The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

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Read 02/07/2017-09/07/2017

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge.

Carson McCullers’ debut novel was a surprise. I’d read The Member of the Wedding years ago and loved it. In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers captures the lives of people on the edges of society during the Depression. At the heart of the novel is John Singer, a mute who lives in a small unnamed mill town in the US state of Georgia. Continue reading

The Quiet American

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Read 28/06/2017-02/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American is somber look at the war between France and the Vietminh through the eyes of a British journalist. Fowler has made a life for himself in Saigon, with a girlfriend, a routine, and all the distance he needs from his regular life in England. Into his settled existence comes Pyle, a young and idealistic American working on a clandestine mission under cover of the medical corps. Continue reading

The Post Office Girl

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Read 01/05/2017-05/05/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Poor Christine Hoflehner. Twenty eight years old and bereft of hope. She toils away in a rural post office, caring for her sick mother, her family devastated by the Great War and the poverty that engulfed Austria as one of the losers.

Her glamorous aunt, who has lived quite a life in the Americas and has largely escaped the trials experienced by her compatriots, has returned to Europe for a holiday. She invites her sister to stay with her at her luxury Swiss hotel. Christine’s mother is too ill, though, so the honour is transferred to Christine. Her lack of enthusiasm is brilliantly rendered by Zweig. Continue reading

A Sicilian Romance

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Read 08/03/2017-11/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Ann Radcliffe’s novel of gothic romance is an absolute hoot. It’s very much of its time, and I had to put myself in the frame of mind of someone from the 1790s when I started reading it. The language is wonderfully flowery at times, and the plot is very different to the type of book I normally read. The good are very, very good, the bad are very, very bad, and the secrets are very, very mysterious. It was a riot of hilarity for this 21st century reader. Continue reading

The Gap of Time

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Read 04/03/2017-05/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I’ve never seen a performance of or read The Winter’s Tale, so I was glad of the overview Jeanette Winterson provides at the start of The Gap of Time. I could understand why Winterson, who was adopted and raised by strangers attempting to be her parents, would be fascinated by the story of a lost girl taken in and raised by a stranger, and why, given the unhappiness of her own upbringing, she would be fascinated by the story’s happy ending.

It surprised me, then, that Winterson’s cover version (her term) felt so brittle at first. There was a self-consciousness about it. This is only the second work of fiction by Winterson that I’ve read. It felt to me as though she was writing at a slight remove, as though curious herself as to what she might reveal as the story unfolded. Perhaps there was a reticence because this is a work of Shakespeare, after all. These aren’t Winterson’s own characters. And perhaps Winterson’s feeling that Shakespeare’s original is talismanic for her meant that her love for it was overshadowed by a sense of responsibility to reinterpret it well. Continue reading

The Vicar of Wakefield

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Read 03/01/2017-05/01/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge.

I’ve had this book on my bookcase for 18 years. I don’t know why I’ve never picked it up to read. Perhaps because it’s a slim, unassuming volume and I didn’t really know what it was about. The title doesn’t draw you in. The cover makes it look dull.

It’s surprisingly funny in an 18th century comedy of manners kind of way. Wry like Jane Austen when she’s poking fun. Not as acerbic as Laurence Sterne. There’s something of Cervantes about its humour, and something of Mr Bennett about Dr Primrose. Continue reading