Rendell's latest has a dreamy feel to it, and almost an elegiac tone for the lost village of the 50s and 60s, even though all was not perfect in that...moreRendell's latest has a dreamy feel to it, and almost an elegiac tone for the lost village of the 50s and 60s, even though all was not perfect in that village. This is her most reflective Wexford so far, alternating the recent past with the 50s, and it's almost as if she is at last rounding out Wexford's character or at least filling in some blanks for all her steadfast fans, but not of course like the typical gimmicky prequel. Being the savvy social commentator she is, Rendell does a marvelous job of contrasting what we have lost with what replaced it, for better or for worse, e.g. losing close communities, and gaining technology and politically correct policing.
I have a feeling this book will appeal more to the aforesaid long-term, die-hard fans, which are legion. Being one of them myself, I really liked when Wexford would recall cases in his career, i.e.crimes which were part of earlier Rendell books. It became sort of an aha! feeling, almost as if I were reminiscing along with him. The whole book felt to me like a nod to her readers, almost an emotional gift to them on some levels, but also a good story.
Oh yeah, and there is a murderer, quite a creepy one which Wexford has failed to catch in the past. This is the frame story for all Wexford's reminiscing, and it works well. Of course every sentence is typically Rendell, elegant and stylish. She turns 80 in February, and we can only hope she keeps turning out mysteries!(less)
Another strong Scandinavian mystery. The father-daughter protagonists who come together to solve the mystery of little Jens' 1972 disappearance really...moreAnother strong Scandinavian mystery. The father-daughter protagonists who come together to solve the mystery of little Jens' 1972 disappearance really grow on you, and the pace of the book is awesome. Theorin goes nonlinear, even in the present, which is quite a gift. The book, which addresses many key issues such as old vs new Scandinavian culture, island village vs mainland, etc is quite atmospheric. You can really feel the old shipping days and the lively Orland community that sadly got replaced by summer visitors from the mainland. You really sympathize with the older citizens' reaction to so-called progress: the near death of the village, plus new developments which attract mainlanders like a siren song
Use of restraint throughout the novel does not preclude moments of wonderful imagery. On top of that, instead of a straightforward villain there is a complex antagonist. Theorin's technique adds up to a rich, moving mystery. I look forward to reading his latest book.(less)
The Art of the Heist was written by Connor with help from a real writer. Hard to keep going--I kept skimming, hoping to find passages which were not f...moreThe Art of the Heist was written by Connor with help from a real writer. Hard to keep going--I kept skimming, hoping to find passages which were not full of pompous bloviation on the part of Connor. The blurbs are really misleading, almost bait and switch, since Connor is the supposed prime suspect for the Gardner heist, as the publisher keeps shouting at us, but the book only covers a short period in the 70s--ten years or so before the 1990 heist. So, he never really says he did it, one of the implied promises of the book jacket. I gave up after trying to get into this book twice. Connor's braggadocio about his criminal "feats", not to mention all the stolen art he owns, gets old real quick. Any storyteller who has to keep reminding the reader how smart he is, while not being able to write his own book, and who has spent the majority of his adult life in prison after being caught time after time for art theft, needs a reality check.(less)
A Fortunate Life is well written, penetrating and hilarious, too. Vaughn is an actor who worked with all the big names during Hollywood's golden age a...moreA Fortunate Life is well written, penetrating and hilarious, too. Vaughn is an actor who worked with all the big names during Hollywood's golden age and stage legends such as Gielgud and Olivier, not to mention being the Man from UNCLE. He writes brilliantly on Hamlet and stage theory a la Chekov and Stanislavsky, so I think that heatre buffs will love this. He's also had a lifelong interest in politics and gives us his take on the crucial watersheds of American involvement abroad in the 20th century. Last, there is an intriguing chapter on research he did to solve the mysteries of RFK's assassination. I couldn't put it down!(less)
I'd rate it a bit less than a 3. The wealth of material on Highsmith turns into overkill in the hands of author Schenkar. Yes, we are happy that Highs...moreI'd rate it a bit less than a 3. The wealth of material on Highsmith turns into overkill in the hands of author Schenkar. Yes, we are happy that Highsmith kept a diary for decades, but we don't need all the details unless they are essential to her life, and more importantly, relate to her writing. Once Schenkar reports about halfway through that Highsmith was rather blank about her own writing, we realize that a major reason for reading the book has just been squashed flat: we will not receive much insight into her writing. Since she's mainly known to Americans as the author of deliciously twisted stories, this is truly a letdown.
I did like the story about her being at Yaddo with Flannery O'Connor, and the brief mentions of her Hitchcock projects, but could have done with less about all her many lovers. If one is obsessed with a subject, perhaps one does want to know every person the subject slept with, but I don't think most readers care that much.
