My, my, I’ve been remiss in posting my monthly updates. My only excuse could be that I’ve been very busy (no surprise there) but also that I’ve really been trying to concentrate on using any spare time I have this year for reading, so these posts have gone by the wayside. Time to tidy up!
Murder on the Links: “It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7th, 1915.”
Detective: Hercule Poirot
Published: 1923 (Christie’s 3rd published book)
Length: 272 pages
Setting: Merlinville-sur-Mer, France (fictional)
This is Agatha Christie’s third published novel after The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Secret Adversary, and her second one featuring the astute Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Quite honestly, this novel falls far short of her initial two attempts, her adept plotting of a mystery surprisingly lacking as the murder and motive is revealed in a rather bumbling fashion. But for now, let’s look at the plot.
Phantastes: A Faerie Romance: “I awoke one morning with the usual perplexity of mind which accompanies the return of consciousness.”
I read Phantastes for the first time in 2012, and while reading it, I was very confused with the progress of the story. So many questions swirled around in my head as to the plot, such as why Anodos, the main character, decided to go to a particular place and why he didn’t listen to advice and what was the point of his wanderings? I approached the book as I would a book like The Lord of the Rings where I was expecting an obvious quest in the culmination of something grand. What I received was a sort of lazy, fanciful wandering by Anodos as he continually encountered faerie princesses and maidens, along with a knight, giants and other evil malefactors. While there were instances of adventure and situations where he had to employ his strength and good sense, these instances seemed solitary experiences that did not connect to the whole. I just couldn’t figure out the point of the story. When I couldn’t find it, I was left somewhat disappointed and unimpressed. Flash-forward to my second reading this year and an epiphany! ….
The Secret Adversary: “It was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7th, 1915.”
Detectives: Tommy Beresford & Prudence “Tuppence” Cowley
Published: 1922 (Christie’s 2nd published book)
Length: 308 pages
Setting: London; Bournemouth; Holyhead, Wales; Kent
Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley are childhood chums who meet up after the war. Tuppence, the daughter of a clergyman, wishes to spread her independent wings and Tommy, demobilized after the war, is looking for a new direction in life. As neither is flush with money, they put their entrepreneurial brains together and decide to launch The Young Adventurers, Ltd. Overhearing them, a man named Whittington follows Tuppence and claims he’s interested in her services. Immediately wary, Tuppence gives her name as Jane Finn, the assumed name which she’d heard earlier from Tommy. The appellation causes Whittington to react nearly apoplectically and the following investigation sends them on a whirlwind of adventure from which they are unsure if they’ll return alive!
The Ritz London ~ source Wikimedia Commons
Last week’s Top Ten Tuesday were books that I meant to read in 2018 but didn’t which is a looking back on the year, so how could I resist this weeks topic of ten books I’m looking forward to reading this year, which, of course, is looking forward. It’s mostly better to look ahead than back. 😉 Actually, the topic is the ten newest reads I’ve added to my TBR list, but being somewhat of a non-conformist, I thought I’d change it up a bit.
While there will be one overlap from my last Top Ten Tuesday topic, I have mostly new choices in mind for this list. Luckily I plan to read more than ten books this year!
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville- yes, this is a repeat from my last list but who could resist this cover?!! And Brona’s is having a read along in February …. isn’t she …..??
- How To Be A Friend: An Ancient Guide to True Friendship by Marcus Tullius Cicero – this one not only looks great but looks to be a relatively easy read which is not always the case with Cicero
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: “The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as ‘The Styles Case’ has now somewhat subsided.”
Detective: Hercule Poirot
Published: 1920 (1st published book)
Length: 224 pages
Written at: Dartmoor
Published in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is not only Agatha Christie’s first published novel but the first to introduce the reader to Hercule Poirot, her fastidious yet likeable Belgian detective whose mind nimbly gathers clues, deftly processes information and cunningly solves murders with style and aplomb.
~ source Wikimedia Commons
So ….. books I meant to read in 2018 but whoops ….. Never mind Top Ten Tuesday for this topic; for me it should be Top Fifty. But I will try to be considerate and in the spirit of not boring you to death and making your eyes glaze over, I’ll keep it to ten …… I think ……. 😉
So here we go!
