the book should have, etc., which are all factors that influence how a book is narrated. I told them that, in preparation for the book club meeting, I watched the film “Double Indemnity” with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurry, based on the James M Cain novel of the same name, which was inspired by the tabloid sensationalized murder by Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray of Ruth’s husband, Albert (this story is related in detail within the first 49 pages of the book). I told the ladies that Bryson had written these other travel books, and one member asked if he had ever written anything about travels in Canada, or if I knew of any book about this topic. I have to look into this, but I’m sure such books have been written. Both ladies agreed that it was an interesting, detailed book, perhaps a bit long, but well worth reading.
And last week I finished listening to a gothic murder mystery by Chris Ewan called Dark Tides. I know nothing about this author, but the book was interesting, if a bit predictable. It takes place on the Isle of Man and tells the story of Claire Cooper, a young woman whose mother disappeared on Halloween night when Claire was just eight years old. Celebrating the Manx tradition of Hop-tu-naa on October 31st, Claire and her mother went out visiting houses and singing songs for treats. When they came back home, she put Claire to bed, and that was the last time she ever saw her mother. Into her teens, Claire becomes part of a gang of friends who each take turns coming up with a dare for the group every Hop-tu-naa, dares both fun and dangerous. One such dare gets out of hand and unexpected violence occurs, creating potential ruin for all six friends. But only one friend suffers from the event, and life seems to go on unimpeded for all the others… until, years later, one friend dies on Hop-tu-naa. This could be an accident, but the following year, another “accident” happens and Claire, now a detective with the Manx police, begins to investigate further. As another Hop-tu-naa approaches, she and her remaining friends become anxious and try to safeguard themselves, but can they outwit the psychopath who seems bent on eliminating them all, one year at a time? The tone of this book reminded me of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, gothic and descriptive and atmospheric. Because it began with shifts in time periods, from present to past to sometime in-between, it was challenging to make sense of the story at first, but then I clued into how it was being told and how to fit all the bits together, and I could follow from then on. It was complex and interesting, and dealt with a group of friends with a secret from their past, just my type of book! The narrator did a good job of capturing the atmosphere of the story, too, using different tones to build tension and suspense when necessary. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys gothic mysteries, and would advise that you keep reading or listening, even if it seems confusing at first, because it will all make sense in the end. I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the sunshine!
Bye for now…Julie