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Archive Entries for September 2011

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Friday September 30, 2011

Books in September

  • After the Armistice Ball Catriona McPherson [read by the Hilary Neville]
    BOM-AfterTheArmisticeBall.jpg This was recommended by Alison as a "book I would like", and my goodness how right she was. I have been a slave to Dandy Gilver ever since. The rather dramatic appeal for me is less in the thriller/mystery - although I have to say immediately I think the plots are excellent and very cleverly related to their time - but much more in the writing and background. I can barely believe that the (relatively young) author is able to evoke such an authentic sense of time, manners, and period language. [I grew up as a late baby in a family full of relatives for whom "between the wars" was their prime, where vinegar papers, the art of stain removal (without washing), and the way to natural glossy hair (with infrequent washing otherwise it would all fall out) were all very familiar.]
    Dandy's first meeting with Alec in this book is so perfectly expressed that it tugs at the heart (my heart anyway) demonstrating their deep connection which remains unexpressed: I think it would have been at that moment, if I were the type to fall in love, that I should have fallen in love with Alec Osborne. And in subsequent books, Dandy's maturing relationships with her husband, children, and Alec are wholly and believably described with humour and sympathy.

  • The Shape of Water Andrea Camilleri [read by Mark Meadows]
    BOM-TheShapeOfWater.jpg The first Montalbano story with our streetwise but honest Sicilian police inspector - irascible but always compassionate. In this introduction to Montalbano, he is determined to unravel the truth when a local bigwig is discovered deceased, apparently in flagrante, on waste ground much used at night by drug dealers and prostitutes. The powers-that-be want the case closed quietly with the coroner's verdict of natural causes, but Montalbano is not satisfied. This is also our introduction to Ingrid Sjostrom and explains the roots and somewhat complicated nature of his ongoing friendship with her.

    'What shape is water?'
    'Water doesn't have any shape!' I said, laughing. 'It takes the shape you give it.'
    [The truth] 'is up to you to discover, if you so desire. Or else you can stop at the shape they've given the water.'

    [Writing a subsequent note here to say I was totally confused by the now famous 2017 film of he same name - excellent and well worthy of its reception and awards - but nothing to do with this book!]

  • About Face Donna Leon [read by David Colacci]
    BOM-AboutFace.jpg This is the 18th Brunetti novel - which is as interesting, amusing, and well written as the previous 17. As usual, the author tackles political topics of the day as part of the story, revealing hypocrisy and corruption through Brunetti's liberal eyes. Other crime authors also use their books as a kind of soapbox for political topics but... I want to say that Leon does it with more subtlety, however that would not be correct. The points she makes are pretty overt, but to my (somewhat liberal) mind, she engenders far more interest in her stories than simply using her protagonist as a mouthpiece to deliver an instructive polemic.
    In this case, she discusses cosmetic surgery - Brunetti pondering why society should encourage a charming and educated young woman to mutilate her face - and, (a rather more specific topic for Italy or Naples at the time), the subject of waste management (lack of), and subsequent pollution resulting in long-term regional impacts. [The reason for the crisis in Campania in the 80s and 90s was due to corrupt awards of tenders to companies run by organised crime, which resulted in illegal dumping of waste.]
    The two subject matters become interwoven as part of a murder investigation.

  • Murder on the Short List Peter Lovesey [read by Gordon Griffin]
    BOM-MurderOnTheShortList.jpg This is Peter Lovesey's 'short list' of his best ever short stories. It includes the Crime Writers' Association's best short story of 2007, 'Needle Match', and features some of his most popular detectives such as Bertie, Prince of Wales, Sergeant Crib and Rosemary and Thyme.
    • The Field [Green for Danger 2003]
    • Bullets [Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunnits 2004]
    • Razor Bill [Sherlock, issue 60 2004]
    • Needle Match [Murder is My Racquet 2005]
    • A Blow on the Head [ID Crimes of Identity 2006]
    • The Munich Posture [The Rigby File 1989]
    • The Best Suit [Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine 2008]
    • The Man Who Jumped for England [Mysterious Pleasures 2003]
    • Second Strings [The Strand Magazine, June-September, 2004]
    • Bertie and the Christmas Tree [The Strand Magazine 2007]
    • Say That Again [The Ideas Experiment 2006]
    • Popping Round to the Post [The Verdict of Us All 2006]
    • Window of Opportunity [Sunday Express 2003]
    • The Case of the Dead Wait [Daily Mail 2004]

    I listened to this book on a CD from the library which unfortunately did not play on the final disk - after which I resorted to the book...

  • West End Girls Barbara Tate BOM-WestEndGirls.jpg
    A best-selling book, of interest to me mostly for the fact that it is autobiographical. It tells of Barbara Tate's life as a "maid" to a prostitute in Soho in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
    At the age of 17 Barbara Tate had won a scholarship to Ealing School of Art, and subsequently went on to achieve fame as an artist, but this is the extraordinary account of her first few years after college, full of life and colour, and vividly depicted, rather like a painting itself. Tate moved from the naivety of thinking she was to be employed in housework, to being educated in the ways of survival in the shabby backstreets of Soho. A true story of adventure, survival and growing up.

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 4:15 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday September 29, 2011

South Pacific


Another opportunity to see my favourite musical at the Barbican in a limited 7 week run - and as Rob's a member, we got tickets. This is the (lavish) Lincoln Center Theater production which is is on a (much awaited) tour.
Anyway - it was lovely.

Posted on September 29, 2011 at 11:22 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday September 2, 2011

Three Days in May


The "three days" covered in Ben Brown's play are 26th-28th May 1940. Churchill is Prime Minister despite not having universal support from the Old Boys Club that ran (or run) the country - definitely a class ridden debate on his suitability. He is seen as a war-monger at a time when many felt that peace would be a better option. Churchill is certainly all for fighting on (to the bitter end) but has to use all his skill to coax and manipulate the players towards his point of view. Both Halifax and Chamberlain were for a negotiated peace - although Chamberlain while believing in "peace in our time" could not forget Hitler’s broken promises afters the 1938 conference ("I have in my hand a piece of paper...") .
A marvellous opportunity to see Warren Clarke on stage at Richmond Theatre - he really is Churchill - and Jeremy Clyde - a particular favourite of mine - is terrific as Halifax.

"Nations that went down fighting rose again, but those which surrendered tamely were finished."
[from Into the Storm 2009]

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 11:22 PM. Category: Art and Culture.