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Archive Entries for January 2022

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Monday January 31, 2022

Books in January

  • The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
    BOM-TheTwyfordCode.jpg Janice Hallett's second book offers another (quite different) innovative way of presenting a mystery story. Much of the text is a digital transcription of a number of audio files, apparently found on the mobile phone of a - now missing - ex-convict. This automated digitisation process is not perfect, and results in a writing style which has the effect of emphasising the educational background and underprivileged upbringing of the narrator. Indeed a lot of the story stems from his attempts to unravel a mysterious, somewhat traumatic, and imperfectly recalled event from his schooldays. The "code" of the title is (possibly) embedded in some books for children written in the 1940s by a prolific authoress now out of favour due to her mainly sexist and racist attitudes - sound familiar? I loved it. We are treated to short excerpts of Enid Blyton pastiche - clearly great fun for Hallett to write - and the protagonist, Steven, as a relatively newly-literate adult, seems to find the stories as compelling as most juniors did in their era. For myself, I was totally hooked as Steven unravelled the mystery, if not partly because the plot was (fully intentionally I believe) not without some similarities to those children's adventure yarns of old. The episodic nature of the "files", plus the constant fear for Steven's safety, made the book hard to put down.
    However, the above only describes some elements of what made the book appeal so much to me - for the rest, you will have to read it yourself. Overall, the story is a contemporary thriller completely grounded in a gritty reality, and has the most wonderful twist of a conclusion, which moves us far beyond childhood nostalgia and the Famous Five.

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber [Read by Jill Tanner]
    BOM-TheCrimsonPetalAndTheWhite.jpg I watched the BBC production of this book (over 10 years ago as it turns out) starring Romola Garai. It was an excellent production and I recommended the book to Alison (she likes a chunky read to get her teeth into) but I never read it myself. I do remember wondering how they managed to get such a lengthy tome into 4 episodes. However, now I have read it in full I think they did a remarkably good job. Of course, I would not recommend the screen version as a substitute for the book itself; the latter is wonderfully rich, full of fascinating characters, absorbing descriptions, and evoking a fantastic picture of Victorian life at every level. Despite its length I was sorry to have to finish it. It's hardly surprising that many readers (and screen watchers) were eager for more stories and episodes. However, I think the author had said all he wanted about the characters. The ending was left a little open, and the audience reaction reminded me of The Magus with everyone wanting to be explicitly reassured that it "all turned out alright". This includes me, since I had thought that there might more closure in the book itself, but this was not so. Nonetheless, I think, perhaps more than Fowles, the author strongly indicates that Sugar and Sophie will be "OK", (and that William never will be).
    Faber did subsequently write a short story collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories (which I did read) where he "returns to Silver Street to find it still teeming with life, and conjures further tantalising glimpses of Sugar, Clara, Mr Bodley" etc. This is not any kind of sequel - which it does not claim to be - nevetheless, a large number of fans seemed to find it disappointing, having had high expectations of that "closure". I think this says more about the readers than the book.

  • Mr Campion's Farewell by Mike Ripley [Read by David Thorpe]
    BOM-MrCampionsFarewell.jpg As I referenced when talking about Dune, Dick Francis, etc, I see that Albert Campion has become a franchise. He was a character created by Margery Allingham in the 1920s - apparently intended as a parody of Lord Peter Wimsey, which I can easily understand - but she died in 1966, and I thought so too did Campion. However, her last novel was completed posthumously by her husband, Philip Youngman Carter, who in turn wrote a couple more books, and then when he died in 1969, the baton passed, after some years, to Mike Ripley, who (with the approval and agreement of the Margery Allingham Society), completed Carter's last manuscript, which became Mr Campion's Farewell, published in 2014. (Phew!) Since then, Ripley seems to have published a Campion novel every year.
    So, back to the point - this novel.
    I enjoyed it for what it was... which was, I guess... everything I imagined it would be.
    After all, Ripley is a talented crime writer so really no less than I would have expected from him, retaining a fairly light-hearted treatment for a mystery thriller. I was particularly delighted at the absence of the brittle dialogue, and impenetrable 1920s "bright young things" jargon, which made the last Allingham book I listened to - Black Plumes - almost impossible to understand. So I think if you like the originals, you will like this one - as I did.
    At the same time I noted that at one point, while considering the "goings on" he is investigating at the quaint English village of Lindsay Carfax - which I can tell you has distinct shades of Christie's Bertram's Hotel - Campion concludes that the (not-so) secret society of "Carders", seems "all a bit childish really". And for me: completely worthy of Enid Blyton I would say...

Posted on January 31, 2022 at 11:12 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Friday January 28, 2022

Christmas Jigsaw - completed


Finally completed the Christmas jigsaw over teatime this afternoon.

Posted on January 28, 2022 at 6:37 PM. Category: Staying at Home. | Comments (0)