pamelad keeps on reading in 2024

Discussão100 Books in 2024 Challenge

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pamelad keeps on reading in 2024

Jan 2, 4:40 pm

Hi everyone. I'm Pam, a retired secondary and tertiary Science teacher, living in Melbourne. The pandemic was an excuse to spend most of the day reading, so my goal this year is to read fewer books and go out more. Another goal is to read some of the long, worthy books in my library.

Jan 2, 4:41 pm


Jan 2, 4:41 pm


Jan 2, 4:41 pm


Jan 2, 4:41 pm


Jan 2, 5:04 pm

1. Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison

I borrowed this from the library without realising that it was a YA book, but decided to read it anyway. Harrison is an Australian indigenous writer and this is a coming of age novel, set in 1985 with flashbacks to the sixties. Kirrali Lewis was adopted and brought up in a small country town in Victoria where she was the only Aboriginal person. She's never met another indigenous person, or encountered any overt racism, but that changes on her first day at Melbourne University, where she is enrolled to study law.

Over the course of the book Kirrali becomes involved in the Aboriginal community, starts to explore her heritage and traces her birth parents. The content is interesting, but it's more a sequence of teachable moments than a work of literature. I could see it as a set text at about year nine.

Jan 2, 8:06 pm

One of my aunts had the same ambition to read less after the first couple pandemic years, though at the start I think she enjoyed giving in to her desire to read all day. Looking forward to seeing your reads again!

Jan 4, 3:48 pm

2. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

The first part of Snow Country was published in 1935, but Kawabata continued to add and revise, with the final version being published in 1948. The introduction by the translator, Edward Seidensticker, is informative and well worth reading.

Shimamura is a married man from Tokyo, travelling to a hot spring in the snow country to rekindle a romance with a young geisha, Komako. He is a wealthy dilettante, a useless and superficial man. She is generous and passionate, with an aura of innocence despite her profession, but a hot springs geisha is little better than a prostitute and she is already of the road to decay. She has fallen in love with Shimamura, despite knowing that the love of a geisha for a client is futile. A theme of decay runs through the book, with the seedy surroundings of the hot springs and the poverty of the nearby villages contrasting with the majesty of the mountains. The lives of the geisha are almost feudal, a remnant of traditional Japan that cannot survive.

Kawabata's descriptions are poetic and cinematic, starting with Shimamura's night train journey into the snow country. He is fascinated by a young woman whose face is a reflection in the window, through which Shimamura watches the landscape move by. Initially I was impatient with what I saw as digressions that interrupted the narrative, but realised that you can't read quickly as though this is a straightforward story, and have to stop and picture the scenes that unfold.

Jan 4, 4:23 pm

>10 pamelad: Great review, I've been afraid to tackle this one with all the digressions and pacing. I'll be sure to slow down and enjoy the scenes when I eventually get to this one.

Jan 5, 4:36 am

Hi Pam.
Thanks for setting up the group again this year.
I am looking forward to reading your reviews, and will be interested to see how many fewer book you read this year.

Jan 5, 2:00 pm

>1 pamelad: I can't seem to set my list up correctly. don't know what I did wrong last year, but this year I'm listed as 100 books. You were able to help me last year, could you bail me out again and change it to Janice reads??? I promise to do better next year. Thanks in advance. And if you can't, that's OK. I do know which is my list.

Jan 5, 2:22 pm

>11 stretch: Thank you. I've read The Sound of the Mountain and Thousand Cranes as well, and Snow Country was the least straightforward. But worth reading, so I hope you enjoy it.

>12 Eyejaybee: Hi James. I've resumed some pre-pandemic out of the house activities and even caught a plane to Queensland, so am on the way to breaking the sit on the couch and read habit.

>13 jbegab: Done!

Jan 6, 10:47 am

The atmosphere of Snow Country was so fantastic, but I think in some way has made it hard for me to want to tackle anything else by Kawabata.

Jan 6, 2:09 pm

>14 pamelad: Thank you.

Jan 6, 3:03 pm

>15 mabith: It was hard to read because it was so bleak. I'm thinking of reading The Old Capital, which labfs just reviewed here.

Jan 7, 9:52 pm

I'm still full time working, and with the pandemic I read less, because less commuting. (My workmates all think I'm a bit strange that I actually like the occasional commute! :)

I think reading too much is a good problem to have! I've been trying to get back to some more pre-pandemic things as well, more along the lines of theatre and concerts and movies than travel, but I'm hoping for a nice big adventure overseas next summer. I'd better get my passport renewed!!

Editado: Jan 8, 4:12 pm

3. Twilight by Frank Danby

Frank Danby is the nom de plume of Julia Frankau, who wrote mainly of the London Jewish community. Her books were popular, and even scandalous, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is her last book, written in 1916 when she was dying of consumption.

"Twilight" is my swan song. I shall never write another novel. A year ago I fell into a consumption chiefly treated by morphia. I knew my De Quincey pretty well; perhaps this gave me this idea of writing my dreams. "Twilight" was written between 11 and 1 at night, after the second and before the third half-grain injection of morphia. Perhaps it is morbid; perhaps, being a genuine personal experience, it is only interesting. All my life has been happy, successful; the end has become hard and unexpected. Night and day I wish it were over, but it lags.

The only thing that vexes me in dying is the thought that my book was not brought out in time for me to read the notices. The extraordinary fluctuations of the effects of the drug seem to absorb my consciousness. I cannot write it, though I had projected an essay called "Drug Dreams." I have twitchings in my hands which prohibit holding a pen or pencil. I am told these are entirely due to morphia and omnipom. I have never been able to dictate essays or stories; thought has always seemed to flow through the pen.

To my dear American public, good-bye.

The successful novelist, Jane Vevaseur, has escaped London for a rented house on the outskirts of a small seaside village. She is suffering from neuritis and has been nursed lovingly by her sister, but wants to get away from all the care and attention and have some independence. The house she rents, Carbies, is where another writer, Margaret Capel, died twelve years earlier, and the doctor her sister sends to call, Peter Kennedy, was in love with Mrs Capel. Margaret had fallen in love with her publisher, Gabriel Stanton, but was egotistical enough to simultaneously encourage and repel Kennedy when Stanton was not about. She was waiting for her decree nisi after a gruelling and humiliating court battle with a husband she loathed. Jane has uncovered Margaret's letters and diary and is writing a book about her. She talks with the dead Margaret late at night after taking opium. Margaret's story takes over the book and Jane makes only brief appearances as the narrator.

