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2014 50 Book Challenge - Page 38

post #556 of 1936
Clockwise counting 36/50: John Dickson Carr - The Burning Court (1937)

A sensational mix between a traditional locked-room mystery and a tale of witchcraft and the supernatural. JDC must be the champion of the so called golden age mystery writers, probably one notch above Agatha Christie. Lots of strange twists and turns until the very last page of the epilogue. Very well done and I will come back to JDC for more of the same.
post #557 of 1936
48. Bring Up The Bodies, by Hilary Mantel (2012)

This is the sequel to Wolf Hall, which won Mantel the Booker Prize a couple of years ago. It continues her tale of the machinations of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII, this time focusing on his part in the downfall of Ann Boleyn.

Henry VIII's is a familiar story, and Mantel's account doesn't really grip until the climax approaches and the true source of Cromwell's thirst for revenge is revealed. The final act in Ann's downfall is well told, but there is a lot of meandering before that.

I've never really got the fuss over Mantel, with critics calling her a great English writer and describing her writing as "brave" (for affectiontely depicting a man who has been dead for 600 years?). Sure it's good historical fiction, but it's not great literature. Still, I thought the same about Wolf Hall, so what do I know?
post #558 of 1936
Clockwise counting 37/50: Guy de Maupassant - A Woman's Life (1883)

This was de Maupassant's first novel but every bit as brilliant as his other two masterpieces Bel Ami and Pierre et Jean. It is the story of Jeanne, a woman from Normandy, and the cruelties she experiences through the course of her life. It is a fabulous and grand tale about the naive girl who falls in love with the wrong man, gives birth to and brings up a son who will break her heart, a fortune is lost and the social standing of the family completely ruined. Excellent misery! I loved it.
post #559 of 1936
84. Black Light Stephen Hunter 1996 The final book in the Point of Impact trilogy. Swagger solves the riddle of his father's death with the help of the oldest son of the hero in Book 2, Dirty White Boys. Pretty good actually. If I were to read Hunter I would recommend this trilogy first. As Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town are to Springsteen, so these novels are to Hunter.

85. A Wanted Man Lee Child 2012 We revisit the famed ex-MP, Mr. Reacher. He's never really a wanted man so the title is misleading. But he thwarts a Middle Eastern group of bankers catering to terrorists. He beats very few guys up and doesn't sleep with any women. Perhaps he's reforming. A good read. but not Child's best.

Think I will make the 100, but I really should read 5 more serious books. That is my goal.
post #560 of 1936
49. 1835:The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, by James Boyce (2012)

This is a major new history of my home town, Melbourne. Boyce describes the original incursions into the grasslands around what is now Melbourne from Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania). He makes the point that this was a flagrantly illegal act even under UK law at the time, and only proceeded because the Government of the day chose to look the other way. This had devastating consequences for the Aboriginal owners of the land who were hunted off, killed, starved and subject to disease; only a few years after 1835 most of the natives were dead.

The book is a corrective to the image of the noble frontiersmen that we have all ben traditioanlly fed about the likes of Batman and Fawkner, firmly re-framing them as cynical entrepreneurs out for big profits by operating outside the law. A really interesting read.
post #561 of 1936
Clockwise counting 38/50: John Dickson Carr - He Who Whispers (1946)

This is an extraordinary mystery novel by this master of the genre. A most complex chain of events behind some baffling crimes which creates a long series of lose ends neatly tied up in a most surprising way by genius problem solver Dr Gideon Fell. 

An English industrialist in France is killed with a sword in a tower in which no other person, including a killer, could have been present. His son's fiancé is a possible evil spirit, even a vampire, but seems to not have had the opportunity to commit the murder even if she might have had motive. 

John Dickson Carr explores fear of the supernatural to great effect in what may be his masterpiece. There are admittedly a few less than plausible descriptions of how the characters react to various events and although JDC paints a nice and atmospheric picture of the personalities and locations, the author is clearly more interested in coming up with an intelligent and challenging puzzle than to bring real human feeling into his novels. Nevertheless, within its genre it can hardly get better than this.
post #562 of 1936
86. Steppenwolf Herman Hesse 1927 Autobiographical fiction. The title reflects the author's conflict between his human and Steppenwolf sides (lone wolf of the steppes) sides. A very intricate and difficult to understand book. The book's protagonist, Henry Haller, is a fiftyish man who is depressed and frequently contemplates suicide. He meets a younger woman who shows him the good things about his life and then helps him transcend what he believes are his flaws.

