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Archive Entries for November 2011

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Wednesday November 30, 2011

Books in November

  • The Babes In The Wood by Ruth Rendell [read by George Baker] BOM-TheBabesInTheWood.jpg
    I belatedly decided to start knitting a Christmas cardigan for George in late November - I worked out that 6 weeks was enough. (And in fact it was - I finished it at 4am Christmas morning... but that's another story). So this nineteenth Wexford book was a perfect accompaniment. It's a slow moving plot, probably following a more realistic pace for a police investigation. A babysitter along with her 2 young charges mysteriously go missing - the parents are immediately convinced they are dead, and after the police fail to find any trace of them that's the only realistic conclusion. It's not until many months later that the discovery of a car wreck and a body reopen the case.
    The memorable thing about this book for me is the descriptions of the season and the weather, which echo the flooding throughout the country in recent years. Every morning Wexford watches the water as it rises - and then eventually recedes in his garden.
    There hadn't been anything like this kind of rain in living memory. The River Brede had burst its banks, and not a single house in the valley had escaped flooding. Even where Wexford lives, higher up in Kingsmarkham, the waters had nearly reached the mulberry tree in his once immaculate garden.

  • Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard KiplingBOM-PuckOfPooksHill.jpg
    I found this book a bit hard going, about which I am rather ashamed considering it's intended for children. It is something of an instructional book from Kipling, presented in an entertaining way. The basic idea is that on Pook's Hill, two children meet Puck, a mischievous and capricious magical being (as more famously depicted by Shakespeare). Puck takes them on magical journeys which illustrate the stories he is telling them, which are set in different periods of English history. Since it is fantasy I am tempted to relate it to the Just-So stories but this book interweaves something of historical fact and literature into the tales (hence educational).
    Being a Sussex girl (though West not East) I was interested in the location of Pook's (or Pook) Hill; the book fairly clearly describes the landscape in the area around Bateman's, and there seems to be evidence for Pook Hill with a house or farm bearing the name, but the existence of name and place prior to the publication of the book is debated by Kipling researchers.
    Finally - why did I want to read this book? In my childhood home we had a few ancient books - plain covered - no dust jackets - which I discovered offered a treasure trove of escapism once opened and read. One such Was Rewards and Fairies - the title made no sense to me and again I found it too hard going and never finished reading it. I was aware that it was a sequel to Puck of Pook's Hill and felt that it assumed you already knew the premise.
    [I was interested in Puck talking about fairies ("People of the Hills" - they "don't care to be confused with that painty-winged, wand-waving, sugar-and-shake-your-head set of impostors") in England saying that they used to be plentiful "a few hundred years ago" but "Unluckily the Hills are empty now, and all the People of the Hills are gone. I'm the only one left". I have not looked into the folklore at all but I notice this as a point in common with Susanna Clarke's fairy books suggesting similar traditional ideas. The title of the sequel that so mystified me is from Richard Corbet's poem Farewell, Rewards and Fairies which laments the fairies' departure "But now, alas, they all are dead; Or gone beyond the seas...".]

  • Faceless Killers by Henning MankellBOM-FacelessKillers.jpg
    Having enjoyed the TV adaptations for so long, I thought it was about time I read the books - there are only about a dozen and in 2009 Mankell published what he said to be the last in the series. In fact, the TV series that defined the actor Jan Krister Allan Henriksson as Wallander to me (and many) is not an adaptation of the books but a kind of follow-on series where his daughter is adult, and the series begins where she starts her active duties as a police officer alongside her father; the story-line was really intended to focus more on her. Wallander comes over more of an avuncular figure than he appeared in the books, I think - maybe he mellowed with age.
    Faceless Killers was dramatised later as one of the British TV adaptations starring Kenneth Branagh, (rather too handsome for the role I fear), but prior to that I saw an earlier manifestation of an altogether less appealing Wallander, played by Rolf Holger Lassgård, who I think was more true to the character as written.
    This story begins in a remote farmhouse where an old man has been tortured and beaten to death, along with his barely surviving wife. When the news leaks that 'foreigners' may be responsible it unleashes a tidal wave of racial hatred in the area. Mankell's books always highlight social issues, injustices, and racism in Sweden; he intentionally sets them in Ystad, which, prior to the success of his books, was known as a historic medieval town set in a beautiful and peaceful coastal area. He reveals its darker side, using it as an allegory for the state of modern Sweden. Now of course Ystad and Malmö are mostly known (by foreigners anyway) for 'Wallander tourism'.

Posted on November 30, 2011 at 1:27 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)