It has been a long time since I read this book, but what I recall is the excellent writing, the unusual plot, and the incredibly acute psychological o...moreIt has been a long time since I read this book, but what I recall is the excellent writing, the unusual plot, and the incredibly acute psychological observations. As I recall it is about a self-absorbed retired actor who is unexpectedly reunited with a former love, and although she has become old and withered, he sees her only through the eyes of his former obsessiveness and stops at nothing to get back together with her. Don't recall the ending except to say that it must have been satisfying because my memory of this book is very positive.(less)
I thought this was hilarious. Half way through I got a little tired because it didn't feel as if it were going anywhere, but I kept going and was very...moreI thought this was hilarious. Half way through I got a little tired because it didn't feel as if it were going anywhere, but I kept going and was very glad I did as the author pulled it together nicely.(less)
Since I was named after this book, I felt I had a special relationship with it from the beginning, and thank God I found it to be a really good book....moreSince I was named after this book, I felt I had a special relationship with it from the beginning, and thank God I found it to be a really good book. I love the following comment from another goodreads reader: "Thanks to all the bowdlerized, Disneyfied stupidifications it's been through, poor old Heidi's story gets a bum rap. In fact, Heidi is no sap, and more to the point, her friend Clara with the wheelchair is no timid Victorian dying violet." In fact, Johanna Spyri, for all her occasional proselytizing, had a clear and unsentimental view of people, witness her honest portrayal of Peter and his shortcomings, as well as of the grandfather's positives and negatives, etc. This is what makes the book so richly and honestly rewarding.
One irritant for me has always been that many people mention the "sequels" in the same breath with the novel, when they (the sequels) have no more relationship to the original book than a gnat has to a... I don't know, swan? In these sequels, by another author, Heidi is often portrayed as a blonde teenager with braids (the real Heidi had short curly dark hair and eyes) and Peter, who was basically coarse and illiterate (if devoted) becomes her boyfriend!! In the actual book Peter, although three years older or so than Heidi, is deeply attached to her because he recognizes her specialness, but Heidi is never more than casually fond of him in the way you are fond of childhood friends, and no serious fan of the original book could ever believe that they would ever end up together. This is part of the Disneyfication the other reader speaks of, the same quality that transformed Mary Poppins, a tart, borderline unpleasant nanny, into a sappy Julie Andrews character who trills about spoonfuls of sugar and warbles with cartoon birds. (less)
The last Christie I read, and the first one where the name of the murderer came to me (I never work at it -- I like the surprise.) I enjoyed the book,...moreThe last Christie I read, and the first one where the name of the murderer came to me (I never work at it -- I like the surprise.) I enjoyed the book, but thought it was fitting that having read every single other Christie in the world, including the stinkers from her last years, I should finally have outsmarted her on the last one (which was actually written during her peak years and put away, as if she suspected that her failing powers would not enable her to give Miss Marple her best send off.) (less)
Although I am not a big short story fan, (once I get involved with characters I like to stay with them for a while) I enjoyed this sly satirical send...more Although I am not a big short story fan, (once I get involved with characters I like to stay with them for a while) I enjoyed this sly satirical sendup of the upper classes in Rancho Esperanza (read Montecito/Santa Barbara) in Southern California. I was also happy that although each story follows a particular character, they all ultimately interconnect, even though that's not obvious right away. Some of the stories were laugh out loud funny, others were more subtle. I particularly liked one called something like "the Queen of zirconia" because it was both caustic, funny and tender. While I am amused at the lancing of other peoples balloons, I wouldn't mind a little more acknowledgment that "other people" are by no means the only ones to have pretensions and snobbishness. In our hearts, we're all a bit guilty of that.(less)
This was a looooonnnnng book and while I read it with great interest all the way through, I was pretty disappointed in the ending. A young english boy...moreThis was a looooonnnnng book and while I read it with great interest all the way through, I was pretty disappointed in the ending. A young english boy, eventually man, goes through all these horrendous experiences because he is the secret heir to a fortune and numerous other people (who all benefit from his NOT becoming the heir)want to kill him. There is a very intricate puzzle he needs to solve, and many relationships he has to untangle, before he can reach his goal. He is subjected to a litany of tortures (you get the feeling the author wants the reader to vicariously experience every possible early nineteenth century disaster there was to experience) before emerging... Well, I'm not going to say how he emerges, because that would give it away, but let's say after all the hell he went through, I was hoping for something more satisfying.
The author clearly knows a a lot about his period and mines it for all its worth. I was mesmerized. But the personal growth factor didn't measure up to the intensity of the tale. If this is a "quest" novel, which I believe it is, someone should have told Palliser that the point of all these challenges is that they're supposed to have a major effect on the hero's soul.