More difficult than my usual fare, but I liked it very much.
post #563 of 1936
Just announced today, Bring Up The Bodies has won the Booker Prize. I haven't read the other finalists yet, but I can't say I agree with statements such as "Hilary Mantel has rewritten the rules for historical fiction" made by the Chairman of the Booker committee. I've read a fair bit of historical fiction, and her writing is not any breakthrough that I can see. I need someone to explain this to me, I guess.
post #564 of 1936
49a Quarterly Essay. Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott, by David Marr (2012)

This was a quick read, so I won't claim it. Journalist David Marr gives us a profile of Australia's hard-right Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. An earlier profile by Marr of Kevin Rudd is considered to have made a significant contribution to that PM's downfall. This time Marr shows us an Abbott who has never fully left behind the thuggish tactics of his youth in university politics, his inability to accept homosexuality (even in his own sister) and his ongoing conflict between his strong Christian principles and his political pragmatism. Abbott is almost certain to be PM by late 2013, and this profile leaves you wondering just what the hell we are in for when Australians do finally elect him.
post #565 of 1936
87. The Second Saladin 1982 Stephen Hunter Deals with some old business from the Kurds, Russians, Iraquis, and Americans. Book is muddled. Story doesn't follow. A poor imitation of LeCarre. Don't read it.
post #566 of 1936
88. The Spanish Gambit Stephen Hunter 1985 Deals with espionage during the Spanish Revolution. Certainly not Hemingway or Le Carre. Definitely a must (NOT) read.
post #567 of 1936
Clockwise counting 39/50: John Galsworthy - The White Monkey (1924)

After The Forsyte Saga, Galsworthy continues his amazing story about the Forsytes with a second trilogy called A Modern Comedy. This novel is the first of that trilogy and the focus moves to Soames Forsyte's daughter Fleur and her husband Michael Mont. It is the "lost generation 20's" and everywhere among the English (upper middle class) society there is a feeling of something having been irretrievably lost and a sense of meaninglessness prevails.

Soames gets accidentally dragged into a financial scandal in an insurance company of which he is a recent director of the board. Although he is unwaveringly correct in his ethical decisions, his reputation gets tainted. Fleur's marriage is threatened by her search for love and real meaning in her own life and there is a sense of old family conflicts soon coming back to do further damage. 

At the same time a massive soap opera of its time and a classic piece of literature with fascinating investigations into human frailty and a country in decline, The Forsyte chronicles is one of the mandatory reading experiences of the 20th century.
post #568 of 1936
50! The Hunger Angel, by Herta Muller (2009)

Saw this at the library. Muller won the Nobel Prize so I figured she must be worth a look.

The book is about Leo, a young Romanian who is taken at the end of the war to Russia and interned in a forced labour camp. The book is a series of vignettes about different aspects of camp life. The title refers to Leo's sensing of his hunger as being so overwhelming that it takes on a separate personality and torments him.

It's a bit reminiscent of Ivan Denisovich, but I don't think it's nearly as good. Partly because the latter was so much more succinct, but also because Muller's conclusion seems rushed and vague. After reading such detailed accounts purportedly being remembered from 60 years later, It's a stretch to believe that somebody could remember all this, but nothing about how he got out and got home, which Muller glosses over entirely.

So that is it! I don't need to read another book for the rest of the year, right?
post #569 of 1936
Quote:
Originally Posted by California Dreamer View Post

50! The Hunger Angel, by Herta Muller (2009)
Saw this at the library. Muller won the Nobel Prize so I figured she must be worth a look.
The book is about Leo, a young Romanian who is taken at the end of the war to Russia and interned in a forced labour camp. The book is a series of vignettes about different aspects of camp life. The title refers to Leo's sensing of his hunger as being so overwhelming that it takes on a separate personality and torments him.
It's a bit reminiscent of Ivan Denisovich, but I don't think it's nearly as good. Partly because the latter was so much more succinct, but also because Muller's conclusion seems rushed and vague. After reading such detailed accounts purportedly being remembered from 60 years later, It's a stretch to believe that somebody could remember all this, but nothing about how he got out and got home, which Muller glosses over entirely.
So that is it! I don't need to read another book for the rest of the year, right?

Congrats on the magic 50.
Next task is to catch up with Steve B.
post #570 of 1936
Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwise View Post

Congrats on the magic 50.
Next task is to catch up with Steve B.

I think he's out of my reach by now. :-)
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