I was fascinated by this character-driven book and recommend it.

Jan 9, 5:59 pm

>1 pamelad: how did I miss this thread?


Jan 10, 3:46 pm

>18 wookiebender: I hope the OS adventure goes ahead and enjoy the films, concerts and theatre in 2024. A friend and I cancelled our first ever trip to England in 2020, and plan to get there next year.

>20 fuzzi: Welcome!

Jan 12, 3:31 pm

4. The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Shuttle is the ship carrying passengers between New York and London, and its also the tool that weaves the connection between America and England. From New York, American heiresses travel to England to find titled husbands. From England, men with noble names, debts and impoverished estates seek wives with the money to support them in lives of aristocratic leisure. One such parasite is Sir Nigel Anstruthers, who marries Rosy, the sweet, naive and not very bright eldest daughter of Reuben S. Vanderpoel, a multi-millionaire. Once Sir Nigel has Rosy in England, he cuts the ties between his wife and her family and makes her life a misery. Twelve years later Betty, Rosy's younger sister, who is a much stronger character than Rosy, and vastly more intelligent, sets off to find her sister.

The hero is Mount Dunstan, an impoverished earl who cannot declare his love fro Betty because he has nothing to offer her. He owns a magnificent, crumbling estate, but his forebears left him no funds to maintain it. His father and elder brother were so notoriously dissolute that they had to flee overseas to avoid retribution for a crime that is never specified. They died there, and Mount Dunstan has never been accepted by society because he is assumed to be just as dissolute.

I enjoyed this leisurely read, but at times found it too slow and too melodramatic, with a section of waffle in the middle where the hero and heroine are pining for a love that can never be. But overall, it's an interesting depiction of the times with lots of detail about the legal rights of married women regarding marital violence, divorce, inheritance and the custody of children, and a realistic, but not graphic, depiction of a marriage to a violent and controlling husband and its effects on the wife.

Jan 14, 3:51 pm

5. The Visitors by Jane Harrison

This novel began as an idea more than a decade and a half ago. Its first iteration was as a play, "The Visitors", which was developed during a 2011 writing residency at the Indigenous studies Centre at Monash University, on Wurundjeri country.....The play was workshopped at the 2013 Yellamundie Festival on Gadigal country, which .........allowed me to connect with representatives from the local community............

The novel was written on Wadawurrung country, where I live. This book is a reimagining of the events of late January 1788 from the First Nations' perspective, but many of the details were drawn from accounts by members of the first fleet and historical accounts of the first contact.

Lawrence, who is nineteen and will be a man when he completes the last stages of his initiation, is the first to see the ships on the horizon. The Messengers are sent to the neighbouring mobs, and a meeting of the Elders is called. They travel to Warrane, on the Bay, where Gary, a senior Warrane Elder, chairs the meeting. This is a strange blending of the historical and contemporary: the Elders are dressed in suits and ties, to mark the dignity of the occasion; Lawrence and the Elders have English names that were common in the thirties and forties; the meeting is run along the lines of the awful meetings we're familiar with from our own jobs. The purpose of the meeting is to decide what to do about the ships. Should the Elders welcome these people to the country according to tradition, or should they declare war?

Interspersed through the action are descriptions of the country, and descriptions of of Aboriginal culture and practices. It's well worth reading.

Jan 15, 9:29 pm

6. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton

Miranda Wells believes she is destined for a more than a life of hard work as the wife of a small farmer, so when a distant cousin offers her a position as a governess, she manages to persuade her stern, religious father to let her take it up. Nicholas Van Ryn, her cousin, and his mansion, Dragonwyck, exceed Miranda's fiction-fed fantasies and she settles into a life of luxury. However, while Nicholas is considerate, his wife Johanna is determined to keep Miranda in her place. Johanna is a sad disappointment to Nicholas: she's lethargic and greedy, she's carrying a lot of weight and, most importantly, instead of producing an heir, she gave birth to an uninteresting daughter. The young, thoughtless Miranda adopts Nicholas's point of view and feels sorry that such a dynamic, attractive man should have such a dud of a wife.

Seton throws us plenty of hints about Van Ryn's true character, so when Miranda falls in love with him we're worried for her. With good reason!

I love a good Gothic, and really enjoyed Dragonwyck, which was set in Connecticut and New York in the 1840s. While I'm familiar with the time period in Australia and Britain, I knew little about 1840s America. Seton provides quite a lot of historical information about the issues of the time.

I borrowed the book from the Internet Archive.

Editado: Jan 18, 5:29 am

7. The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

In 1921 Somerset Maugham is in Penang, staying with his old university friend Robert, a well-known, successful lawyer, and Robert's much younger wife Lesley. Maugham is accompanied by Gerald, his secretary and lover, having left his demanding wife in London. His is just one of the adulterous, unhappy marriages in the book. Lesley is trying to trace Sun Yat Sen, and the implication is that she had an affair with him in 1910, when he spent time in Penang raising money and support for a revolution in China. The story switches between 1910 and 1921, and occasionally to South Africa in the forties, where Robert and Lesley had moved on Robert's retirement.

Maugham is writing the short stories that will end up in The Casuarina Tree. He is notorious for writing about real people who have shared their stories with him, so thinly disguised that they are easily recognisable, so when Lesley shares her own story with Maugham she is prepared to be disowned by the British community in Malaya. Another story Lesley tells Maugham is of her friend, Ethel Proudlock, who shot her lover. This real case is the basis of Maugham's play and story The Letter, which was subsequently made into the Bette Davis film.

There's a lot going on in this book, perhaps too much. The themes include Sun Yat Sen's revolution; the British laws against homosexuality and their impact on people's lives; the Ethel Proudfoot murder trial; the prejudice of the British towards the Chinese and other races. I liked the writing style which was straightforward, perhaps after the style of Somerset Maugham, and the book held my attention all the way through.

