Archive for the ‘book reviews’ category

Thirteen clocks by James Thurber

June 23, 2015

I never know,” the Golux said. “My mother was a witch, but rather mediocre in her way. When she tried to turn a thing to gold, it turned to clay, and when she changed her rivals into fish, all she ever got was mermaids.”

“His nights were spent in evil dreams, and his days were given to wicked schemes.”

James Thurber’s Thirteen clocks makes for such brilliant reading. I have read prose which has been stuffily squished into verse, but I have never before read poetry relaxedly reposing amongst lines, wide, roomy and free. And his concept of concretizing Time works beautifully.

Travelers and mariners would look up at the gloomy castle on the lonely hill and say, “Time lies frozen there. It’s always Then. It’s never Now.”The cold Duke was afraid of Now, for Now has warmth and urgency, and Then is dead and buried.

A lovely read indeed


Review: The Crime Wave At Blandings

September 2, 2014

The Crime Wave At Blandings
The Crime Wave At Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It all starts with the air-gun of George, Lord Emsworth’s worthy grandson. Wodehouse examines the impact it has on the inhabitants of Blandlings castle and the psychological impulses of the dormant criminal hiding in all of us. When presented with a loaded air-gun and in the view of a person bending over a flower pot (most of the time, it’s Baxter, the efficient ex-secretary of Lord Emsworth who last left Blandlings after breaking flower pots in a manic manner), who is weak enough to give in to the moment and take a shot ?

Followed by that, we have a story worthy of the 1940s Hollywood silver of a young personable British nobleman and a landlord, a smart beautiful American and unsentimental doctor who says “Say aah” to lovesick swains swooning over her, a platinum blonde who is presently Mrs Higginbothams.

And then we have some of the tales of young men in spats, of how Pongo-Twistleton-Twistleton and Barmy-Fotheringay-Phipps nearly became enemies and how in the end, they realized their folly and sealed their friendship with a superb show where Barmy had a red beard and Pongo, a green one. And mnay others.. A gem of a book !

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Review: Third Girl

August 25, 2014

Third Girl
Third Girl by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I borrowed it and after a couple of pages, realized a) I had read it before and b) I remembered the plot quite clearly, except for who the murderer at the end was. So that’s when I thought I’d be more systematic about updating my book list here, so that atleast I get to choose the books I want to re-read.

It follows Hercule Poirot and Mrs Ariadne Oliver (complete with her false curls of hair which come off now and then) playing the not very efficient bloodhound on the trail of Norma Restarick, a girl who *thinks* she might have committed a murder and who dares call Poirot “old” to his face.

It has a running commentary from various people about “girls these days” which after exciting your immediate annoyance, tends to be quite hilarious. On the whole, an OK who-dun-it.

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Review: Summer Moonshine

July 2, 2014

Summer Moonshine
Summer Moonshine by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(er.. spoilers ahead)

Jane has her hands full, what with talking to publishers who add extra expenses to her father Sir Buckstone (alias Buck)’s book about tigers NOT in Africa, listening to stories of Poona from Colonel Tanner, and putting her fiancee Adrian Peake’s mind to rest about rats in a houseboat he is inhabiting. And on top, she is pursued by a determined young man Joe who either wants to propose to her or read her notices of his successful play, unless he is occupied by drawing moustaches on statues of Caesar and others. It is quite a tight fit at Walsingford with process servers (aka the damned bullpit), Buck and his hunting crop, and the unfortunate love affair that once was between Ms Whittaker and Tubby which blew up after a trivial argument about “tomartoes and tomaytoes”. But as Lady Abbot alias Toots always remarks ” Everything’s going to be alright I suppose”

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Hotel du Lac

June 28, 2014

After  a cliched brainwave (which might be an oxymoron) of reading books set in the places I am visiting, I managed to get my hands on and read Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. It was quite a pleasant sensation to recognize names of places like Ouchy which were casually slipped in. [Note to self : must read more books in-situ]

The book hits a little close to home because the heroine’s character seems to be one of these sensible, slightly weak and meek women who are constantly rebelling against these traits. They are almost always dominated by any other person they meet and they resent it most fiercely, though it is not clear that they have anything interesting to say for themselves.

Edith Hope is a writer, of romantic fiction for the tortoises of this world, always assuring her readers that they will in the end triumph over the hares. She has been sent to Switzerland, ostensibly to finish her book, but in reality, really exiled temporarily by her circle of shocked acquaintances to a recuperating therapeutic holiday to get back her lost senses. Because of the classiest not showing up to her own to be wedding. But there are deeper tangles underneath the surface than those visible to others.

