Just so that I start the year with a clean slate, let me take a shortcut and review 3 books in one post:
Alexandre Dumas, The Lady with the Velvet Collar (1851):
A short, spooky classics that I borrowed from the YA shelves. I guess teenagers now are used to much worse gore and Halloween stories, but Dumas must be spinning in his grave because I guess he meant serious (adult) readership. The hero of his tale is the real writer E.T.A. Hoffmann of Offenbach’s fame, who supposedly wished to visit Paris in 1793 . Mmh, perhaps not the best of times to enjoy
the Eiffel Tower and les petites femmes the country of arts and freedom, at the height of revolutionary Terror. His first impression of the city of lights is the public beheading of Madame Du Barry, the King’s mistress, at the Guillotine, and the poor lad is understandably in shock. The rest of the novella is a mix of supernatural and horror, and quite successful to chill the atmosphere, except for the very verbose Dumas writing (I guess he was paid by the word).
Chi Li, Life Show (2001)
A contemporary Chinese bitter-sweet romp about ordinary people in Wuhan. The novel follows a family with four siblings. The pillar of the family is a courageous woman, small restaurant owner whose specialty is cooked ducks necks (inspiring cuisine, uh?). I loved every page of it, as it managed to reflect the simple life of many Chinese. The plot didn’t exactly favor happy endings, and it was probably for the best.
Sarah Caudwell, The Sybil in her Grave (2000)
I love Sarah Caudwell’s witty mysteries, that’s about as simple as that. Need to elaborate? Tax lawyers (with insider dealing scandals) meet classic English countryside murder à la Inspector Barnaby, complete with the vicar and gossip. Also a funny sub-plot involving the completion of remodeling works at the barristers’ office that got me laughing in recognition (apparently getting craftsmen to show up and finish projects is difficult on both sides of the Channel). If you haven’t try Caudwell, write her up in your 2012 reading plans, trust me.
Well, that’s it for this year! I’ll be compiling stats soon, but in the meantime, I wish you a very happy New Year, whether you’re celebrating big or keeping it quiet. At the Smithereens’, we keep it very simple this year and make a big waffle dinner. I’m off to prepare a huge jug of batter for the entire evening…