The best parts of this biography ("biography") are actually the descriptions of the clothes. I read it when I was like 13, and I still retain the memo...moreThe best parts of this biography ("biography") are actually the descriptions of the clothes. I read it when I was like 13, and I still retain the memory of the clothes. Other standouts:
Dietrich and Mae West being friends (because of course!). I think at one point Riva tries to paint Garbo as a Dietrich wannabe? No. For Kismet, Dietrich had her hair pulled back so tightly that her scalp bled. The GLOVES. Dietrich was originally called Madeline or Mary Madeline (but spelled like a German would spell it, obvs) so I may have thought about trying to get people to call me Marlene instead of my normal nickname. I'm not saying I definitely did. Just maybe. Also - Weimar drag clubs. Dietrich thought only drag queens really understood how to wear garters. And she thought speaking English was a class marker. So, like, you could speak English to the maids in a French hotel because they wouldn't speak French. Also, tip generously at the beginning of your stay and then don't tip at the end. This is also the book that introduced me to the idea of Mercedes de Acosta. For which I will be forever grateful.(less)
I don't really understand why ITV hasn't snapped up the rights to these books against some future date when they're low on Downton Abbey and Lewis scr...moreI don't really understand why ITV hasn't snapped up the rights to these books against some future date when they're low on Downton Abbey and Lewis scripts. It's true, Sarah Tolerance works basically on her own - she's more a noir detective than a procedural heroine - so a great deal of the book is just her, um, thinking stuff over rather than talking it over with Laurence Fox or whatever, so that's maybe a strike against the cinematic qualities of the books, but certainly more internal novels have translated well enough, and there is something about Sarah Tolerance and her adventures that would really do well on the lushly appointed small screen. (Dimly lit [whorehouses/streets/mansions/taverns]! Billowing greatcoats! SWORD FIGHTS. It'd be great.)
Anyway, I think that Petty Treason is, perhaps, less excellent than it might have been. Frankly, a great deal of the plot and pacing depends on Sarah forgetting or not getting around to check something out. The culprits are pretty easy to spot - but when aren't they? And I think the complexity of the secret plots are interesting enough to make up for that. (Robins also does some interesting work with layering the characterizations, which I appreciated.)
The main draw, of course, is Sarah Tolerance herself. She's filled with self-doubt in this installment, to the point of overcompensation. But she's still quite competent - in fact, I get the impression that she's much more competent than lucky, which is interesting for a fictional character. Obviously, luck plays a great part in a mystery novel and in being an Agent of Inquiry, as the slightly-off Regency world of these books styles her. But she has to put up with a lot of shit, too.
I'm also very fond of the secondary characters in these books. Looking forward to The Sleeping Partner (I can't read it until I finish a seminar paper, I've decided).(less)
I have only a vague memory of this novel, of the novel itself, I mean: I know what everyone knows about it. But I remember, very vividly, the sensatio...moreI have only a vague memory of this novel, of the novel itself, I mean: I know what everyone knows about it. But I remember, very vividly, the sensation of reading it. It sounds like a cliché, and I thought it would be, and then it wasn't. It was anything but.(less)
It's difficult to speak or write coherently about the books in The Dark is Rising because for me, and for most of the books' readers, they come with a...moreIt's difficult to speak or write coherently about the books in The Dark is Rising because for me, and for most of the books' readers, they come with a heavy and significant emotional attachment. Certainly I look for different qualities in the literature I read now - especially in the sff I read now - but whenever I pick up one of these books (The Dark is Rising is my favorite Christmas-time reread) and open it again, my twelve year old self does much of the reading. These aren't exactly nostalgia picks, but they certainly carry a lot of baggage (nice baggage!) with them.
The ending of the series is sort of infamous, though - I know it really upsets some people when they grow up/when they first read it, and of course that's a completely valid response. But for me the ending has always worked because both Light and Dark are intrusions upon humanity, and the plot of the sequence is predicated on ridding the earth of both: if the Light wins, both Dark and Light go away (this is why you want the Light to win), if the Dark wins then they both stay there (this is why you want the Dark to lose). I think this revelation is withheld to make the emotional impact more powerful, but I think that choice also weakens the logical strength of the series a little. It's not immediately apparent that the aim of this whole thing is a withdrawal (although it is a pretty Tolkien-esque situation: "we have to destroy Sauron and the Ring so that we can leave this place, and men can have the world"). That is the goal though, that they leave the world to the beings who really belong to it, and who then get to make their own destinies/societies/whatever. I think free will is an underutilized theme in sff (although I guess it's implicit in a lot of young adult sff - The Hunger Games for example).(less)
Maybe because my knowledge of the Peloponnesian War is quite sketchy (most of it comes from, um, this book) but the thing about The Last of the Wine t...moreMaybe because my knowledge of the Peloponnesian War is quite sketchy (most of it comes from, um, this book) but the thing about The Last of the Wine that sticks with me most is how much of his time period Alexias is. Although he's something of a rebel compared to his fellow Athenians, he never feels like a modern transplant. I admire this, because historical fiction often has trouble navigating the waters where the Sea of Anachronism meets the Ocean of Sympathetic Characters. This being a book caught up in the philosophy of the time, Alexias also functions as a voice for various philosophical viewpoints, but this is integrated very well, so it becomes a point of interest rather than something to detract from the reading experience. Plus, the questions everyone wrestles with are pretty important! (less)