heliopausa (heliopausa) wrote,

Books read in 2017

E. F. Benson The Luck of the VailsMystery/romance. with family heirloom, secret passage and curses.  I read it because E. Nesbit mentioned it in The Enchanted Castle - Mabel had read it, and thought it was "a ripping book".  I was interested because I was guessing that Nesbit put that in as a tip of the hat to a friend - and it's a connection I wouldn't have thought of drawing.  There's what looks like clear inspiration from one book to the other, too - and maybe a bit of teasing about ancestral halls and heirloom jewels and wildly romantic tropes.
It's not recommended at all - it's excruciatingly melodramatic, the mystery is no mystery at all (the Wicked Person might as well be wearing a hat saying Wicked Person) and the romance is equally foreordained. 

Dorothy L. Sayers Unpopular opinions Essays on theology, politics and literature, plus Sherlock Holmes pseudo-academia.  Dorothy Sayers is solidly worth reading, though sometimes more as an artefact of her time and class and nation than as a guide to theology or politics.  These pieces were all written in the shadow of WW2 (1935-1945) - there's polemic, including the "Are Women Human?" essay, and there's serious consideration of moral questions, and there's propaganda (morale-boosting stuff about Englishness) and there's the Holmes play-research and there's "Aristotle on Detective Fiction" thrown in as well. 
I found that she was best taken in small doses, but then books of essays are like that.  She is an energetic writer; often fun, sometimes scathing and emphatically not boring. She's informative, and can turn a sentence - she is much in love with the English language, as for example in her impassioned call to save the shall/will distinction.  Yes, recommended, partly as is, for her writing and her ideas, and partly for research into mid-century culture and thinking. 

Lois McMasters Bujold Komarr and A Civil Campaign  I read these two (consecutive books in the Vorkosigan series) because they came recommended by friends, and because I'd read several earlier books in the same series, and enjoyed them.  These, though, seemed like the author making use of an established readership to experiment with two new genres - mystery-thriller and comedy-romance, respectively. They were both pretty disappointing, with very broad-brush character-writing, unconvincing action (and reactions) and irksomely neat denouements. There were some good twists in the plotting, and if people want to know what happens to characters introduced earlier in the series they might want to read them, but overall, the writing felt perfunctory to me - not recommended.

Hannah Craik Olive I read this after reflecting on Trollope's writing about La Signora Madeline Vesey Stanhope, to see how Mrs Craik wrote about a physically abnormal heroine (not a disability, a slight curvature of the spine).  There's a good deal of talk about how it cuts her out of the marriage market, and also how this frees her to pursue a career as an artist.  There are some mildly heated remarks from Mrs Craik about the place of women in the art world, but she doesn't actually show her heroine working at this - the dismissive male artist is more really present. Interesting as a product of the times re: feminism, racism (a passionate pursuing Creole appears, but is sympathetically treated, to a point) and humanistic deism.  Not only sub-Bronte, it's sub-Yonge, IMO.  Recommended for interest in nineteenth-century novel-writing and thinking.

This entry was originally posted at http://heliopausa.dreamwidth.org/63104.html. Please comment here or there.
Tags: author: benson, author: bujold, author: craik, author: nesbit, author: sayers, reading
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