The point that is made over and over--that Highsmith was neurotic, alcoholic, disturbed and eccentric--could have been toned down nicely. Readers get tired of being hit over the head. I always question a biographer's agenda in making sure the reader knows just how weird and strange a writer is. In Highsmith's case, her shame over her lesbianism is a valid reason for her pain, not strange at all, given how unacceptable lesbianism was in provincial America of Highsmith's time. At the time of her death, she no longer even had an American publisher. Wouldn't this bio have been more interesting if Schenkar had focused more on the social context instead of Highsmith's love life!
Last, the actual writing leaves something to be desired. Schenkar overuses the parenthesis, and needs to learn a basic law of writing: do not put essential information in parentheses. What you put in parentheses may be discarded, an extra not central to the sentence. Secondly, I got tired of the precious "cahier" for notebook, and the repetition of seemingly unimportant phrases, e.g. that Patricia Highsmith was once again battling her mother's sunny brand of Christian Science.(less)
An intense existential tale to be read in one sitting, for maximum effect. A book you think about for days afterward, pleasantly unsure of exactly wha...moreAn intense existential tale to be read in one sitting, for maximum effect. A book you think about for days afterward, pleasantly unsure of exactly what "happened". While you're reading it, it feels like a great French film in terms of how the visuals wash over you, and how you feel subtly altered by the experience. Critics have said Running Away is Toussaint's "mature" style. I don't know about that but I plan to read what he writes next.(less)
I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I still think there is a lot of potential here in the ideas that could have generated a better book. The...moreI wanted to like this a lot more than I did. I still think there is a lot of potential here in the ideas that could have generated a better book. The two flaws for me were the overuse of cliched writing especially in dialogue, and the feel of recycled backdrop and stock characters, too many of whom automatically speak in either elite accents of received English, or cockney. The UK,even London, has many more accents than just these two, and it was disappointing that the author could not figure that out, or didn't want to bother. Secondly, as many people note, this is really two stories, one which attempts to solve a mystery set in 1929, and one which wants to keep backtracking to the World War I romance. To tell you the truth, the story set in 1929 about a mysterious place called the Retreat is a lot more intriguing than the back story set during the war, yet it gets short shrift. Maisie Dobbs would have been a more satisfying book had the 1929 story been prioritized, and the overlong romance portion been truncated. Still, I might give one of the more recent Maisie Dobbs books a try, hoping that the writing and structure will have improved as Winspear develops more as a writer.(less)
A so-so experience. While the Italian setting and some of the ideas are interesting, the reader is asked to go along with too many far-fetched plot tw...moreA so-so experience. While the Italian setting and some of the ideas are interesting, the reader is asked to go along with too many far-fetched plot twists and some lazy writing, too. Be prepared for cliches, repetitious phrasing and anachronisms (for a story set in 1958). Mills also uses an incredibly annoying device: beginning and ending the book with the identical paragraph, which reminded me of some of the middle school stories I grade.(less)
Though starting out a bit polemic, seemingly a bit heavy handed with the socio-political history of South Africa before its independence, My Children!...moreThough starting out a bit polemic, seemingly a bit heavy handed with the socio-political history of South Africa before its independence, My Children! My Africa! ends on a truly moving note. Fugard's play leans hard on its 3 characters, one teacher and two students; teacher and one student, black, the other student white. The story brings attention to some essential questions: How do we teach? How do we decide what is taught? How does education enforce the status quo at the expense of overlooking achievements of so-called lesser/minority races? Is violence essential to change? Is slow change superior, or fast? Who decides? As a reader, you have to grapple with these complex issues, but you also delight in the story itself, which builds from abstract discussions to powerful violence in South Africa, as each character in succession wins your heart. When the play is all over, you almost can't believe how Fugard got us from the beginning to the end, it's so well put together.(less)
The Glister is classified as a mystery and in some ways that fits, but there is no solution to the crimes. There is however a lot of wonderful comment...moreThe Glister is classified as a mystery and in some ways that fits, but there is no solution to the crimes. There is however a lot of wonderful commentary on the absurdities of life, and on books. Parts of the Glister are hilarious, in fact. Burnside is a poet and this shows in the biting imagery in almost every sentence. He tends to write dark books, which seems in keeping with modern Scottish writers I've read.(less)
Can't wait to see this on the stage! You read it with equal parts horror and helpless laughter. McDonagh must be some kind of genius, to elicit such a...moreCan't wait to see this on the stage! You read it with equal parts horror and helpless laughter. McDonagh must be some kind of genius, to elicit such a reaction from the audience. A disturbing story about stories, with overtones of Camus, Kafka, Stoppard, and noir films, The Pillowman's plot is still neither stranger nor uglier than daily occurrences in what we call the real world, in which American government has begun to matter of factly torture to meet its goals. I don't think McDonagh set out to write a message play but one seeps through anyway, clearly exalting writing/creativity and condemning censorship.(less)