Just as an FYI to anyone who cares, the isbn I typed in is not for the kindle edition but for the hardcover UK edition I bought some time ago.
I was rJust as an FYI to anyone who cares, the isbn I typed in is not for the kindle edition but for the hardcover UK edition I bought some time ago.
I was recently given a copy of the American release of this book by the publisher, and after picking it up and starting to read, it dawned on me that oopsie, I had already bought a copy from the UK.
So here's the info on the American release of this novel, which is actually quite good, extremely well written, and one I'm highly recommending:
Hogarth, 2016 (January) 9780553447347
I have to laugh at the difference in blurbs for this novel between the American release and the British release. The UK blurb calls it a "taut tale reminiscent of the nightmares of Patricia Highsmith..." and the US blurb says that book is "Filled with Hitchcockian twists and turns." Neither blurb is quite accurate, and I had originally thought that Hunters in the Dark was a crime novel but that isn't exactly correct either. In fact, it's rather a difficult book to pigeonhole, but as it turns out, it is one I happened to like very much.
The main character in this novel is Robert Grieve, a young (not quite 30) British schoolteacher from a small village who realizes that his life is pretty much a dead end. In a bit of despair he travels to Thailand, wondering if he'll actually ever go back. While he has some sporadic contact with his parents (in whose eyes he doesn't measure up), he is contented with being alone, drifting along with the flow. The opening of this book finds him in a casino in Cambodia, where he parlays his leftover savings into a couple of thousand in winnings. Winning such a large amount of cash is just the first, but very important link in a chain of complex events that befall him and others on his periphery, beginning with an introduction to American expat Simon Beaucamp. Robert's driver Ouksa warns him against Simon, saying that he has a bad feeling about the guy, but Robert fails to heed his advice and winds up in a bit of trouble. I won't go any further than that re his time with the American, because it is the beginning of everything that's going to happen next and some things are just better left unsaid. Eventually though, Robert ends up in the capital of Phnom Penh, where he decides he should give English lessons to make money, and meets the beautiful Sophal, whose wealthy, upper-class father hires him to be her tutor. A stroke of fate (or perhaps more appropriately given the theme of this novel, karma) puts Robert in the path of a policeman named Davuth, who was an executioner and a torturer during Pol Pot's horrific regime, and who now seems to have some urgent business involving Robert, who fails to heed yet another warning (this from Sophal) because he's so "beautifully ignorant."
Karma, fate, and luck/chance are the foundation of this novel, and being in Cambodia thrusts young, unbelieving, logical-thinking Robert into a world where ghosts, spirits, omens and signs are as much part of the landscape as are the ruins at Angkor Wat. To further underscore that point, the author occasionally brings into our view things like bats taking off into the air as one huge colony, prayer flags moving in the wind, fear in a roll of thunder and trees that house spirits. And Although Pol Pot's genocidal regime had ended nearly twenty-five years earlier, the Cambodian setting allows the author to examine how this particular past still hasn't been forgotten in this country -- it continues to have an effect on people like Davuth, for example, who has been troubled by ghosts ever since he was a kamabhipal under Pol Pot. But most importantly, it is a place where people believe that
"karma swirled around all things, lending them destinies over which mere desire had no control. It made one's little calculations irrelevant."
This one statement says so very much about what is happening in this book, but I will leave it to others to discover exactly how. I could so easily go on and talk about other things, for example, the "devastating spectacle" of the dominance of "Western ideas and moods" in Cambodia and the horrific impact they had on Cambodia's future, but I really think I've said enough at this juncture.
Getting into the story does take some time, but my advice is to relax. There is a great payoff awaiting patient readers -- not so much in terms of plot, but moreso it's all about what's happening around the action in this novel. I suppose you could read it just for plot but that would be such a waste -- this is an incredibly beautiful, haunting book, and now I am eager to hunt down others by this author. My advice -- as soon as it comes out in the US in January, get yourself a copy. It will be one of the best buys you've ever made. ...more
As always, I'm chatty Cathy about this book, so if you want the longie, you can go here; otherwise, carry on with the short version.
Originally writteAs always, I'm chatty Cathy about this book, so if you want the longie, you can go here; otherwise, carry on with the short version.
Originally written in 1934, Harriet is based on an actual British murder case from the 1870s known as "The Penge Murder Mystery." It is one of the more disturbing books I've read, although I must say it is also one of the best crime novels I've had in my hands in a very, very long time. While information is widely available online about the Penge Murders or The Staunton Case (the real name of the fictional title character), I held off reading the facts of the actual case until I finished the novel, because I didn't want to have any expectations at all going into this book.