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Age of Innocence: “On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.”
It’s 1870s New York, the Gilded Age of America, where substantial economic growth has bred a culture of wealth, class and entitlement. There are certain ways you behave and certain ways you don’t. The approval of the masses govern your actions and if you fall out of step, the resulting repercussions could be fatal to your social standing. However as opulent as the “gild” may appear, gilding is often used to mask flaws, and Wharton, in this Pulitzer Prize novel, examines the cracks and blemishes of New York society underneath the glamour.
The Age of Innocence (1785 or 1788) Joshua Reynolds source Wikipedia
Newland Archer is a young man who is firmly entrenched in the Gilded Age, the dictums of New York society inscribed in his soul with the expectations of the generation preceding his firmly entrenched in his behaviour. Then enters Madame Olenska. Ellen Olenska is the cousin of his betrothed, May Welland. While May is simple and uncomplicated, sort of a clear mirror of the society in which they move, Ellen is foreign and complex and holds an attraction for Newland that draws him outside of his societal shell, allowing him a new perspective on life. Suddenly the world he saw as sensible and practical now receives a critical appraisal from him as it appears small-minded, predictable and stifling. As his attraction for Ellen grows, so does his dissatisfaction. There is a possible turning point, but the break never materializes as Newland and May wed, beginning their married life. Yet Ellen appears in their lives yet again and the uncomfortable unknown is always whispering around us: will Archer satisfy his longing and run away with Ellen or will old society New York curb his emotions and steer him on a more dutiful course?
The True Saint Nicholas: “Like many good things, this story begins with a mother’s prayer.”
I downloaded The True Saint Nicholas on a whim as I was trying to accomplish my reading for A Literary Christmas challenge but I decided to read it for my Christian Greats challenge instead. Oh my, what a amazing book, a fascinating biography of this wonderful saint and his transformation into Santa Claus.
Icon of Saint Nicholas by Jaroslav Cermák ~ source Wikipedia
Raised in a prosperous family, Nicholas showed an early intelligence, growing up to become a priest and then experiencing an unexpected appointment as the bishop of Myra. Thus began the Great Persecution under Diocletian where Christians, being suspected as enemies of the empire, were imprisoned, thrown to lions, roasted alive or torn limb from limb. Churches were destroyed and scriptures burned. Galerius followed Diocletian with even stricter edicts, imprisioning and torturing Nicolas until the people became weary of bloodshed and Galerius reinstated Christian rights. Finally Constantine, after seeing a vision of the cross, conquered the empire and proclaimed freedom of religion whereupon Nicolas was eventually released. Both mental and physical destruction of church and families brought about by the Great Persecution was evident in Myra but Nicholas, buoyed by a new inner strength gained by his time in prison, supported people in a way that was nothing short of miraculous and “the doors of his house were open to all.” With his deep trust in God, Nicholas faced life’s challenges with a calm yet active faith which endeared him to all people. Tradition says he was one of the bishops who attended the Council of Nicea which gave us the Nicene Creed, slapping the face of the priest, Arius, who was spreading heresy. He was detained for his troubles but later released. Our good saint spent the rest of his life in Myra, serving the people and in his later years, his greatest joy were the children who came to him. In 340, Nicholas fell ill and died on what is now his feast day, December 6th. He was buried in a marble tomb in the city’s cathedral.
Idle Hours (1895) by Henry Siddons Mowbray ~ source Wikimedia Commons
In An Apology for Idlers, Stevenson takes up the call to support and promote idlers, however not idlers in the common sense. Idleness “does not consist of doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class …” There is a great deal in favour of diligence but there is also something to be said against it; Stevenson has picked up his pen to do so.
Stevenson first targets school, saying that books are all well and good in their place but “they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life”. The streets give just as good an education, as Dickens and Balzac discovered, as you can learn to see things from a new perspective.
Idle Afternoon (c.1874) by Gillett Holdredge ~ source Wikimedia Commons Public Domain