The whole book seems to be about Edith trying to make up her mind one way or the other and the author takes great pains to shew us how ill-formed her judgements are on even superficial things like estimating the age of a person or identifying what they do for a living. And it makes for a very satisfying  read but without a satisfying conclusion. [Maybe the latter makes it even more realistic]

A few (well, actually many!) excerpts of Edith’s thoughts which stuck with me afterwards.

“I am a serious woman who should know better and am judged by my friends to be past the age of indiscretion; several people have remarked upon my physical resemblance to Virginia Woolf; I am a householder, a ratepayer, a good plain cook, and a deliverer of typescripts well before the deadline; I sign anything that is put in front of me; I
never telephone my publisher; and I make no claims for my particular sort of writing, although I understand that it is doing quite well. I have held this rather dim and trusting personality together for a considerable length of time, and although I have certainly bored others I was not to be allowed to bore myself. My profile was deemed to be low and it was agreed by those who thought they knew me that it should stay that way.”

“She was already aware of powerful and undiagnosed feelings toward these two: curiosity, envy, delight, attraction, and fear, the fear she always felt in the presence of strong personalities.”

“Edith reflected how enormously one-sided conversations with the Puseys were always likely to be. They imposed their past as deliberately as they did their present, and to both of these one was expected, in some curious way, to
pay homage: They required no information at all; once they had assured themselves that Edith was alone, they had requisitioned her, and this was not only a kindness but a convenience, proof, to Edith’s mind, of sophisticated thinking. And as most of Mrs Pusey’s sentences began with the words ‘Of course’, they had a range of tranquil confidence which somehow occluded any attempt to introduce an opinion of her own. She found all this amusing and very restful; the last thing she wanted to do was to talk about herself.

Murmuring disclaimers, Edith sank into her wicker chair, and asked them what they had done that day. And was rewarded by happy expressions, and a great deal of delightfully inconsequential information.

‘Let me tell you what you need, Edith,’ he said. Not again, she thought. I have just told you what I need and I know what that is better than you do.

“For that is how he saw me, she thought, and out of love for him that is how I tried to be.”

“By this time their earlier intimacy had fragmented into a sort of disaffection; each was inwardly sighing at the wasted day. I should have stayed in, thought Edith; I should have spent the day writing. At least when I am writing I am gainfully employed. This strolling about is pointless. Functionless. Yet it is only a day, and I have no real duties, and I am not letting anybody down. In a way it is quite pleasant, really, she thought, heavy-hearted.”

“You thought, perhaps, like my publisher, and my agent, who are always trying to get me to bring my books up to date and make them more exciting, that I wrote my stories with that mixture of satire and cynical detachment that is thought to become the modem writer in this field. You were wrong. I believed every word I wrote. And I still do, even though I realize now that none of it can ever come true for me.”

“Think again, Edith. You have made a false equation.”




Review: How Right You Are, Jeeves

May 2, 2014

How Right You Are, Jeeves
How Right You Are, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Jeeves on vacation, the reader sees a new Bertie. Not a lost baa-lamb as usual, but a more confident baa-lamb who nevertheless is ordered to pinch cow-creamers back. Also featuring Bertie’s favourite aunt Dahila, Sir Roderick Glossop as Swordfish, the butler at Brinkley Court, Rev Upjohn (who makes a re-entry into Bertie’s life after previously chilling his spine as headmaster whilst at school), the indefatigable Roberta aka Bobby who gives Bertie a heart-attack now and then by being engaged to him to soften the path of her actual beloved Herring to winning Mrs Wickham’s heart and others. And we can catch the blossoming friendship between Bertie and Sir Glossop and see the latter’s softer side by his occasional reminiscences of his past as the Biscuit-Stealer.

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Review: The Girl in Blue

April 2, 2014

The Girl in Blue
The Girl in Blue by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(err..spoilers ahead)

What do you get when you mix together a morose America corporation lawyer who brightens whilst writing poetry, who is troubled mainly because he is saddled with a sister who shoplifts out of academic interest, a golden hearted British Lawyer whose life has just brightened because he has acquired “The girl in Blue”, his elder brother who is saddled with an estate with a beautiful lake which he wishes he could drain away and who wants two hundred and three pounds, six shillings and fourpence and a money lender’s agent acting as a butler ? A brilliant cocktail and quite potent. Add to it, our hero, Jerry who cartoons for a living but now has to steal back “The girl in blue” from the shoplifting damsel to get his inheritance out of the Trust and win his girl, and then you have “The girl in blue”. Apart from the dampener of a heroine (well, the younger one) with just a bit-part, a good one !

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