nnozomi: (nodamecello)
2017-03-26 08:03 pm

Book binge, 2017 spring edition

So I went home to New York for a week (the city is still standing, at least) and bought many many books, as recorded here. A pretty good haul in terms of both quality and quantity.

Peter S. Beagle, Summerlong
Not one of Beagle’s best, but with some lovely moments—Abe comparing playing the harmonica with the band to what he should have felt in Temple on the High Holy Days, Lioness saying Lily’s name, and all of Joanna.

Bill Hayes, Insomniac City
Beautiful and elegiac, resonating with love for New York and managing to describe his last days with Oliver Sacks without sentimentality.

James Brabazon, Dorothy L. Sayers
Well researched, but unexciting and curiously detached. Carolyn Heilbrun says in an essay somewhere that, while she appreciates Brabazon’s qualities of being English and Christian as qualifications for a Sayers biographer, she would have liked to do it herself, and it’s too bad she didn’t; this one could use more of a feminist, no, a woman’s slant.

Helene Tursten, Who Watcheth
The latest Irene Huss. A bit darker in places than I would prefer, but I like seeing Irene’s families—her husband and daughters, and her colleagues on the homicide team—doing all right. A pity there’s no ex-Superintendent Andersson in this one, though.

M.L. Longworth, The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne
Another Antoine Verlaque/Marine Bonnet mystery. Like the others there is some carelessness in both writing and editing—lots of typos of which the publishing house should be ashamed—and the plot isn’t very probable, but it’s fun. We let Verlaque get away with being a bit of a schmuck because the other characters know he is one too.

Ian Rankin, Rather Beat the Devil
It was dumb to buy this in New York, because Rankin is one of the few authors I’m likely to be able to find here in a timely fashion, but what the hell. Very readable, if shocking here and there as usual. Rankin has arrayed such good people around Rebus—Deborah Quant, Siobhan, and the essentially sweet-natured Malcolm Fox—that I worry about what he’s going to do to them all in the next volume.

William B. Helmreich, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows
The author is the guy who made me drool with envy by walking ALL of the streets in New York; this is the first of five projected guidebooks, one for each borough, based thereon. Even more talks with individual people would be fun, but it’s very entertaining.

Joseph R. Lash, Eleanor and Franklin
Not quite as intimate a view of Eleanor Roosevelt as I was hoping for, probably because rather than in spite of Joe Lash having been her close friend. When he was writing there were still a lot of people alive to be hurt, and a lot of papers not yet available, so that Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book goes into more detail about Eleanor’s emotional life (for instance, Lash barely distinguishes Lorena Hickok from the other woman journalists Eleanor worked with).

DW Gibson, The Edge Becomes the Center
Gentrification in New York, oral history of. Not quite as interesting as I was hoping for, but a good resource. Will pass it on to H if he wants it, assuming he still even remembers who I am.

Virginia Nicholson, Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes
Whether it was her original intention or not, Nicholson seems to be writing a social history of women in 20th century Britain, from single women in the 1920s to women in wartime, and now in the 50s. The end of the book suggests that she’s going on to the 60s next, which would be welcome too. She cites David Kynaston’s huge social histories of the same period, and seems to have been considerably influenced by them—although she doesn’t have quite Kynaston’s grace and fluency of writing, the book reads almost like an annex volume, focused exclusively on women—which is a good thing, with more smoothly presented information and less hammering a point home than in her 1920s book.

Ben Aaronovitch, The Hanging Tree
The latest Rivers of London mystery. Very much a series book—if you happened to come to it first it wouldn’t make a lick of sense—but highly satisfying if you have read the earlier books, with wonderful character work and dialogue, also nothing terrible happens to anyone we care about. Not quite enough good architecture for my tastes, and a few too many action scenes—as if the author is thinking ahead to movies or a TV series—but Sahra, and Lady Ty, and Nightingale.

Ellen Emerson White, A Season of Daring Greatly
Like the same author’s The Road Home, the heroine is a tough, smart, gifted young woman in a stressful situation—but fortunately professional baseball is not going to fuck up Jill Cafferty’s life quite to the extent that the Vietnam War did to Rebecca Phillips’. I like Jill and her mother and brother, I like the ensemble cast—and I’m glad she threw a Japanese guy in there—and the baseball talk, which I’m not used to hearing in English. Would enjoy a sequel with Jill as a successful veteran deciding whether to quit and go to college.

E.K. Johnston, Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Another with a heroine reminiscent of the author’s earlier work—Hermione does have a voice fairly similar to Siobhan’s, but since I like them both I’m not complaining. As with the Story of Owen, there are so many other side stories I want to know more about, I wish it wasn’t so short.

Frances Partridge, A Pacifist’s War and Everything to Lose
Diaries from the war and the 50s. Interesting contrast with Naomi Mitchison’s war diaries—they were almost exactly the same age, similar class and upbringing, both essentially leftist, but with completely different approaches to just about everything—Frances far more concerned with individual pleasure (she identifies herself as a hedonist), more monogamous (sorry, Naomi), less prolific with regard to work and children, less driven, without Naomi’s Scottish nationalism… . I’m sorry to say I’m more in Frances’ mold.