Jan 18, 5:04 am

>25 pamelad: Thanks for your review Pam. I have this book and a couple of others by this author, and I also like Maugham's writing style based on my reading of The Painted Veil a couple of years ago. So I'm raising this up my TBR list.

Jan 19, 3:50 pm

Thanks for the help with the pictures.

Jan 19, 4:19 pm

>27 swimmergirl1: No worries. Glad it worked.

8. Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

Cassandra and Judith are identical twins. Judith is getting married but Cassandra knows that her sister is making a mistake and is ignoring her destiny, which is to be tied forever to Cassandra. The twins are special people with no need for others, Cassandra believes, so she makes a mercy dash to her family's Californian citrus farm to stop the wedding.

The first section of this short book is written from Cassandra's perspective. Since Judith left their shared apartment in San Francisco to move to New York, Cassandra has stopped eating in favour of drinking and is taking an assortment of pills. She is seeing an analyst and contemplating jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Cassandra is a highly intelligent, neurotic, self-absorbed mess but she's not bleak; she's erudite and entertaining.

The second section is Judith's and we see how skewed Cassandra's perspective is. Though devoted to her twin, Judith has no intention of spending her life with Cassandra. Her fiance, whose name Cassandra persists in forgetting, is a newly-qualified doctor, and it's just as well.

The other members of the family are the girls' father, a hard-drinking ex-philosophy professor who ignores the mundane details of daily life, and their grandmother, an affectionate, conventional woman who is doing her best to fill the gap left by the death two years ago of the twins' much-loved, eccentric mother.

I enjoyed this idiosyncratic, entertaining book. It was first published in 1962.

Editado: Jan 19, 4:53 pm

9. The Casuarina Tree by Somerset Maugham

In The House of Doors Maugham is writing the short stories that will be eventually published in this volume. I started with The Letter, the last story in the collection, because it is about the Ethel Proudfoot case, then went back to the beginning. Apart form the story P&), which had a gleam of hope, these are gloomy stories about British colonists in Asia. Some of them take wives from the local population; some become alcoholics; some go to ludicrous lengths to maintain British standards in jungle outposts. The postscript castigates the British community for assuming that the characters in these stories are real people.

I like Maugham's writing and am engaged by his descriptions of travel in the Asia of the twenties, and his character studies of the people he meets, but he seems to dislike almost everyone, which becomes wearing after a while.

>26 john257hopper: Tan Twan Eng takes a kinder view than Somerset Maugham does!

Jan 20, 11:06 am

>29 pamelad: Thanks Pam, I have this one too, so these may be next two reads over my current book :).

Jan 28, 4:55 pm

10. The King's General by Daphne du Maurier

This historical romance is set during the British Civil War, about which I knew little more than this quote from 1066 and All That:

With the ascension of Charles I to the throne we come at last to the Central Period of English History (not to be confused with the Middle Ages, of course), consisting in the utterly memorable Struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Wromantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).

The book begins with the crippled narrator, Honor Harris, reflecting on the war and on her love affair with Richard Grenvile, the King's General. Honor lives with her brother Robin, who is just as sad and disappointed as she is, on the charity of Jonathon Rashleigh, her brother-in-law. Du Maurier painstakingly researched the Civil War, so the historical background is authentic, and many of the characters are real people, including Honor, Richard and Jonathon. But perhaps only their names are real, because du Maurier has imagined their actions, thoughts and motivations as though they are her contemporaries. She is writing during WWII, which may explain the gloom and hopelessness of the book. I found it a difficult read, not because it was badly written, because it isn't, but because of the unrelenting misery. Because Honor is so resigned to unhappiness she makes a dull narrator. And because the romance between Richard and Honor was doomed almost from the start, it's hard to care about it.

There are gothic elements in that the bulk of the book is set at Menabilly, the centuries-old house still owned in du Maurier's day by the Rashleigh family. She based the Manderley of Rebecca on Menabilly. The house has hidden passages and a secret room, which are integral to the plot. As already mentioned, there's a central romance as well, but I wouldn't classify the book as a gothic romance. It's mainly an historical novel, and I thought that the historical and romantic themes did not marry well.

Pros: I learned a lot about aspects of the Civil War, particularly in Cornwall.
Cons: It's long and miserable, and the characters don't come to life.

Editado: Jan 29, 4:22 am

>31 pamelad: I love Daphne du Maurier but haven't read this yet. Not sure if I will yet, though, given your view of its atmosphere.

Jan 29, 3:58 pm

>32 john257hopper: I might have been unfair. It's about a war that was lost, so the gloom is understandable.

11. The Secret of the Lost Pearls by Darcie Wilde

A light, trivial and entertaining read.

Rosalind Thorne, who since her father's desertion has been supporting herself as a useful woman. She takes on all sorts of tasks, from training newcomers to manage in society to solving murders. An old school friend, Bethany Douglas, has employed her to investigate the theft of an extremely valuable and unusual pearl necklace. Once staying with the Douglas family, Rosalind becomes aware that the theft of the pearls is just one of the disasters confronting the Douglases.

Rosalind's romance with Adam Harkness, the Bow street runner, is moving along slowly. Adam, who is becoming disgusted by political interference and corruption that affect his work, helps Rosalind solve the crime. Crimes, actually, because they snowball.

My predictions for this series:
1. Adam will leave the Bow Street Runners and become a private investigator.
2. Rosalind and Adam will work together as private investigators.
3. After much angst, because she has never wanted to marry, Rosalind will marry Adam.

Jan 30, 6:19 am

>33 pamelad: sounds good fun!

Editado: Fev 1, 5:36 am

People here are discussing films on Kanopy.

I've been watching a few oldies:

Dragonwyck 1946
Barbary Coast 1935
Jamaica Inn 1939

Editado: Fev 1, 6:38 am

>35 pamelad: I recently rewatched an old B&W favorite, The Big Sleep with Bogart and Bacall. I understood the plot better after reading the book, but it's not necessary to appreciate this film noir.

