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group reads > 1. The Grenadillo Box, by Janet Gleeson, Feb 1

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message 1: by Julie (last edited Jan 13, 2008 09:40AM) (new)

Julie | 153 comments Mod
This is an historical mystery.

The Grenadillo Box by Janet Gleeson? I have read another book by Gleeson and liked it quite a bit.

From the blurb:

"New Year's Day, 1755 The life of Nathaniel Hopson, journeyman to the illustrious cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale, is about to take a chilling turn. He has been sent to Cambridge to install a new library at the country home of Lord Montfort. Moments after the foul-tempered Montfort storms away from the afternoon dinner, a gunshot is heard. Hopson runs to the library to find him dead. His nephew and lawyer believe the conclusion is obvious: Montfort, burdened with gambling debts, must have taken his own life. The gun near Montfort's hand suggests suicide, but there are bloody footprints on the library floor. And there is a strange detail: he is clutching a small, elaborately carved box of rare grenadillo wood."

The book is on the group's "currently reading" shelf so people can take a look.

It appears to be out of print. Apologies for that.

Discussion will start February 1 for anyone interested.


message 2: by Tracey (last edited Jan 15, 2008 03:58AM) (new)

Tracey | 20 comments Finished it over the weekend - I tried slowing down & taking notes, but was soon too engulfed in the story to bother. I really enjoyed reading it - looking forward to the discussion!

I may give it another read-thru before 1 Feb just to get my thoughts in order/on paper.


message 3: by Pam (new)

Pam | 87 comments I found a used copy at Amazon! I've been anti-buying (filling up the cart and walking away) but the lure of a group read was irresistible.


message 4: by Schnuckiputzi (new)

Schnuckiputzi | 4 comments I also got a used copy from Amazon. Just waiting for it to arrive!


message 5: by Pam (new)

Pam | 87 comments I started it yesterday. I can't quite figure out Hopson's tone. He'll be wry one minute, and serious the next.

The dinner party scene at the start of the book -- it's unlike any dinner party scene I've ever read. Rude host, rude guests, all those honest feelings hanging out.

Would they really have a chamber pot in a dining room? Even behind a screen? That's a first for me, and I've read a lot of historicals.


message 6: by Tracey (new)

Tracey | 20 comments Would they really have a chamber pot in a dining room? Even behind a screen? That's a first for me, and I've read a lot of historicals.

I'm pretty sure Margaret Visser referenced this practice in The Rituals of Dinner(subtitle: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners). She also referenced towers of citrus fruit being used as decoration in the dining room in 1700's Eurpoe, so I have my suspicions that Gleeson used Visser's book as a reference!




message 7: by Dani (new)

Dani (Kakwik) | 48 comments I'm done. I wasn't able to get much book-time so had to grab a page or two when I had the chance.


message 8: by Pam (new)

Pam | 87 comments It's February! I would have liked the book better if Hopson hadn't been such a dimwit. The man never met a conclusion he didn't jump to, and it was annoying after awhile.

If Lord Foley had enlisted Alice to help with the investigation, it would have been a much shorter book.

I never warmed to Hopson. I thought he was callow and self-absorbed. I suspect this is what the author intended, and it was actually refreshing to read a book where the "hero" wasn't very sympathetic.


message 9: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Collins (Jamie_Goodreads) | 76 comments I liked it well enough. I read for atmosphere more than plot, so the weakness of the mystery didn't bother me too much. I'm one of those people who never figures out whodunnit but even I guessed this one pretty early on.

I liked the writing style, once the author stopped describing how nervous and afraid Hopson was - that got repetitious after a while.

It was strange that Hobson wrote about his sexual exploits in a narrative that was supposedly written for Alice's benefit.


message 10: by Julie (new)

Julie | 153 comments Mod
Dagnabbit. I had a long post, but it somehow logged me out while I was typing it and then when I posted it said I had to log in and then my post had disappeared. Bah.

In any case, because I really enjoyed the setting and the writing, I could overlook some poor mystery plotting. If this had been set in some non-exotic locale for me, like say present-day Ohio, the mystery would have struck me as pathetic. But because I was interested in the setting, I was interested in the book.


message 11: by Julie (last edited Feb 02, 2008 06:56AM) (new)

Julie | 153 comments Mod
Some discussion group-type questions for anyone who wants to tackle them:

Did you believe the setting or were you constantly reminded that this was written by a 20th century woman? Was the setting attractive to you? Did Gleeson's scholarship impress you? Did the characters feel like products of their time or ours?

Is Hopson's profession important? Do you think there's a reason Gleeson chose a cabinetmaker? Does including the real Chippendale add to the novel or take away from it?

Did the literary device of having the novel framed as if written in a personal letter add anything? Take anything away? Like Eleanor, did you find it odd that Hopson is describing his sexcapades to the woman he longs for?

Is this a book you might have picked up and read on your own? Did the fact that we were reading it as a group change how you read the book, or how you felt about it? If there was a delay between finishing the book and now, has your opinion changed at all? Does reading the other opinions alter your own?

Will you read other books by Gleeson?

Do you want to do other group reads?

Julie


message 12: by Pam (new)

Pam | 87 comments Great questions, Julie!