I give major credit to the author here -- she has brought true evil to life in these characters. Her writing is just outstanding. She employs the use of contrast and irony to great effect, she spends a great deal of time in her characters' heads so that the reader can see exactly how such evil is justified, and through it all, she never has to resort to graphic detail to get Harriet's horrific situation across to the reader. But it's not just about the crime or the sordid details here -- you also develop an appreciation for how she layers in commentary on socioeconomic class distinctions, about social mores, and especially on how women have very little in the way of legal rights at this time.
To say I walked away from this novel completely floored is an understatement. One the one hand, it was extremely disturbing in the sense that it's amazing how anyone could do what these people did for the sake of money without ever batting an eye. On the other, this book was so well done that even without knowing anything about the case, I could see it all happening right in front of me.
I highly, highly recommend this novel to anyone who is appreciative of good writing, writers of the Interwar period, and to anyone who wants something far above ordinary crime. It's also a great choice for people who enjoy crime fiction based on real cases. I love these old books and I am in awe that Valancourt continues to find such great works to bring back into print. It really is one of the best historically-based novels I've ever read. ...more
Insomnia read -- and boy, was I surprised. Yow! More soon, but the darkness in this very short book sneaks up on you because part of the time you're lInsomnia read -- and boy, was I surprised. Yow! More soon, but the darkness in this very short book sneaks up on you because part of the time you're laughing. But it's there, all the same. More to follow. ...more
4.5 rounded up to a 5. Another excellent Valancourt reprint -- I've been so lucky in my choices with this publisher that I shouldn't be amazed, but I4.5 rounded up to a 5. Another excellent Valancourt reprint -- I've been so lucky in my choices with this publisher that I shouldn't be amazed, but I am every time I pick up one their books.
To say I was mildly surprised and very pleased with this book is an understatement. Although it came out in the same year that Stoker published his novel Dracula, the titular vampire in this story doesn't bite anyone in the neck, nor is there any bloodletting or bloodsucking here. As I generally do with any new author (or at least anyone new to me), I went into this novel with zero expectations and quickly realized that while there are definitely commonalities between the two, Marryat's book is vastly different. And it's really, really good, feeding my need for that perfect blending of truly dark and literary fiction that I crave. It's also another one of those books about which dissertations might be written because of what's going on underneath the surface. In short, it's probably not for everyone, but it's right up my alley.
I will say that it's not the sort of thing I'd recommend to someone who wants the standard sort of vampire-horror novel. Au contraire, it's something I'd definitely recommend to anyone like me who is fascinated by Victorian society and how it is captured in literature, most especially by women of the time. There are plenty of online reviews & dissections of this novel, but do read it first.
for plot, etc. (without spoilers, I promise), you can click here to get to my reading journal.
Lovely book -- sending me after more of Marryat's work.
If you've read Rebecca and you think that's all there is to Daphne Du Maurier, think again. This collection goes well beyond Manderleya 3.8 rounded up
If you've read Rebecca and you think that's all there is to Daphne Du Maurier, think again. This collection goes well beyond Manderley, taking the reader into lives that seem very normal until you begin to notice that something is just not quite right -- and by then, it's too late to stop reading.
If you want the longer version, feel free to click on through to my online reading journal ; otherwise, stick with the shorter version here.
You'll find that the author covers a range of themes: isolation, love, loss, grief, dislocation, revenge, obsession, fate -- all very human attributes that here take on a different sort of significance in the lives of her characters. The beauty in these tales is that her people are just going about their every day lives -- at least at first. For example, In "Don't Look Now," a husband and wife are in Venice on holiday to help them to deal with their grief over their dead child. In "Split Second," a widow with a young daughter away at school steps out to take a walk and returns home. "The Blue Lenses" is expressed from the point of view of a woman who is recovering from eye surgery. All of these things are very normal, very mundane, and described very well by the author. But soon it begins to dawn on you that something is just off -- that things are moving ever so slightly away from ordinary, heading into the realm of extraordinary. By that time, you're so caught up in the lives of these people that you have to see them through to the end. The joke is on the reader, though -- in some cases the endings do not necessarily resolve things, but instead, point toward another possible chapter in the characters' futures. While the author doesn't do this in every story, when she does, it's highly effective and leaves you very unsettled and in my case, filled with a sense of unease thinking about what's going to happen to these people next. As one character notes, "Nothing's been the same since. Nor ever will be," and that's the feeling I walked away with at the end of several of these stories.
All in all, a fine collection of stories, definitely recommended. NYRB classics has really done readers a great service by bringing these stories together -- my advice: if you're interested in trying out Du Maurier's short stories, this edition would be the perfect starting place....more
I still haven't got to this one, but today I am cleaning the downstairs bookshelves and discovered that I have an extra copy (signed, no less) of thisI still haven't got to this one, but today I am cleaning the downstairs bookshelves and discovered that I have an extra copy (signed, no less) of this book. If you're in the US and you want the book, be the first to leave a message. It's yours, free, I pay postage. ...more