Editado: Fev 3, 3:20 am

>36 fuzzi: It would be well worth another view, so I'll look for it. I've read the book, but not for ages, so it could be time for a re-read.

I just watched Perfect Understanding, 1933 with Gloria Swanson as a naive young woman (!) newly wed to Laurence Olivier. It seemed so promising, but was a disappointment. Lifeless.

The other three I mentioned >35 pamelad: were entertaining and worth a look.The picture quality is good but the sound isn't of the same standard, so I turned the captions on for Barbary coast and Jamaica Inn. Vincent Price speaks very clearly!

Fev 3, 6:44 pm

>37 pamelad: Vincent Price plays out of character in another favorite noir film of mine, Laura.

Fev 3, 7:17 pm

>38 fuzzi: Laura is another film I'll keep an eye out for. I've read the book and seen the film, but it has been years.

I've just watched Pygmalion with Lesley Howard and Wendy Hiller (1938). It sticks to George Bernard Shaw's play much more closely than does My Fair Lady, is funnier, and is not a romance. No sane woman would want to marry the Henry Higgins portrayed by Lesley Howard. Just to make that completely clear, here is Shaw's essay on "What Happened Afterwards."

Fev 4, 1:19 am

12. Medical Downfall of the Tudors by Sylvia Barbara Soberton

I am familiar only with snippets of British history, few of them gained from primary or secondary education. We hopped around from country to country and century to century until, if you wanted to study science, you had to drop History altogether. I found the Medical Downfall of the Tudors to be both interesting and informative, but I wonder what anyone who was more familiar with British history would make of it.

Lots of irregular menstrual cycles, stillborn babies, infant deaths. Henry VIII was quite possibly passing along something that caused the still births. Not much evidence though. Mainly speculation, except on how hazardous he was to wives. Brutal people, the Tudors.

Fev 5, 1:13 pm

And add to your grim list Mary's phantom pregnancies. I studied The Tudors all the way through high school and university. It took you just one book to sum them all up, "brutal."

Fev 7, 3:46 pm

13. Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark

Half of this short autobiography is taken up with Spark's reminiscences of her childhood and the rest skates through the years up to her first novel, published when she was forty. She spends much of the second half paying back the men who disappointed her. I think that, if you want to continue to enjoy Spark's books, the less you know the better.

Editado: Fev 9, 5:13 pm

14. Love and Virtue by Diana Reid

Michaela and Eve are first year students, living at Foundation College and attending lectures at Sydney University. Michaela's father died when she was a child and her mother has supported them ever since, so there isn't a lot of money to spare and Michaela, who is from Canberra, is grateful to have won a scholarship to Foundation, which pays her accommodation and board. Eve, in the room next door, also has a scholarship but its value to her is the prestige, because she's certainly not short of cash. Most of the other characters come from backgrounds like Eve's: expensive private schools, family mansions on the harbour, magnificent beach houses, holidays in Europe. The girls live at Foundation and the boys live at St Thomas's. (Less privileged students live at home with their parents and do not feature in this story, which is a problem to me.) They're away from the scrutiny of their parents and are doing a lot of socialising, drinking and sex. It's the combination of booze, sex and naivete that causes the drama that ensues, helped along by the misogynistic culture of the men's colleges and private schools, and the competitive drinking of O Week. (Orientation Week for first-years - lots of social activities involving vast quantities of alcohol.)

Michaela is initially madly impressed by Eve, who is two years older and always the centre of attention, and she thinks they have a close friendship so she confides in her, which could be a mistake. Is Eve the caring person she makes herself out to be?

Overall, this is a pretty good book with a few iffy bits including an affair between Michaela and a philosophy lecturer. The relationship doesn't ring true. The central theme is the issue of consent, which is seen quite differently by Michaela and Eve. Michaela is trying to puzzle things out. Unlike Eve, she accepts that making mistakes is part of being human.

Fev 11, 3:14 am

15. Kirkland Revels by Victoria Holt

Catherine's young husband, Gabriel, dies only a week after their return to his home, Kirkland Revels. The family thinks it's suicide, but Catherine doesn't believe it. Gabriel had been dreading his return home, and his fear was linked to the ruined Kirkland Abbey, not far from Kirkland Revels.

This is a classic Gothic: a spectre in monks robes, a family history of suicides, hidden passages, a strange aunt, a mad mother, an untrustworthy mother-in-law, multiple men with motives for getting rid of Gabriel, the heir. Catherine is in danger and doesn't know who she can trust. Safer to trust no one!

Victoria Holt writes a good gothic. I enjoyed this one.

Fev 11, 4:57 pm

>44 pamelad: I haven't read any of her (Victoria Holt) books in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. I know I used to enjoy them.

Editado: Fev 11, 10:20 pm

16. Abomination by Ashley Goldberg

Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Ezra, a non-observant Jew, and his school-friend Yonatan, who is frum (strictly follows religious observances). They last met twenty years ago at Ezra's Bar Mitzvah. Up until then they had been close, but Rabbi Hirsch from the yeshiva both boys attended had been accused of molesting his primary school students, so Ezra's father had withdrawn Ezra from the school. Yonatan and his family were far more enmeshed in the Orthodox community where his father was an important and well-respected rabbi, and the community closed ranks. Hirsch's superiors spirited him out of the country so that he would not have to stand trial.

Yonatan is now a rabbi, married to the daughter of a highly regarded Talmudic scholar. He believed that, as much as possible, a Yehudi should live as their European ancestors did. On Shabbat, a fur-trimmed shtreimel on your head, your feet stockinged and a long black bekishe hanging past your knees. Ezra is a lawyer, working for a government department, where he subjugates his own values in order to implement the policies of a government he does not agree with.

It has been twenty years since Hirsch was accused of child abuse, but he has finally been extradited from Israel and is back in Melbourne to stand trial. Avraham Kliger, the brother of one of the victims, took the case to the police, and has spent years campaigning for Hirsch's prosecution. As a result he and his family were banished from the community. Yonatan is now questioning his beliefs and Ezra is falling apart. They meet again at a rally organised by Kliger.

