This was one of those odd books that you want to read really slowly, stopping regularly to re-read a particularly complex sentence or paragraph, which...moreThis was one of those odd books that you want to read really slowly, stopping regularly to re-read a particularly complex sentence or paragraph, which might be whole pages long; and yet both its brevity and the density of its storytelling more or less demand that you read it in as few sittings, and as short a time, as possible, because if you leave it alone for too long you risk losing the thread altogether.*
This was my second Samuel R. Delany novel. While the first, Nova, remains my favourite of the two - partly because, despite its equally complicated use of chronological skipping and unfamiliar terminology, I finished it more convinced that I'd understood what was happening - The Einstein Intersection is a lovely piece of writing. The surface of the story is easy enough to follow: in a post-human society, a mutant Orpheus loses his Eurydice to a plague that has been striking down "different" individuals (those who have evolved completely superhuman traits), and sets out on an appropriately epic quest to recover her to life. It's the multiple layers of classical mythology, '60s popular culture, science fiction and fantasy tropes, quotes from sources as varied as the Bible and Pepsi advertisements, and extracts (supposedly) from the author's own diaries that make this novel such an odd read: what Delany himself refers to as a palimpsest. I didn't understand all of it, and I couldn't tell you if that's because I read it too quickly, or too slowly (in the space of 24 hours). But it contained two aspects I really love - post-apocalyptic sci-fi and modern fantasy revisions of classical mythology - and I recommend it to anyone who likes weird science fiction that really makes you think, but never gives you all the answers.
I recently decided to start from the beginning with the various Agatha Christie detective series, having last had them read to me by my dad when I was...moreI recently decided to start from the beginning with the various Agatha Christie detective series, having last had them read to me by my dad when I was very young. Since I hadn't actually read anything by Christie in about twelve years and was mostly familiar with the TV adaptations of her books, I was pleasantly surprised by the first Miss Marple mystery. Marple has always been a distant second to Poirot in my affections, but now I'm beginning to think that she's received relatively poor treatment in recent adaptations, which haven't (in my opinion) captured the essential humour of Christie's writing. I'm not yet familiar enough with the rest of the Marple stories to know if this trend continues all the way through the series, but reading this I was struck by how effectively Christie played up the hypocrisy and petty rivalries of the characters she places in her inter-war rural idyll, without making them seem anything more or less than flawed but generally likeable human beings. (With the obvious exception of certain criminal individuals, of course.) The narrator, the unfortunate vicar at whose home the titular murder takes place, is a prime example, coming out at one point with this little gem, which made me stop reading long enough to write it down:
"I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalise. Generalisations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate."
There are many more lovely little observations like these, and the mystery has all the classic Christie elements that ought to have every lover of cosy detective fiction eagerly playing armchair investigator along with Miss Marple and the vicar. A really great book; I look forward to reading (or re-reading) many more by Agatha Christie.(less)
Aside from the sheer awesomeness that was reading this while on holiday at the real Jamaica Inn, this book never really captured me in the way that Re...moreAside from the sheer awesomeness that was reading this while on holiday at the real Jamaica Inn, this book never really captured me in the way that Rebecca did. Du Maurier's descriptions of landscape and scenery were an excellent pastiche of the 19th century Gothic classics of the Brontë sisters. The story itself had all the pace and intrigue that you'd expect from one containing elements of murder, smuggling and general criminality in an isolated coastal community. There's definitely plenty to like about this book, with enough plot and atmosphere packed into its relatively brief 300 pages to appeal to fans of everything from Wuthering Heights to Treasure Island. However, du Maurier's characterisation in this early novel lacks the complexity and realism of her later works. I found the character of the heroine to be particularly problematic. She seems mostly to be motivated by short-sighted desires and concerns rather than long-term goals (although that she does possess the latter is frequently mentioned), and while this makes sense to some degree in context, her behaviour still frequently contradicts her stated beliefs and supposedly strongly-held convictions. I'm not suggesting that Mary is badly written so much as she is, perhaps, made to seem a little unlikeable; this contrasts sharply with the heroine of Rebecca, who manages to be self-contradictory and morally ambiguous at times, and yet is still a sympathetic figure. I will always recommend anything by Daphne du Maurier to anyone who will listen, and Jamaica Inn is no exception, but I think that it is best enjoyed by focussing on the beauty of the prose and the excitement of the plot, rather than delving too deeply into the psychology of the characters.(less)