May 17th, 2013


Book 92: In Search of Lost Time Vol 2: Within a Budding Grove by Marcel Proust.

Book 92: In Search of Lost Time Vol 2: Within a Budding Grove.
Author: Marcel Proust, 1918. Translated by Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmartin; revised by D J Enright, 1992.
Genre: Modern Classic. Literary. Comedy of Manners. Coming of Age.
Other Details: 2005 Vintage Proust Edition. Paperback. 640 pages.

'Within a Budding Grove' describes the first shoots of an astonishing love affair. When Proust's adolescent narrator travels from Paris to the sunny seaside town of Balbec he meets an intriguing set of new acquaintances who provide him with both friendship and entertainment. Most significantly of all he meets a dark-haired girl with sparkling eyes and a tiny beauty spot on her chin: the mysterious Albertine, who will become the great love of his life. - synopsis from Vintage UK website.

The first section of the novel titled Madame Swann at Home takes place in Paris as the adolescent narrator continues his pursuit of Gilberte, the daughter of Charles and Odette Swann. In the final section of Swann's Way he had encountered Gilberte when they both were playing in the Champs-Élysées. Here he manages to gain an invitation to the Swann's residence to join Gilberte and other of her friends for tea. He soon becomes a regular visitor. Eventually though he becomes determined to free himself from this unrequited love. He and Gilberte quarrel and he decides to never see her again though this proves a difficult process.

The second section Place Names - The Place takes place two year later and this is where the narrator is on holiday with his grandmother in Balbec. Aside from becoming friends with Albertine he also makes friends with Robert de Saint-Loup, who is part of the aristocratic Guermantes family.

Proust's prose is exquisite and after reading Swann's Way I have become familiar with his ornate descriptions and musings about life, art and literature. The novel is like sipping a fine wine and I have found over the weeks that I do need to be in the right frame of mind to read it. That time usually seems to be on Sunday afternoons when there is nothing to do except immerse myself in Proust's sparkling world.

Books 93-94: The Terracotta Dog and An Unhallowed Grave

Book 93: The Terracotta Dog (Inspector Montalbano #2).
Author: Andrea Camilleri, 1996. Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli, 2004.
Genre: Mystery. Thriller. Police Procedural.
Other Details: Paperback. 343 pages.

'The Terracotta Dog' opens with a mysterious tête-à-tête with a Mafioso, some inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and some dying words that lead Inspector Montalbano to a secret grotto in a mountain cave where two young lovers dead fifty years and still embracing are watched over by a life-size terracotta dog. Montalbano’s passion to solve this old crime takes him, heedless of personal danger, on a journey through the island’s past and into a family’s dark heart amid the horrors of World War II. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I finally got around to picking up the second in this popular series of police procedurals based in Sciliy and enough time has passed between my viewing of its its TV adaptation for me to be a little fuzzy on the details of the plot. Also, as often happens there was more detail here than in its 2 hour TV film.

Again this proved a warm and quirky adventure for Inspector Montalbano and his associates that was a delight to read from start to finish. I've already ordered Book 3.

Book 94: An Unhallowed Grave (Wesley Peterson #3).
Author: Kate Ellis, 1999.
Genre: Crime Fiction. Police Procedural. Archaeology.
Other Details: Paperback. 240 pages.

When the body of Pauline Brent is found hanging from a yew tree in a local graveyard, DS Wesley Peterson immediately suspects foul play. Then history provides him with a clue. Wesley's archaeologist friend, Neil Watson, has excavated a corpse at his nearby dig - a young woman who, local legend has it, had been publicly hanged from the very same tree before being buried on unhallowed ground five centuries ago. Wesley is forced to consider the possibility that the killer knows the tree's dark history. Has Pauline also been 'executed' rather than murdered - and, if so, for what crime? To catch a dangerous killer Wesley has to discover as much as he can about the victim. But Pauline appears to have been a woman with few friends, no relatives and a past she has carefully tried to hide... - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

Certainly a novel that I'd class as a solid police procedural with the added twist of having the historical case that is being excavated reflecting events of the current day. It's a winning formula though I don't know if it will seem so if the series continues in the same vein. I mean after all how many digs can Wesley's friend Neil undertake locally that just happen to reflect elements of a modern murder case? We shall see as I am quite addicted now.

I think also I'm less bothered if I read these in order as apart from a little movement in Wesley's rather fraught relationship with his wife Pam there isn't that much that might spoil if I jump ahead a book due to its unavailability in the library system as Ellis doesn't tend to make references to the outcome of earlier cases.