The Wisdom of Father Brown, G K Chesterton
The Frame-Up, Meghan Scott Molin
The Morning Gift, Eva Ibbotson
Campion at Christmas 4 Holiday Stories, Margery Allingham
The Box of Delights, John Masefield
A Spy among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, Ben Macintyre
No Holly for Miss Quinn, Miss Read
Christmas Pudding, Nancy Mitford
Twelve Days of Christmas, Trisha Ashley
A Gift from the Comfort Food Café, Debbie Johnson
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Currently reading: The Distant Hours, Kate Morton
I thought I’d read some Father Brown stories but as soon as I started reading The Wisdom of Father Brown, I realised that I hadn’t. I suppose Father Brown is such a familiar figure from literary references that I just assumed I’d read the books. It turns out I don’t like the stories at all, just don’t see the point of them, even though they’re well written and Father Brown is likeable. Don’t get me started on the racism.
The Frame-Up, The Golden Arrow Mysteries Book One, was Amazon’s free Kindle First book for November. I rarely bother taking these up but this one looked interesting. At first, I thought that the linguistic and social gap between geeks in LA and me in rural Dorset was just too great but I got into it. MG works for a comic book company and loves an old series called ‘The Hooded Falcon’. Suddenly, real life crimes seem to be copying the book; someone out there may be pretending to be the Falcon. MG has trouble convincing the police of this but she and the handsome chap involved in the case are soon working together, although not exactly as a team; like most heroines of her type, MG persists in acting alone on her hunches and putting herself in danger. The book is full of fandom (at least I got all the Dr Who and Harry Potter references), dressing up and going to cons. I should think anyone into all that would enjoy this book.
The writer of the excellent blog Clothes in Books wrote recently about The Morning Gift and the quotes she gave made me want to re-read it immediately. I see I read it in 2010 and wrote ‘Lovely, lovely, lovely,’. I had no reason to change my mind.
Margery Allingham is my favourite writer of the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction, so I was delighted to receive Campion at Christmas from Agora Books and NetGalley. There are only four stories in this collection and they’re very slight. Three are from previous collections and one was originally printed in Woman’s Own. The longest and best is The Case of the Man with the Sack, which is a classic ‘Campion spends time at a country house’ story. If you already like Albert Campion, you’ll want to read these stories but if you’re new to Allingham, it would be much better to start with a full-length novel like The Beckoning Lady or Sweet Danger.
The Box of Delights is quite a regular Christmas read for me. This year I watched some of the 1984 BBC children’s series at the same time. I’ve written about this before.
As soon as I started A Spy among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, I realised I’d watched the author’s television programme based on it, which you can find here. It’s mostly about the close friendship between Philby and Nicholas Elliott, possibly the most betrayed of all his friends and colleagues. It’s still astonishing to read how the establishment refused to believe for years that someone who was ‘one of us’ could possibly be a traitor. Goodness knows how many people died as a result of Philby’s treason; possibly thousands. The book reads like a novel and I was always keen to get back to it. At the end is an account by John le Carré of conversations he had with Nick Elliott. When I’d finished, I had another look at the famous press conference given by Philby, in which he lied his head off about being a Communist or a spy. It’s on YouTube and I was surprised by some of the comments there. ‘He should have been strung up’ you might expect but ‘What a hero!’ or ‘A great man’? People are strange.
In complete contrast is Miss Read’s No Holly for Miss Quinn, another Christmas regular. I like how independent and self-sufficient Miss Quinn is. See also A Country Christmas and Christmas at Fairacre . In spite of the title, only part of Christmas Pudding is actually about Christmas; rather, it’s a series of scenes in which bright young things are very silly and amusing. It is funny but not a patch on Mitford’s series which begins with all-time favourite The Pursuit of Love. Twelve Days of Christmas was another enjoyable re-read, although it still beats me how anyone could enjoy cooking for ten people for several days.
I was glad to finish A Gift from the Comfort Food Café, and it’s the last Comfort Food Café book I’ll read. I enjoyed them at first because who wouldn’t like to live somewhere where everyone knows your name, people look out for each other and there’s endless supplies of cake? The books are very formulaic, though and the heroine-with-problems in this one is particularly dreary. Unlike most places Budworth has an apparently endless supply of dishy but also caring men. It irritates me that the answer to all the heroines’ problems is always A Man.
I not only read A Christmas Carol yet again but also watched Simon Callow’s one- man performance of it (mentally filling in all the descriptions that were left out) and Alastair Sim in Scrooge. The best.
I’m currently reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. It was a kindle 99p deal a few days ago, I looked it up and was told that I’d bought it (presumably on another deal) in 2013. Yet there was no record of it in any of my lists. So, lucky me, there was a new-to-me, long book which had been waiting five years on the Kindle, lost and forgotten and waiting to be read. I think I’ve read all her other books and thought the latest, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is also the best.