Four stars because it did really paint a good picture of that era, as far as I could tell. It might have been written at that time. And it was engrossing. (less)
A thoroughly engrossing and fascinating read. I'm a sucker for books that resolve mysteries that happened in the past, but I give kudos to Lippman for...moreA thoroughly engrossing and fascinating read. I'm a sucker for books that resolve mysteries that happened in the past, but I give kudos to Lippman for making the past and present intertwine so seamlessly, and for ceating suspense that makes the events seem as if they happened yesterday. I was also impressed by what a good writer and psychologist she was, able to get into multiple heads and create multiple rounded characters. There's a depth to her writing that made it feel different from a lot of mysteries, that says: what is happening isn't just a who-dunnit, it's important, it's meaningful, it's about the breakup and reassembling of lives. I had some suspicions about how it would end, but ultimately I found the denouement both suprising and satisfying. I would put this in my list of favorites.(less)
Despite all the clever twists and turns, all the tight plotting, all the desire to find out what came next, this book left me with a hollow feeling a...more Despite all the clever twists and turns, all the tight plotting, all the desire to find out what came next, this book left me with a hollow feeling at the end. Why? In a word: characterization. Or rather, lack thereof. Robert Goddard is to plot what the Swiss are (or were) to watches: a master. But his characters are completely lacking in human dimension, idiosyncrasy, contradiction, life. They are there to serve the story, nothing more. You have the upstanding Victorian heroine, the elusive hero (although these books are rarely have true heroes) the mousy lawyer, the seductive villainess, the libertine French nobleman. Goddard has been repeatedly touted as the new du Maurier, but even du Maurier's weakest efforts had the pulse of real humanity. You cared about the characters. I didn't care about any of these.
However, three stars for tight plotting and competent writing, plus good research into the Victorian era.(less)
This was a book that took some digesting as it was the last of a trilogy which goes backward in time. First book, the actions of a child abductor/murd...moreThis was a book that took some digesting as it was the last of a trilogy which goes backward in time. First book, the actions of a child abductor/murderer (female). In the second book, twenty years before the first, the events surrounding said murderer as a teenage girl; in the third, this one, the seminal events shaping the murderer, at age 4. I think Andrew Taylor is a fantastic writer and thinker -- he writes "mere" mysteries but they're wonderfully psychologically complex, and at the same time he examines other issues, in this trilogy, for instance, the effect of church theology and mores on our ways of thinking and behaving.
I had left off reviewing this book because I needed to figure out whether he had satisfactorily answered certain questions from the first book and I couldn't quite figure out if he had (it doesn't help that you're reading about the events backwards). My big question was -- did he explain why this girl became a murderer? Was she a psychopath from the get-go? Was her confused and unhappy childhood to blame? What role did the church play, particularly in the influence of a long dead churchman, Francis Youlgreave, whose spirit hovers over the books and obsesses many characters who come into contact with him? Well, recently I watched a BBC production of all three books called "Fallen Angel" and particularly enjoyed the interviews surrounding the production -- interviews with author Andrew Taylor (a handsome fellow with white hair and an intriguing stutter) the actors, the director, the screenwriter, the on site psychologist. The question asked of all was, was Rosie/Angel doomed to be who she was? Because of spoilers I won't reveal how it came out (it was far from black and white, anyway) but it seemed to tidy things up in my mind.
So my conclusion is that Andrew Taylor did a fairly good job of painting/explaining such a person. Not a perfect job, but a pretty good one. I'm very glad I read this trilogy and I have to say that Taylor, in my opinion, is one of the best and most interesting crime writers in existence and that it is a joy to think that I have many other of his books to look forward to.(less)
**spoiler alert** Tana French is a great writer, but I have to say that the ending of "Faithful Place" disappointed me. It was settled so long ahead o...more**spoiler alert** Tana French is a great writer, but I have to say that the ending of "Faithful Place" disappointed me. It was settled so long ahead of time I was sure there was going to be a twist... but there wasn't. French's endings often let me down, which is really a shame, because she's such a good writer. Someone made the point that she's not so much a mystery writer as a mainstream writer whose books have a mystery angle to them. I think that's true; she is much more interested in the personal relationships than the actual murder. I like both to be strong.
Also, if the next novel is about Scorcher Kennedy, as I read somewhere... I may just give it a pass. (less)
It is testimony to how much I enjoyed this that I saved listening to it (on audible) for whenever I had to go through the excruciating torment of stat...moreIt is testimony to how much I enjoyed this that I saved listening to it (on audible) for whenever I had to go through the excruciating torment of stationary bike riding. This was a suspenseful, spooky, history soaked, paranormal mystery and although some people have complained about childish aspects to the protagonist I was very comfortable that he was going to come through it all a better man (which he did.)
Short synopsis: a down on his luck filmmaker reduced to doing elegiac (not sure that's a real word) films for funerals is hired to go to a restored spa/resort town in Indiana to make a film about a recently deceased millionaire. Eric Shaw, the filmmaker, also has a bit of a gift of second sight and is soon seeing things that give him knowledge of the millionaire's past, as well as of the town history. This leads to danger, danger and more danger and ends in a big satisfying fireball of suspense. I love mysteries, history and character development, and this had all of them in spades.(less)