This was really interesting, with lots of information about Orthodox Jewish beliefs and practices. The author drew on the reports from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was set up by Julia Gillard's Labor Government as a result of the activism of people like Manny Waks, Kliger's real-life counterpart. Waks, who was abused by two members of staff at the Melbourne Yeshiva Centre, was once a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish Hasidic community in Melbourne. He and his family were ostracised for making the abuse public.

Abomination won the Debut Fiction Award at the 72nd National Jewish Book Awards, a US award. It's quite a Melbourne book though, set in inner-city Carlton and the south-eastern suburbs where the Hasidic community lives.

Melbourne's eruv, one of the largest in the world thanks to urban sprawl, was ''built'' in 1997, enclosing St Kilda East and Caulfield within a continuous wire boundary. Later it was expanded to include Bentleigh, Carnegie and Moorabbin. The Council of Orthodox Synagogues is responsible for maintaining the eruv, and it is funded by a levy on synagogue members.

Fev 11, 10:32 pm

>45 jbegab: I've read a few Victoria Holts lately and have enjoyed them all. I've borrowed some of the out-of-print ones from The Open Library. Enjoy!

Fev 13, 3:54 pm

17. Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder and 18. Miss Morton and the Spirits of the Underworld by Catherine Lloyd

The first two books in a new series.

Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder

Miss Morton is actually Lady Caroline, but she doesn't use her title because she earns her own living as a companion. Her employer is the wealthy factory owner, Mrs Frogerton, who has employed Caroline to launch the well-dowered, beautiful Dorothy Frogerton into the ton. Caroline's aunt, Lady Eleanor, has invited her niece to a house party, and under sufferance has invited the Frogertons too. But something is very wrong at Lady Eleanor's home: the butler is missing and there is a suspicion that some of Lady Eleanor's guests are implicated in his disappearance. Then a body is discovered. Mrs Frogerton and Caroline investigate.

Mrs Frogerton, Caroline and Dorothy are the ongoing series characters. Another is the local doctor, the brusque and overly honest Doctor Harris. I predict that he and Caroline will fall in love but they are nowhere near it yet. I enjoyed the book, although as a mystery it is a bit of a mess.

Miss Morton and the Spirits of the Underworld

Mrs Frogerton has become interested in spiritualism and is attending seances run by Madame Lavinia. Concerned that her employer is donating too much money, Caroline attends a seance to see for herself. She invites Dr Harris as a back-up. Madame Lavinia reveals knowledge that leads Dr Harris to believe she could be a blackmailer, so he and Caroline return the next day, only to find Madame Lavinia dead. Again, Mrs Frogerton and Caroline investigate. Mrs Frogerton is an entertaining character, and so is her strong-minded daughter Dotty, but Caroline is a bit bland. Perhaps she will improve as the series goes on.

Once again, I enjoyed the book but the mystery was sub-par.

Editado: Fev 21, 2:46 pm

19. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

The first book in the Veronica Speedwell Victorian mystery series. Veronica owes a debt to Barbara Michaels' Amelia Peabody - the forthright personality, the competence, the adventurousness, the odd, practical clothing. Unlike Amelia, she's aggressively charmless and not at all a woman of Victorian times. She has been brought up by two elderly women who moved around a lot, and has always believed that she was a foundling, but on the death of her remaining guardian she becomes the centre of a nefarious plot and is in danger of kidnapping and possible murder. A kind Teutonic baron saves her from a kidnapping attempt and delivers her to his trusted friend Stoker, a man with a desperate past and many secrets that will be revealed over the series.

I didn't like this much because it consisted of a series of exciting but irrelevant events. Why do travel with a circus run by a resentful Siamese twin? Seems to be a lot of risk for not much reward, and doesn't add anything to the plot. Couldn't the author come up with a more likely mystery father than the Prince of Wales? I just groaned.

Raybourn has written another series, Lady Julia Grey. I'll give it a try in the hope that it's better than this one.

This book is available in KoboPlus.

Fev 21, 7:05 pm

According to this article in the Conversation it's the centenary of Yevgeny Zamatin's We.

I'm contemplating reading it again, because it's a very good book. Here's my review from 2011.

We by Yevegeny Zamyatin

I don't read a lot of science fiction, but this one is a classic. Like Doctor Zhivago it was banned in Russia, smuggled out, and published in Europe.

Zamyatin's book is a dystopian satire of life in Russia after the revolution. It is set 600 years in the future, in the land of One State, where the citizens are happy because they have no freedom. Where there is no freedom there is no crime. People live and work in glass buildings. There is no envy because everyone is equal, a cell in the collective organism of the One State.

The narrator is D-503, a mathematician and the builder of the Integral. His life is mathematically predictable, and therefore happy, until he meets I-303, falls in love and discovers the remnants of a soul. Can they escape the repression of the One state?

Zamyatin's book was the precursor of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. It was first published in 1921, in the early years of the revolution. It is well worth reading, and not just because it is the first satire on totalitarianism. Zamyatin has a sense of humour and a lightness of touch. Apparently he had synaesthesia, so the book is swamped in colour, odour and texture. He eliminates unnecessary words by recruiting old words for new functions. When you read that a functionary's eyes "javelined", you know just what Zamyatin means.

Highly recommended 4.5*

Editado: Fev 22, 5:25 am

>50 pamelad: Good call. I read it about 16 years ago so could do with a re-read.

It was banned in the USSR in 1921, but smuggled out and first published in the West in 1924, hence the centenary of it as a translated and openly published work.

Fev 23, 3:26 pm

>51 john257hopper: I've started, and am appreciating it even more.

20. A Journey from this World to the Next by Henry Fielding

A man has just died and his spirit is in transit, making its way to the final judgement. On its way it meets spirits going the other way, back to earth to live a better life so that they can be accepted into heaven next time. One of them is Julian the Apostate, who has been sent back numerous times and lived many lives and another is Anne Boleyn. They tell their stories.

Fielding was a magistrate, known for compassion and incorruptibility. His satire wittily describes politics and corruption through history. It's incomplete and meandering, but in parts it is very funny.

It was published in 1749.

