This book is about a precocious eleven year old living in a village in England right after World War II. When a shady visitor from the past turns up d...moreThis book is about a precocious eleven year old living in a village in England right after World War II. When a shady visitor from the past turns up dead after visiting her father, and her father is arrested, she turns detective to clear him. The tone is light and witty (this is definitely a "cosy" mystery) and the mystery kept me reading, but I absolutely did not believe an eleven year old could do what she does, reason as she does, or have the knowledge of history and literature that she does. Also, her father is very distant and her two sisters are very unpleasant. I put aside my reservations and went along for the ride, savoring Harriet's bravery and clever tongue, but you know you're traveling far from the path of feasible reality with this one. (less)
I give kudos to Kostova for having put in the hard work to write this door-stopper of a book, but I have to admit that it was a slog to read. There wa...moreI give kudos to Kostova for having put in the hard work to write this door-stopper of a book, but I have to admit that it was a slog to read. There was little suspense, as much of the tale was relayed in letters from the past and the characters often seemed more concerned about what they were eating for lunch than in defeating the forces of evil.
Here is the heroine, about to face her long lost mother and Dracula in a monastery: "I was hungry, in the midst of my anxiety; we hadn't even waited for the maitre d's coffee."
There is the occasional fast-paced scene, but most of this novel proceeds at such a measured, leisurely pace, with many asides concerning the history, geography, literature, and, of course, culinary customs of the country being visited (and there are many) that I could not get my heart rate up in the least. Had I not been listening to it on tape in my car (a captive audience, as you might say) I would have surely put it aside.
It was such a "thing" when it came out that I was curious. But one goes in my book swap pile for some other sucker.
This is a book that takes some thinking about before you review it. it is multilayered, multi-textured. It's comprised of three sections, each told fr...moreThis is a book that takes some thinking about before you review it. it is multilayered, multi-textured. It's comprised of three sections, each told from a different point of view: a Scottish man who has just lost his wife to cancer and goes to Greece on a vacation, where he is attracted to a young woman who in turn is attracted to the friend he's traveling with; the man's son, a homosexual living in New York; and the young woman from the first segment who much later runs into the son on long island and becomes friends with him. Each section jumps around a lot between past and present, and probably the strongest segment is the middle one, because its character, Fenno, is the connecting link between the other two characters, as well as the character whom we get to know the best. this is sort of a Henry James type novel, very introspective and proud to be so. There are affairs, friendships, deaths, family relationships, yet the bottom line is about feelings, fears, inhibitions, frustrations, and redeeming moments of love.
I loved listening to this book (which was read in a wonderful Scottish accent) and was always eager to turn it on at the end of the day, because the characters became like friends or family. You wanted to get more news about them, to find out if they worked out their problems, just to spend time with them. I felt I knew these people, was right there in the room with them.
I was a little disappointed by the ending. Although Fenno and Fern form a bond and are clearly on the road to becoming friends, they never discover that earlier link through the father. You know that in time that will probably come out, but it's a little frustrating not to actually see it played out. Still, four stars because the characters were so unbelievably real and likable.(less)
This is a hilarious send up of the pretentions of academic life in England in the 1950's. Jim Dixon is a young assistant lecturer desperately trying t...moreThis is a hilarious send up of the pretentions of academic life in England in the 1950's. Jim Dixon is a young assistant lecturer desperately trying to nail down a permanent position in a college while at the same time seeing the foibles of the community around him so clearly that it is difficult for him to play the game in such a way that he will be able to achieve his objective. He gets into more and more trouble and the result is hilarious, satirical and very real at the same time. Of course, I haven't read it for many years and it may not be as funny as when I read it twenty years ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if it hadn't held up pretty well. (less)
I wanted to love this book, and ultimately found it very funny, fresh, disturbing and original, but the fact that it was so different from what I expe...moreI wanted to love this book, and ultimately found it very funny, fresh, disturbing and original, but the fact that it was so different from what I expected and that I didn't have much in common with the main characters interfered with my positive feelings about it. It was a mystery about a ten year old girl whose disappearance leaves many unanswered questions and repercussions in its wake. The first half follows the activities of little Kate Meany, a self-styled 'detective' who shadows imaginary criminals at the local shopping mall. Fast forward twenty years to a number of people, several of whom still work at the mall, who have been impacted by her disappearance. The resolution of the mystery unfolds, ultimately to a satisfying and chilling conclusion. My problem was that sometimes this book seemed not so much a mystery as a social satire -- it examines relentlessly the dead end lives of the 'little people' who shop and work at the mall, as well as the mall's essential soulessness, and sometimes the sheer boredom and disillusionment of these lives, while humorously painted, was wearing. But it was well written and there was not a false note in it. (less)