I'd be up for more group reads, especially if the books chosen are reasonably short, like this one.

I think Gleeson did a good job with the time and place and characters. She introduced period details naturally -- she didn't dwell on describing food and dress like some historical writers do. I never felt like these were 20th/21st century people -- she got the sensibilities right.

I agree with Eleanor that the framework was odd, and unnecessary, and unbelievable. For one thing, it's not possible to recall that much detail in a letter. Besides, it was rude and presumptuous of Hopson to expect Alice to read all that! She's got a business to run!

Hopson being a cabinetmaker worked okay. I suppose the cabinets with all their secret drawers were meant to mirror the secrets in the story. ??

I did wonder how he managed to spend so little time actually working. He came and went as he pleased. Also, he seemed to have a lot of money for bribes and meals and lodging and travel-- that didn't fit with him being so afraid of losing his position. Or did he get his money from Lord Foley?

Reading it with a group -- I probably paid more attention and thought a bit more about it, so I'd have something to contribute.

I don't think I'll read more of Gleeson's books. I don't quite trust her.


message 13: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Collins (Jamie_Goodreads) | 76 comments I'd be up for another group read also.

Pam, I remember Hopson saying that Lord Foley had given him money for his expenses. Although as a journeyman he should have been reasonably well-paid, shouldn't he?

I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own. I usually only read mysteries if the setting is particularly interesting to me, and cabinetmaking isn't one of my interests. Although I was actually a little disappointed not to learn a few more details about the business - my husband does a lot of woodworking and I was looking forward to relating the interesting bits to him. We didn't actually see Hopson working in his own profession. Even the details of reassembling Partridge's bookcase were vague.

I could not believe it took Hopson so long to connect his friend's missing fingers with the blood on the windowsill. Although the author distracted me with the dog autopsy - I thought Montfort's son was looking for the missing fingers, which I thought the dog had eaten.


message 14: by Pam (new)

Pam | 87 comments Eleanor, I thought journeyman meant that you were trained and ready to be out on your own. Hopson acted (and was treated) more like an apprentice.

I was disappointed in the lack of detail about woodworking and cabinetmaking too. And I couldn't get a picture in my head of what Montfort's "library" looked like.

Chippendale's lie to Hopson about Partridge being ill and out of town made no sense, either from Chip's point of view or as a plot point. He could have told Hopson the truth -- that Partridge had been discharged. With the lie, Hopson would expect Partridge to return at some point. The lie just added another "mystery".

I didn't have the murderer figured out, but it was easy to figure out who Partridge's real father was (the initials on the half-ring and the letter), and why Chip didn't want his daughter (granddaughter?) to marry Partridge. The fingers were easy too. The leeches were just silly.

Did what's-her-name even have time to do all that, in the few minutes that she was away from the dining room?

I'm not sure that it all holds up.


message 15: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Collins (Jamie_Goodreads) | 76 comments Hopson clearly describes himself and Partridge as journeymen. They were frequently sent out on their own to visit customers. If you'll remember, Hopson notes that he's accustomed to "hobnobbing" with gentlemen of Lord Foley's class, but only in matters concerning their furniture.

Apparently Partridge, at least, felt he was ready to be out on his own. I don't remember Hopson stating his own ambitions.


message 16: by Dani (new)

Dani (Kakwik) | 48 comments Did you believe the setting or were you constantly reminded that this was written by a 20th century woman? Was the setting attractive to you? Did Gleeson's scholarship impress you? Did the characters feel like products of their time or ours?

I didn't feel very immersed into the period although I liked the idea of it. It wasn't a very richly created world. Perhaps it was just me but the dialogue in places seemed very forced, like 20th century people trying to talk in an earlier dialect.

Is Hopson's profession important? Do you think there's a reason Gleeson chose a cabinetmaker? Does including the real Chippendale add to the novel or take away from it?

I liked the cabinetmaker part. While I feel that it was just a ploy to stick in a famous person of the past, I did like the descriptions of the furniture. I do wonder now what the real Chippendale was like.

Did the literary device of having the novel framed as if written in a personal letter add anything? Take anything away? Like Eleanor, did you find it odd that Hopson is describing his sexcapades to the woman he longs for?

Didn't mind the novel framed as a personal letter but to be honest, I completely forgot about that from the first chapter on. And yes, why would he describe his sexual 'prowess'?

Is this a book you might have picked up and read on your own? Did the fact that we were reading it as a group change how you read the book, or how you felt about it? If there was a delay between finishing the book and now, has your opinion changed at all? Does reading the other opinions alter your own?

If I came across this book in a (used) bookstore, I would have grabbed it. The setting and setup would have appealed to me. Because we were doing a group read, I tried to slow down and take in more, make sure I wasn't missing anything AND trying to retain bits that annoyed me or I enjoyed. Of course I can't remember that now other than a line in the first page or so that stated someone was "puce with embarrassment" or close to it. Ugh. I haven't read the other opinions yet. :)

Will you read other books by Gleeson?

If I came across one used that was reasonably priced, I probably would. My hopes wouldn't be high & I'd consider it a 'fluff' book to be read between weightier tomes.

Do you want to do other group reads?

Yuppers!

Thanks, Julie. :D


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