Fev 27, 4:09 pm

21. Tension by E. M. Delafield 1920

I enjoyed this short, character-driven novel. The main character Edna, Lady Rossiter, is a snobbish, malicious, self-satisfied monster who delights in being the centre of attention. Her husband, Sir Julian, treats her with sardonic disdain. He is one of the directors of a commercial and technical college that has been set up to help working people advance themselves, and has just employed a young woman, Pauline Marchmont, as the Lady Superintendent. Edna has heard of Miss Marchmont, has judged her harshly, and wants her gone.

Edna is an appalling woman, and her machinations are both fascinating and horrifying. As she creates misery and havoc, she deludes herself that she's acting for the best. The other characters, even the minor ones, are also well-drawn.

Most of E. M. Delafield's husbands, including Sir Julian, are disappointing. People in her books marry people they don't much like because that's all there is to do, or because they refuse to look beneath the surface. So many of Delafield's married couples dislike one another. Sir Julian is disgusted by his wife's behaviour but does nothing to stop her.

Editado: Mar 1, 4:10 pm

22. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

2024 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of We, which was completed in 1921, smuggled out of Russia and first published in English. On this second reading the imagery made even more of an impression than it did the first time, with the hard straight lines and the cold blueness and transparency of the One State contrasting with the colourful chaos of the Ancient House and the world outside the walls. I thought of the assembly lines of the Charlie Chaplin film, Modern Times and the futuristic city of Fritz Lang's Metropolis because We isn't just a satire of totalitarianism, it's about industrialisation. Henry Ford's factories had adopted the principles of Taylorism, a system of scientific management, and his were the principles underlying the One State. Zamyatin took them further, by eradicating or minimising any human quality that did not directly contribute to the efficiency of the system.

George Orwell based 1984 on We. Orwell's review from 1946, manages to denigrate both We and Brave New World. It reminds me of the literary backbiting in Yellowface and does not give either book enough credit.

This Guardian article 1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot? concludes that if Nineteen Eighty-Four had never existed, it is extremely doubtful Zamyatin's book would have come to fill the unique place Orwell's work now occupies. This may be true, but once again gives too little credit to We, without which 1984 might not have existed. More than two decades after Zamyatin's ground-breaking and prophetic book, after Stalin's purges and the Holocaust, Orwell built Brave New World on the foundation of We.

Editado: Mar 1, 4:09 pm

>54 pamelad: Interesting review, and your slightly different conclusions from mine.

I think you made a typo in "George Orwell based Brave New World on We", i.e.not based 1984 on We:)

Editado: Mar 1, 4:11 pm

>55 john257hopper: Thanks John. I often confuse the two books.

Editado: Mar 3, 5:02 pm

23. The Secret of the Lady's Maid by Darcie Wilde

The seventh book in the Rosalind Thorne series. Rosalind and her maid Amelia are out shopping when they come across a young woman, Cate Levitton, who appears to be known to Amelia. Cate collapses and Rosalind later finds out that she has been poisoned. Through Cate, Rosalind is drawn into the investigation of another poisoning, and a murder. Meanwhile, Adam Harkness, Bow street Runner and who is in love with Cate but far too poor to marry her, is caught up in a case of treason and because he is an honest man, his career, and perhaps even his life, is in danger.

The book took a long time to get going, with too many plot threads entwining, and too many characters. Rosalind is becoming annoying, and the romance with Adam looks like it will be drifting along forever.

24. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

In 1945, during mass, the priest of a tiny Irish village berates Catherine Goggins, a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl, and banishes her immediately. On the bus to Dublin she makes a friend, a young gay man who is escaping a similar prejudiced, violent, priest-dominated place. There's nothing subtle about Boyne's book. Ireland in the forties is a fearful place, dominated by brutal, violent priests who enforce their own prejudices. People who don't follow the Church's rules deserve their punishment.

(Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, divorce did not become legal until 1995, and on International Women's Day there will be a vote on changing the a woman's place is in the home clause in the constitution.)

The main character is Cyril Avery, Catherine's son. As the adopted son of Charles Avery and his wife Maude, a well-regarded writer, Cyril is "not a real Avery". When Cyril is seven and Charles is being prosecuted for tax evasion, Cyril meets Julian, the son of Charles' solicitor Max Woodhead, and falls in love.

Initially I was enjoying the book, which really romps along, but I lost interest in Cyril when he married Julian's sister Elizabeth then deserted her at the reception. The book became a collection of episodes, and I felt that Cyril was a pawn being moved by the author through a series of events, many of them tragic. Too many of the characters were so much larger than life that they came across as caricatures, and there were too many coincidences. I remained entertained by the story, but became disengaged from the characters and thought "What's Boyne going to make happen to Cyril next?"

Mar 5, 2:53 pm

25. What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris is the first book in the Sebastian St Cyr series. Sebastian, Viscount Devlin, is the youngest son (or is he?) of the Earl of Hendon, and since the deaths of his two older brothers, is now the heir. He was an intelligence officer in the Napoleonic Wars, and has nightmares about the carnage. The Tory government is determined to continue the war, while the Whigs would negotiate an end to it. With the Duke of York about to become Regent, the Tories and the Whigs are competing for his favour. When a young actress is found murdered, Julian is accused because his conviction and execution would benefit the Tories. He escapes arrest and goes into hiding, determined to find the real murder and clear his name.

I enjoyed this. Lots of historical detail, some interesting characters, and a page-turner of a plot. I'm not a fan of gore, so I could have done without the bloodthirsty psychopathic killer and thought that necrophilia was a bridge too far, but I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Mar 8, 5:53 pm

26. The Green Road by Anne Enright

The Madigan family is dominated by Rosaleen, a selfish and manipulative woman. Three of her four children escape, one to the US, one to Africa and the third to Dublin. The responsible eldest daughter remains near home and tries to look after her demanding and ungrateful mother. When Rosaleen announces that she is going to sell the family home her four children return for one last Christmas celebration. Dan is the "spoiled priest", Emmet an international aid worker, Hanna a struggling, alcoholic actress with a baby, and Constance the responsible daughter who is married with two children and looks after her mother.

