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Roughly Mid-Week Reading Whatever

I'm still a little out of commission as I have to sort 50 boxes of donated books and prepare for a work event, but here's a haphazard reading post anyway.

Now Reading

I picked up One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters from the library a while ago, but forgot I had it until yesterday. It's a murder mystery set at an English abbey in the twelfth century. In Shrewsbury! But I think this Shrewsbury is a real historical location, rather than a thinly fictionalized version of wherever the author went to school.

It's very infodumpy, with a fair amount of "as you know" reflection on the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, and the plot so far is charming (no superfluous corpse has shown up yet, but it probably won't be long now). I like the idea of a murder mystery set during a civil war -- lots of potential for musing about violence and politics in a setting where violence is commonplace, I guess? Under normal circumstances, one corpse is one too many -- but right now Stephen and Matilda are burninating the countryside like a couple of dragons, and everyone is on edge.

I haven't gotten very far, and I am having a little trouble focusing. I think the writing just hasn't clicked with me yet, though I'm curious to see where it's going.

The Catcher in the Rye is one of my 99 Novels, and I might try to finish it before I leave town. I just opened it up yesterday and found Holden's voice so captivating -- self-absorbed and defensive and earnest and irritating and sympathetic all at once. I didn't like him when I was an actual teenager, because he was whiny and immature; now my heart goes out to him for exactly the same reason.

About to Read

I've been saving My Brilliant Friend and The Once and Future King for a trip that's coming up, but I did glance inside The Once and Future King and it's just as good as I remember it. That description of Merlin's library was one of the most influential passages of my childhood, I think. My favorite thing about The Once and Future King is how kind T. H. White is to his characters, even the ones who are awful to everyone else.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2015 07:14 pm (UTC)
But I think this Shrewsbury is a real historical location, rather than a thinly fictionalized version of wherever the author went to school.

*nods* Yes, Shrewsbury is indeed real and Ellis Peters handling of it is, as far as I know, particularly accurate and awesome.

I'm glad you think the plot is charming so far & I hope you can get into the writing, because there are some lovely things to come in this and in the rest of the series if you do like it. But I know sometimes a style just will/won't work.

Did you finish Death at the Bar?
Jun. 18th, 2015 07:28 pm (UTC)
I did finish Death At the Bar last week, and completely forgot to say anything about it because I missed Murder Monday. It was great! Though I was kind of disappointed that [SPOILER!!!]the guy who was terrified of the police and kept making HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS speeches about being persecuted turned out to be the actual killer? I mean, it was kind of a perfect twist, because obviously no one that suspicious-acting could be the murderer in a murder mystery! but I ended up just feeling bad for him.

Ellis Peters very obviously loves and respects her period and setting, which is about 4000 points in her favor. I'm not sure what it is that isn't clicking for me, but I won't worry about it too much this early in the book.
Jun. 18th, 2015 08:09 pm (UTC)
So glad you liked Death at the Bar! I was trying not to say anything before, but while it is not one of my actual favourites (my faves depend on how much I like the guest characters really), but when I was doing my last re-read, I was struck by it and thought it would definitely be a contender for the best of hers as a murder mystery. Also, of course, I do like the bit of [Spoiler (click to open)]Alleyn & Fox interaction when Fox nearly gets killed ♥. (I got particularly annoyed with the TV version because not only did they change the romance, which I can kind of see why, but this was the most inappropriate place to stick random Nazis in.)

I have to say, Ngaio Marsh has quite a lot of sympathetic murderers. I like that. :-)
Jun. 18th, 2015 10:11 pm (UTC)
Poor Fox! Poor Alleyn! That was an excellent bit of interaction indeed ♥. And now I'm wondering where the random Nazis even come into the picture D:. I guess I'll find out eventually.
Jun. 19th, 2015 04:49 pm (UTC)
The show is so in love with random Nazis. I have no idea how they wound up in there, just that I nearly exploded at that point. I think that was when I broke up with the TV version, and refused to make-up even after they gave John Gielgud and Elizabeth Spriggs. ;-)
Jun. 18th, 2015 11:15 pm (UTC)
Aw, man. I may have to reread Catcher in the Rye sometime, because I also found Holden's whiny immaturity immensely aggravating when I was an actual teenager. I'm not sure why he grated on me so particularly, when there were other whiny teenage protagonists I adored. Maybe because Holden was supposedly Great Literature, or at least Good Enough to read in English class?
Jun. 19th, 2015 12:24 am (UTC)
Maybe! Or the combination of "this is supposed to be Great Literature, but this guy isn't special; he's just a whiny guy." I know that was a complaint when I was in high school.

I think for me I was just at my most insecure and self-absorbed, inclined to relate everything to myself in the most negative way possible. If a teenage character was lovable and talented and kind, then I resented them for being "perfect" and making me feel inadequate (even if I also liked the book); if they were confused and dogmatic and petulant and defensive like Holden, then I resented them for having a whole book to themselves and expecting my sympathy when they were no better than I was.

Fictional teens couldn't win with me -- it was always either, "Is this what you expect me to be like? I can't possibly measure up!" or "Ugh, is this what you expect me to be like? That's so insulting!" Now I'm old and grown and have nothing to lose, so I can take them as they are.

Edited at 2015-06-19 12:25 am (UTC)
Jun. 20th, 2015 01:53 pm (UTC)
I adored the Brother Cadfael books! I hope you're able to get into them. One Corpse Too Many is actually the second; the first is A Morbid Taste For Bones. IIRC, Peters didn't know, until she wrote the second book, that there was going to be more than one; so there's more of a conceptual gap between #1 and #2 than there is between any of the others. The series really hits its stride with the third, Monk's Hood, and I think the infodumping fades to minimal.

One Corpse Too Many does have to be read before any of the later books, because spoilers.
Jun. 20th, 2015 02:55 pm (UTC)
I hope so, too! Right now the prose is still pushing me out a little here and there, and some of the conversations are hard to follow, but Cadfael himself won me over when he was sorting out the execution pile and "binding fallen jaws, so that the dead face might be no horror to some unfortunate parent or wife who had loved it in life." This happens on Page 39, which is about the fastest I've warmed to a fictional sleuth since Marple. That bodes well, I think.
Jun. 20th, 2015 06:09 pm (UTC)
ITV did several of the Cadfael works some years back -- it was a pet project of Derek Jacobi, unless I miss my guess. Ellis Peters was still alive at the time of the first season, and probably squeed like a fangirl at Jacobi's involvement! The later seasons, produced after her death, skewed a good deal off of the books, and I thought them considerably weaker as a result; but Jacobi is, of course, fabulous.
Jun. 20th, 2015 06:20 pm (UTC)
Derek Jacobi + the twelfth century + detection sounds like a winning combination to me. I will have to check these out!
Jun. 20th, 2015 09:57 pm (UTC)
Definitely! Wait till you've read the books, though. (spoilers!)

The series was filmed in Hungary, and is truly gorgeous.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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