Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh

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Read 07/04/2022-19/04/2022

Rating 4 stars

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1864 novel Uncle Silas is a locked room mystery centred upon the black sheep of a wealthy family, the titular Uncle Silas. A young woman is sent to stay with her uncle at his estate Bartram-Haugh, the location of the mysterious death of an acquaintance of Silas’s that led to him being shunned by his brother. Continue reading

The Radetzky March

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Read 02/01/2022-09/01/2022

Rating 5 stars

Onwards in my European literary tour to Austria. Joseph Roth was born in a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now in Ukraine, but studied in Vienna and is considered to be an Austrian writer. I have his novel The Radetzky March in a Folio edition, which is no longer in print.

The Radetzky March is considered to be a political masterpiece that draws parallels between the elevation and subsequent fall of a military family and the decline and eventual collapse of the Habsburg monarchy. The focus of the novel is the Trotta family, Austro-Hungarians of Slovenian origin, the patriarch of whom rescues Emperor Franz Joseph I from death during the Battle of Solferino. This earns him an elevation to the nobility and the title Baron Trotta von Sipolje.

It’s a funny book that captures the camaraderie of military life, the ridiculous nature of civil service life, the generational changes in parent-child relationships, and the curious rigidity of friendship between men of a certain class. Having studied the causes of the First World War at school, it also provided a different, more social context to the political one I garnered from O Level text books in the 1980s.

It’s also a poetic book, in the way Roth describes landscape, seasons, thoughts and emotions. His turn of phrase is perfection. I loved the lightness of his touch, the humour and fondness for his characters, and the way he skewers the social structures of the time, while simultaneously mourning their passing. Continue reading

Hadji Murat

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Read 11/08/2021-18/08/2021

Rating 4 stars

Hadji Murat is Tolstoy’s final novel, drafted and redrafted between 1896 and 1904, going through eight iterations before the final version was created. It is an examination of war and political posturing between opposing cultures that has relevance to the world we live in today. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From Beezus and Ramona to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

It’s May Day! Beltane, if you will. I wish I’d been clever enough to do a folk horror Six Degrees of Separation this month. Kate, who hosts the meme at Books Are My Favourite and Best, has chosen a children’s classic, Beezus and Ramona, for the first book in the chain. Read on to see how I end up in a submarine with Captain Nemo.

Continue reading