November 3rd, 2012

book and cup

#113 The Two Mrs Abbotts - D E Stevenson (1943)

When I finished reading Miss Buncle Married – I felt I wanted to read the next book – The Two Mrs Abbotts right away. I found out that Persephone are probably publishing it at some point but I wasn’t sure I could wait. A quick look online revealed old copies fetching rather high prices – I know D E Stevenson books can be quite sort after these days. So I did a quick search on the Birmingham Library Catalogue – there was one book – I requested it. That was back in February – and I had almost forgotten all about it. Then I received an email while I was away in Devon, the week before last – saying the book was waiting to be collected. I went after work last Monday, knowing it would have to be my next read. I started it very late on Wednesday night, reading slowly the next two days after work, trying to savour it – but just gobbled up about 200 pages this afternoon to finish it.

Since the events of the second “Miss Buncle book” several years have passed. It is now 1942 and people are living with the everyday realities of wartime. Barbara Abbott – who was once Miss Buncle – now has two young children, Simon and Fay. She and her husband still live in Wandlebury – the faithful Dorcas still in attendance.  Jerry (Jeronina) Abbott is married to Arthur Abbott’s nephew Sam, Sam is fighting the war in Egypt and Jerry must manage things on her husband’s estate Ganthorne with the help of her former governess Markie.   These include a family of dirty London evacuees living in an estate cottage, soldiers billeted on the estate, and rumours of a German spy in the vicinity.

Meanwhile Barbara is drawn unwillingly into a rather regrettable love affair between Lancreste Marvell (who readers may remember from Miss Buncle married) and a fairly unpleasant girl called Pearl. There is also an adorable storyline involving a very successful romantic novelist, dominated by her sister.

Barbara Abbott – takes a bit of a back seat in this novel, we see far more of Jerry, Markie and the other characters. Fortunately they are all as lovely as Barbara, and although this novel is not quite as fabulous as Miss Buncle’s Book and Miss Buncle Married, it is wonderfully charming and hugely readable, and just absolutely hit the spot for me the last few days. D E Stevenson may not be a great literary talent, but I think her writing may be quite underrated she creates a charming yet believable world, and her characters are adorable. She can be very funny too, and really very observant of people, with a good ear for their voices. 

“There’s nothing to do but think about her all the time. If only I could get my orders. Why haven’t they sent me my orders? D’you think the war office has forgotten all about me Mrs Abbott?”

Barbara had no idea whether or not this was possible and was about to make a noncommittal reply, but Simon got in before her.

“Perhaps they don’t need you,” he suggested

“Perhaps they think they can win the war without you” added Fay.

The Wretched Lancreste looked at Simon and then at Fay – and, being met by the stare of two pairs of innocent eyes, he looked away again.

“oh no, it can’t be that,” said Barbara hastily – far too hastily, for of course she had merely made it worse. She was really at her wits end by now and entertained wild thoughts of putting the children to bed, and getting rid of them.”

 I will definitely buy a copy of this if  and when Persephone publish it – just to add to my collection – as I just know these are books I will come back to. I was rather bereft at finishing it today – which I think is exactly how I felt when I finished Miss Buncle Married.  


#6 - Vlad: The Last Confession by C. C. Humphreys

Title: Vlad: The Last Confession
Author: C. C. Humphreys (Chris Humphreys)
Rating: 4/5
  I picked this book up just because. When I was visiting a friend of mine, we were discussing things to read and while I was going out she simply thrust this book into my hand together with her copy of the first volume of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, and said it was about the real dracula and that it was interesting. I just said okay and went on my merry way. Then comes the week of Halloween, more specifically the day before it, and I was commenting with my friends on how we don't celebrate Halloween significantly in Brazil and considering I'd just finished a book the day before, I thought I would pick one up that had the most to do with the theme of the holiday, which was this one book. I had no real expectations for it, which is why I guess it actually ranked a 4 in my book when the amount of gore of this book would have automatically banished it to a 3.5 or a 3. The guy was called Vlad, the Impaler for a reason. And it is a good read. I read it impressively fast, like a week or so, because I really enjoyed the historical background: the crusades and the dominion of the so-called Unfaithful and the fall of Constantinople. Those are topics that, although not my favorite, are quite interesting and the background is so rich a lot of stories can come from them. I also enjoyed the way the author created this tale: a confession, not a real story, told from the guy. The reader never really knows what Dracula was thinking, they only know what others thought about him, which adds a new, interesting spin to the tale, that is a possibility of judgement. It is actually what the author proposes: read Dracula's somewhat true version of his tales and judge him. Was he right? Did he have a right to do those things he did under the guise of God? Did they have a right to judge him before? It leads to a serious amount of thoughts afterwards and I really enjoyed this part.

  A description taken from the author's website: "DRACULA. A name of horror, depravity and the darkest sensuality. Yet the real Dracula was just as alluring, just as terrifying, his tale not one of a monster but of a man… and a contradiction. For the one they called ‘The Devil’s Son’ was both tyrant and lawgiver, crusader and mass slaughterer, torturer and hero, lover and murderer. His tale is told by those who knew him best. The only woman he ever loved and who he has to… sacrifice. His closest comrade… and traitor. And his priest, betraying the secrets of the confessional to reveal the mind of the man history would forever remember as Tepes – ‘The Impaler’. But Vlad’s actions defy such labels. Like the comet that scorched Wallachian skies the summer he took and held his father’s throne, his extraordinary life burns with passion, taking him from his years as hostage to the Turk, through torture, battle, triumph and betrayal, ultimately to a last crusade – and there perhaps, beneath the twin banners of the Dragon and the Cross, to find redemption for his… innumerable sins."