It's a character study of a family: the disappointed Rosaleen and the four children who have not attained the success that Rosaleen expected of them.

Not much happens, and it's not a happy book, but I liked the writing and the character studies and would recommend The Green Road.

Editado: Mar 9, 10:54 pm

27. The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Someone has been murdered and someone is in jail for the crime, but we don't know who and neither do the two articled clerks who are wading through piles of emails and text messages because their boss, the barrister who prosecuted the case, now thinks that the wrong person has been convicted.

A two-year-old girl, Poppy, has been diagnosed with cancer and her grandfather, Martin Hayward, has been told that an expensive experimental drug is the best hope for her survival. He is the wealthiest man in the community, top of the social scale, and the director and manager of the local theatre group. All the protagonists are connected to the theatre group, which is preparing to put on the play All My Sons. They become involved in a quest to raise 250,000 pounds for Poppy's treatment.

As the clerks read through the emails and texts, they begin to doubt that the fund is above board but can't be sure who is involved in the fraud. The murder occurs towards the end of the book, and there are plenty of suspects.

I was drawn in by The Appeal and had to keep reading. It's not really fair play, because the barrister dribbles out information to his clerks late in the book. For example, it's ridiculous that the clerks aren't told who has been convicted of the murder. But I put those irritations aside and enjoyed the book.

Editado: Mar 11, 5:33 am

28. The Cuckoo's Child by Marjorie Eccles

Marjorie Eccles was born in 1926. Her most recent book was published in 2021, which is a good effort indeed! The Cuckoo's Child was published in 2011, which makes her about 85 at the time.

The Cuckoo's Child is an historical mystery set mainly in Yorkshire in 1909. Laura, who has been doing volunteer work at a women's settlement house, is at a loose end when she has to stop so is happy to take on the job of organising the library of a mill-owner, Ainsley Beaumont. The other members of the household are Beaumont's twin grandchildren, Una and Gideon, and their mother, Amelia. The twin's father died in a terrible fire twenty years ago and is rarely mentioned. There is a big secret about the fire. Laura is an orphan, and she's beginning to wonder whether she has a connection to Ainsley Beaumont.

There's a big cast of characters, so there are plenty of suspects when a body is found in a mill pond. I enjoyed this tidy mystery.

Mar 27, 7:25 pm

29. Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki Akutagawa Prize

A gentle, melancholy novella. Taro is divorced, isolated from his family and bored by his job. His apartment building is about to be demolished, to be replaced by one bigger and more modern, and he is one of the few remaining tenants. He runs across another tenant, Nishi, as she is climbing up to a balcony to get a better view of a nearby house. The blue house, built in the sixties, is featured in a book, Spring Garden, and Nishi has been fascinated by it for years. She and Taro become friends and he is drawn into her interest in the blue house.

It's hard to say what this novella is about. It's more a mood, a narrative of time passing. The blue house seems to stand as symbol of individuality and longevity. It, adn the friendship with Nishi, begin to rouse Taro from his apathy.

30. Foster by Claire Keegan

This is a re-read for our book club. We all liked Small Things Like These, and Foster is even shorter. I enjoyed it again, and followed up with the film, The Quiet Girl, which is based on the book. (For people in Australia, it's on SBS on Demand but is leaving in a fortnight.)

Mar 27, 8:55 pm

>62 pamelad: I did a double take when I saw your post about Foster, because I just read the same book today! I actually preferred Small Things like These, but not by much. Have your read any more of her work?

Mar 28, 5:36 pm

>63 scunliffe: Just these two so far, but I have So Late in the Day on my Kindle ready to go. I also preferred Small Things Like These, perhaps because it was more outward and hopeful than Foster.

Mar 31, 6:23 pm

31. The Weather at Tregulla by Stella Gibbons

Una's mother has just died and her father is grief-stricken and drinking too much. He's never been particularly fond of the intense and demanding Una, who desperately wants to get out of the tiny Cornish town of Tregulla and go to London to become an actress. There's not enough money, and Una is losing hope, so she's excited to meet the Bohemian siblings Emmaline and Terrence. Una falls in love with Terrence, an artist, but he can't be bothered.

Meanwhile, Una's childhood friend Barnabus, the elder son of the village's wealthiest and longest-established best family, has fallen in love with Emmaline. Hugo, Barnabus's younger brother, who is recovering from a serious a serious car crash, is suffering not just from his injuries but from unrequited love for Una.

Gibbons clearly loves the Cornish countryside, and these unsuitable love affairs play out over a beautiful Cornish summer. She has sympathy for her flawed, well-rounded middle-class characters, but none for Terrence's and Emmaline's villainous working-class friends, who don't know how to behave.

I enjoyed the book, which was first published in 1962. Like many British books of that time and earlier it's steeped in class-consciousness, which I judge harshly but am interested in all the same. This is the era of the working-class novel - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Room at the Top - and from he evidence of The Weather at Tregulla, Stella Gibbons is uneasy.

Abr 1, 5:37 pm

32. Deception aka If I Were You by Joan Aiken

I started Deception thinking it was an historical romance, but while it's historical, it's not a romance. Alvey and Louisa are students at a girls' school. They're identical in appearance, but quite different in character and have never been friends. Louisa has been sent to school to get her out of the way because she desperately wants to be a missionary and has been nagging her parents to death. On top of that, she's an unpleasant person and, as Avery is to discover, no one in her family likes her. Avery is alone in the world. Her aunt in America sent her to England, where her parents came from, to get an education so she could make her own living, but has since died, and Alvey has been teaching at the school. When Louisa's parents call for her to return home, she persuades Alvey to take her place so that she, Louisa, can travel to India to become a missionary. This is all very hard to swallow, but best to do it and move on because there's a lot of book to go.

Avey settles in with Louisa's family and loves it there, despite the remarkable number of tragedies and disasters that befall the family. She's such a help that everyone except for Louisa's parents, who have little interest in their children, realises that she's not Louisa.

This was a light and entertaining read, but a bit too long and slow for my taste. It has touches of Gothic, a bit of mystery, and hints of romance.

