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October 2018



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September Books

The Testing of Tansy, Winifred Norling
Superfluous Death, Hazel Holt
Started Early, Took my Dog, Kate Atkinson
Berry & Co., Dornford Yates
A Good Yarn, Debbie Macomber
Few Eggs and no Oranges, Vere Hodgson
Starter for Ten, David Nicholls
Agatha Christie:
The Body in the Library
The Moving Finger
A Murder is Announced
4.50 from Paddington
Troubles, J G Farrell
The Surgeon, Tess Gerritsen
The London Eye Mystery, Siobhan Dowd
The Girls of the Hamlet Club, Elsie J Oxenham

Crime and thrillers
Superfluous Death by Hazel Holt. I got this from the man at the market who looks for Hazel Holt books for me. Such luck! As usual I really enjoyed it. The only trouble with Mrs Malory books is that I read them too quickly. Started Early, Took my Dog I’ve already reviewed. Loved it. I read all four books in the Agatha Christie Miss Marple omnibus and surprised myself by enjoying them. I still think she cheats by not giving the reader all the clues. Then I tackled The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen. As billed on the cover, it’s a read-in-a-day book, but one I couldn’t be done with fast enough. After getting through the first half, I speed read the rest so as to know who dunnit. Then I did something I’ve never done to a book before: I threw it out with the rubbish. I’m sure there are sicker, gorier books published, books which don’t have the psychological grip of this one. But I don’t want to read about the torture and mutilation of women and I felt I didn’t want anyone else to, either. So, Tess Gerritsen: NO. What a relief to turn back to Agatha Christie for 4.50 from Paddington.

I was really looking forward to Few Eggs and no Oranges, Vere Hodgson’s wartime diaries. It sounded so exactly the kind of thing I like. Alas, I haven’t finished it and I doubt I ever will. To paraphrase typical entries:
"Tuesday. Wonder if we shall all be alive in the morning.
Wednesday. Blitz was terrible last night. I long for some fruit but apples are 1s 2d a pound. Will I wake up tomorrow or be bombed in my bed?
Thursday. Terrible Blitz last night..."
And so on, for the third of the book I managed to get through before giving up. What a contrast with Nella Last’s War, culled from the reams she wrote as ‘Housewife, 49’ for Mass Observation. Nella hadn’t had Vere Hodgson’s university education and wider experience of life but she’s a much better writer. Hodgson mentions various characters (Miss M, The Old Lady) but not one of them comes to life as Nella’s family do. So it’s the ‘ordinary housewife’ who gives a better idea of life in wartime.

I’ve already referred to David Nicholls’ Starter for Ten. I enjoyed it but have I ever mentioned that in my opinion there are too many books in the world about teenage boys getting drunk a lot? Troubles, by J G Farrell I’d read before. It’s wonderfully atmospheric, so that images of the enormous, crumbling Majestic Hotel being undermined by ivy from without and roots spreading from the neglected Palm Court within, stay with you. The hotel is of course a metaphor for the dying days of the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland and the character of Edward, the hotel’s owner, shows why it died without underplaying the terrorist atrocities. The main problem with the book for me is the character of the Major, who stays in Ireland quite unnecessarily (one keeps mentally urging him to go back to England) until the bitter end.

Children’s books
The Testing of Tansy by Winifred Norling is a school story and a terrible book. Has all the ‘scholarship girl story’ pitfalls which Josephine Elder avoided in The Scholarship Girl. The brilliant The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd I’ve already reviewed. The Girls of the Hamlet Club by Elsie J Oxenham needs no introduction for those already familiar with the bizarre world of the Abbey Girls. It’s a good example of the first book in a series turning out to be the best; all the descriptions of the Buckinghamshire countryside are lovely. The characters have that unfortunate habit of carrying on for page after page about the moral dilemmas they face which we find all too much of later on.

Read on the Kindle
Berry & Co., Dornford Yates. Sheer escapism.
I’ve also dipped into several others. Because I can.


Every few years I find myself in the mood for an Agatha Christie reread binge. I especially like her Miss Marple books, with Sleeping Murder being a favorite.
I've been having an Agatha binge too - how weird.


So agree that Nella is a better writer than Vere Hodgson; none of the people in Few Eggs came to life for me. I've always had a feeling that Nella's chirpy spirit (alternating with her 'nerves') might get a bit wearing if you lived next door to her ... but heavens, I'd far sooner share a pot of tea with her than dreary Vere. Like you, I have a feeling that it's a book that will never get finished.
And good for you chucking out Tess Gerritsen. That's exactly what I wanted to do with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, except it was from the library so I had to return it ... but I felt polluted by reading it. Vile, pornographic tripe and so badly written and edited I couldn't have cared who did it!
dreary Vere: exactly!
polluted: again you hit the nail on the head.


Ay caramba, I need to get better at reading blog posts. When I quickly looked at the [unexpanded] top of this post I thought it said Hazel Holt [a great favorite of mine] had died, superfluously.
--Then I realized "superfluous" made absolutely no sense, so I got excited that maybe there's a new Hazel Holt out.
--Then common sense prevailed, I googled, and remembered her titles are different here in the US.
So, a positive ending for Hazel, yet in a slightly negative way.

Best Regards,
A long-time (lurking) fan of your blog.
Thank you, Brigitte! I wondered who you were when I saw your comment on SIAB.

Glad youu enjoy Hazel Holt. A new book would be nice...


Sorry, am trying to get out of the (bad)lurking habit, should have introduced myself first before mentioning you at SIAB - my apologies.
So, no new HH on the horizon, but I did pick up my first-ever Charlotte M. Yonge, a slightly battered but pretty decent VMC, at our fall library sale yesterday. Think I will stockpile that one for the winter TBR list though.
I'm so sorry about the Tess Gerritsen! My friend told me her books can be divided in her series featuring a detective, and her other titles. I'm wondering if this is one of those others. I'll ask my friend if she has read The Surgeon, I can't imagine she would appreciate something this gruesome.

Give me Agatha Christie any day! (As long as it's not one of her spy novels.)

I must say I'm rather disappointed with the Persephone books I've read so far. Out of six, there was only one I really liked. I don't think I will buy another unless the success rate goes up, and if that happens Few Eggs will definitely not be on my wish list.
You weren't to know! I'm not really a Christie fan but they were just what I needed (and had handy) just then.

I'm a little tired of Persephone worship, TBH. I love the daily pictures on their website, though.