April 12th, 2012


Book #20: The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper

This book has a simple plot, but at times seems very long-winded and wordy, and I found myself occasionally having to re-read segments.

A lot of the first half is all about the journey of the main characters to a fort, through Native American-occupied territory, and the second half deals with a war between two tribes and the kidnapping of two girls.

This book has a large ensemble cast, with several central characters, all of whom are well written, and the depictions of war and conflict are violent and often shocking. I loved the fact that James Fennimore Cooper clearly had a good understanding of Native American Culture and their rituals. A recommended book for anyone who is into reading about Native Americans.

Next book: Making Money by Terry Pratchett
book and cup

#40 A Wreath of Roses - Elizabeth Taylor (1949)

Elizabeth Taylor’s writing is beautifully evocative the minutiae of daily life, the interactions between characters are all wonderful. I always think that a first sentence of a novel can be so important. I absolutely love the first sentence of this novel – it just sets the mood perfectly.

"Afternoons seem unending on branch-line stations in England in summer time. The spiked shelter prints an unmoving shadow on the platform, geraniums blaze, whitewashed stones assault the eye. Such trains as come only add to the air of fantasy, to the idea of the scene being symbolic or encountered at one level while suggesting another even more alienating."

In a Wreath of Roses close friends Camilla and Liz are spending a glorious month together with the ageing Frances. This is a holiday they have had together for many successive summers, but things are changing. Liz is quite newly married and now has a young son, her husband is a vicar and their home is close enough for him to visit a few times during the course of the visit. While travelling by train to Abingford a shocking incident throws Camilla into conversation with a man she had noticed on the station. She recognises him as someone she wouldn’t usually associate with – and yet is instantly interested in him. Camilla is an insecure dissatisfied single woman, her life is narrow, and she feels excluded from her friend Liz's baby and new married life, while at the same time disliking her friend’s husband and unable to raise any enthusiasm for their baby son . Liz's old governess Frances with whom they are staying is concerned with her own painting, her rheumatism and the arrival of a friend. The man from the train, Richard Elton, is staying at a nearby hotel and Camilla throws herself in his way much to Liz’s bewilderment. Camilla's unlikely entanglement with Richard Elton, seems at first merely unwise, yet as the novel progresses - it becomes rather more chilling. It takes however the reader and especially Camilla a long time to realise exactly what sort of man Richard Elton is. Meanwhile, Frances anticipates the arrival of a friend with whom she has corresponded with for years but never met. Morland Beddoes – a film director – once saw a picture of Frances’s and having bought it became captivated by the idea of the artist.

The characters are brilliantly observed, and this novel is a wonderful exploration of friendships. The interplay between the characters feels very real. Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Liz’s life, and the slightly dangerous Richard, with his peculiar lies feels breathtakingly accurate. I suspect there are some significantly autobiographical touches which I find a fascinating idea. Liz is the conventional young wife and mother, Camilla an independent woman, with lonely insecurities. I wondered while I was reading whether or not Camilla was in fact the woman Elizabeth Taylor thought she herself might have become had she not settled down to married life and motherhood.

#8 - #11

Oh Dear, I seem to be slacking a little this year :)

#8: "Flying under Bridges" by Sandi Toksvig
As always I think Toksvig is a great writer. She takes something fairly simplistic and makes you think around it without saying much. Great Characters, funny, sad, terrible, great.

#9. "Tender is the Night" by f. Scott Fitzgerald
While I largely enjoyed this book I can hardly remember why. I'm not sure if the point of the story is not knowing what you want or lack of resolution. Things that are introduced as highly important to begin with are forgotten a chapter later. Hard to keep up with but somehow quite readble.

#10. "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley
I enjoyed the last quarter of this book a lot. Unfortunatley the first 3 quarters were like wading through Molasses. Not recommended. At all. Really...

#11 "Star wars: I, Jedi" by Michael A Stackpole.
As a fan of the Star Wars expanded universe I did enjoy this. The Author has taken some liberties with the better known characters but stayed true to the original series that the novel is set in. As a main Character I liked that Corran Horn/ Kieran Halycon was not always the guy with the answers. Enjoyable and recommended.
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