I may be impatient and superficial, but I just don't get this book. It's not that it's bad - it's just not going anywhere. Halfway through it, I've decided to put it aside and not bother unless there's nothing else to read. I understand it's a story about frustration and anger, but it falls short of almost every mark. It's too narrow in its focus - we don't know (almost) anything about her life outside her obsession, though life and affections exist on the fringes of obsession in every case. And I'm tired of the cliches on academics and the rarefied world they inhabit - and I'm also very suspicious of her reading of foreignness, which I find superficial and downright silly at times.
Informative and easy to read, indeed. Little in-depth analysis, but with the sheer amount of data, no wonder. I felt it failed to tie a few knots, but overall a good read.
I've read the previous Tey novels and will read the new one soon, but here's the thing. I keep thinking I'm going to give each of them five stars as I read, and then, once I'm done, I can't in full honesty give them more than four.
I got to Nicola Upson by searching for Agatha Christie-like novels. Someone recommended her as similar on some forum. With Fear in the Sunlight, it all started like a Christie mystery - not the "later" part of the '50s, but the setting, the hotel, the guests, the two parties being gathered together. But what Christie does schematically, in twenty-five pages, Upson does in - well, it was an audiobook so I don't know exactly how many, but it felt like half of the book. She does it extremely well, no question: the people and circumstances come alive, and it does capture your attention.
The problem is what happens afterwards: so much energy is spent on creating the backdrop of the murders, that very little is left for the actual mystery. And the solutions to her mysteries, though not bad, are never quite as clever or plausible as everything else in the book. Other than that, they're great, and the narrator is excellent.
I got on to the Josephine Tey series because, somewhere online, someone recommended it as a good follow-up to Agatha Christie. I first tried something else by someone else, so undistinguished that I didn't finish it and can't remember anymore. Then I slowly grew into Upson.
As mysteries go, this one had pretty much all the ingredients you can think of, plus a few more things going for it: good writing, a solid build-up, pretty solid characters in the good old Golden Age style (by which I mean solid and recognizable, but not begging for sympathy, not attempting to sound out all the pop psychology textbooks).
I read the first three, I'll probably read the rest, too. And a thumbs-up for the excellent reader.
Not having read the story when I was 12, I found it completely engrossing now. I'll have to read another account as well, just to make sure that Huntford is not unduly harsh on Scott. But if his account is even remotely true, then he - umm, spoiler alert - was a selfish, self-indulgent s.o.b. with half a brain, who pretty much effed up a serious expedition killed his companions through his moronic inability to prepare, learn his lessons, take advice and generally display intelligence at every stage of the journey. By contrast, Amundsen was careful, alert, a great planner etc etc. It might be just that the story is told in contrasting scenes and that Huntford was biased, but whatever the case, I found it a fascinating read.
I think the four stars are more because of how interesting and complex the topic is, rather than for the actual analysis. I feel I know a bit more, indeed, and it's hard to make sense of such a complex set of circumstances all over the place. I could have done without the side remarks (no, I'm not impressed at Prof. Weiner's having spent New Year's Eve in Berlin once, or by how he and his wife once saw a rally in Paris. Seriously?) and without the over-emphasizing of half the words in a sentence and without him telling us how professional the people at the TC are. I guess I'm more of a barebones kind of reader.
Mystery novels have to maintain a very delicate balance between the formulaic and the new. So the big question is, can you deliver something interesting while working with about a billion and a half cliches?
JK Rowling is a good writer, which we knew from the Harry Potter series and her Casual Vacancy. I guess whenever she tries a certain genre, she has the brains, patience and linguistic tools to understand the underpinnings of that particular genre and work within it. She doesn't try to be cute or artsy when she does contemporary social frescoes or hard-boiled mystery stuff.
There's nothing particularly original about Casual Vacancy, just as there's nothing particularly original about The Cuckoo's Calling. But both are very good examples of their genre - and with a mystery novel, that's as good a recommendation as you can get. Her mystery novel has enough humor, suspended romance and psychological insight to balance the hard-boiled detective fiction.
So yeah, I'm looking forward to the next Cormoran Strike novel.
There isn't much I didn't know either from information or common sense. However, the case is strongly made and documented - and the most telling testimony, I think, is that the book has convinced me to start moving away from processed foods and cutting severely on red meat.
Wonderful, absolutely perfect narrator; endearing, lovable characters that I can't get enough of; masterful narrative structure.
Sure, the ending is a bit of a stretch, but it still goes down well. This series is one of my major addictions.
I loved her We Need to Talk about Kevin for its sharpness and laconic cynicism. Now I can't say I exactly loved Big Brother, but I did like it a lot. It's just as sharp and diamond-clear in its sparse style, and ** minor spoiler alert ** there is a twist at the end. It does explain away a lot of the stuff that seemed off-key along the way. And it is, again, a book of and for the times.
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