Abr 3, 6:33 pm

33. Castle Barebane by Joan Aiken

I liked this gothic melodrama for Aiken's writing style, her sardonic observations of the New York upper crust, and the appealing heroine.

It begins in New York, where Valla, a journalist, is engaged to Bennett. She's beginning to realise that she doesn't fit into his milieu and will never be welcomed by his family, so when her half-brother, Nils, asks her to go to England to take care of his children for a short time, she agrees. When she gets to England Valla finds her brother and his wife missing and their house for let. She finds the children in desperate straits and applies to their great aunts for help. They send Valla and the two children to stay in a dilapidated Scottish Castle looked after by a grumpy old woman.

There are a lot of plot threads, and some of them are ludicrous. Valla's brother Nils is an evil man, and his closest friend is even worse. There's a Jack the Ripper clone on the loose, the Beast of Bermondsey. Jannie, the younger child behaves very oddly. The old lady in the castle has a mysterious, tragic history. There's a helpful doctor who never wants to marry, and a gout-ridden magazine editor who is taken with Valla. Towards the end of the book it seems that Aiken has lost patience with her people and her plot. The threads converge and there's a mass killing: shootings, stabbings, drownings, toppling from a cliff, a whole boat-crew being sucked into quicksand.

Castle Barebane was a mess, but I enjoyed it.

Abr 6, 4:49 pm

34. Madam by Mrs Oliphant

Grace Trevanian's husband married her in Europe when she was in desperate circumstances and treated her despicably for most of their marriage. Despite his ill-treatment Grace nursed the querulous invalid devotedly, but days from his demise the vicious old man re-wrote his will to punish her further. I won't say how, because that would destroy the suspense.

Rosalind is Grace's stepdaughter, and calls her mother because Grace is the only mother Rosalind has ever known. She is loyal to Grace despite wicked rumours, most of them perpetrated by the family nurse who brought up Rosalind and her four half-brothers and sisters. The nurse has tried to poison the younger children's minds against their mother, and has carried malicious stories to Grace's husband.

Somewhere I read that this was Margaret Oliphant's favourite of her books. It has less humour than the Carlingford series because Grace is such a tragic figure, and so ill-treated, but there is some in the sketches of the minor characters, particularly Aunt Sophy. I was very much engaged because I had to find out what would happen to Grace and Rosalind.

Abr 8, 7:05 pm

I enjoy the women writers of the 19th Century, and have read most of the Brontes, Elliot and Gaskell, but only a couple of Oliphant's ghostly stories.
You have given me the push I need to read more of her work, and think I will undertake the Chronicles of Carlingford. Thanks!

Abr 9, 5:03 am

I have never read anything by Margaret Oliphant, I must try something.

Abr 9, 6:13 pm

>69 scunliffe:, >70 john257hopper: As in The Barchester Chronicles, the Anglican Church is central to the Chronicles of Carlingford and, like Trollope, Margaret Oliphant describes her characters with affection and humour. My favourite Carlingford book is Miss Marjoribanks.

Happy reading!

Abr 9, 6:15 pm

35. My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Helen, known as Hen, divorced her children's father, an awful man who insisted on painful access visits with his two daughters, Bridget and Michelle. She had married because that's what everyone did in the seventies and she wanted to be normal. Bridget narrates the sad history of her relationship with her mother, whom Bridget castigates as performing normality and refusing to engage with life. But as the book goes on, Bridget's own problems begin to appear.

My Phantoms describes the characters of these two women with wit and subtlety, but I was pleased that it was short because I found it so very depressing.

Abr 13, 6:21 pm

36. The Art of Love aka Villa on the Riviera by Elizabeth Edmondson

It's hard to classify this book because there's no central murder, which makes it not quite a crime novel, and the romance is too much in the background to call the book a romance. It's quite leisurely, so there's not a lot of suspense, but it did remind me a little of Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels. It's definitely historical fiction, because it's set in the thirties.

The heroine, Polly Smith, is engaged to Roger, a pompous doctor who doesn't listen to her and likes to tell her what to do. She's an artist but Roger expects that she will give it up when she marries. They're planning on an overseas honeymoon, so Polly needs to get a passport, but at Somerset House she finds that there is no birth certificate in her name, and the woman who Polly thought was her mother reluctantly tells Polly that she is adopted. Polly ends up having a holiday in the Riviera, staying with Oliver, a gay man who moves in the same artistic circles she does, who has become a good friend.

The romantic interest is Max, who works for Special Branch and also met Polly through her work as an artist. He is investigating the villain to whom his sister is engaged. The plot involves art forgery, a missing husband, and a plot to destabilise the political system of the western world.

This is not literature. I enjoyed it, so much so that I've started another, The Frozen Lake.

Editado: Abr 14, 6:15 pm

37. The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmonston

It's 1936 and the lake near the homes of the Richardson and the Grindley families has frozen solid for the first time in sixteen years. Family members return after many years' absence, as does a young man who was there as a boy and experienced something awful that has lodged in his sub-conscious ever since. Family secrets are uncovered.

There's a bit of romance, a few mysteries, British Fascists, an evil grandmother and her evil, dead son, a Jewish refugee, a woman in disguise, a great-aunt in purple, a banished divorcee. You can see the resolutions of the plot threads from a mile away, which isn't a problem to me because I'm looking for a happy ending and don't want a lot of suspense on the way.

A pleasant, cosy read. I enjoyed it.

Editado: Ontem, 2:38 am

38. Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein was shortlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize, and Bernstein is on Granta's list of Best British novelists.

This short book appears to be about survivors' guilt. The narrator is the youngest child of a large family and has been brought up to serve the needs of her siblings, so when her oldest brother is abandoned by his wife and children (not surprisingly when you read his expectations of them) he calls on the narrator to come to his remote northern village to look after him. He has bought and restored the house where generations of his family once lived before being banished, and seems to be respected by the local community. The narrator, however, arouses suspicion, and the locals blame her for the deaths of animals and the blighting of crops.

The book is experimental in that it has long, run-on sentences (not a problem to me) and no plot (huge problem!) I think she might be poisoning her brother, but that sounds like a plot, so she probably isn't.