Pamelad's 100

Talk100 Books in 2019 Challenge

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Pamelad's 100

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Edited: Mar 31, 2019, 8:02am


1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
2. Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser
3. The Little Hotel by Christina Stead
4. In Matto's Realm by Friedrich Glauser
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
6. What Not by Rose Macaulay
7. Daydream and Drunkenness of a Young Lady by Clarice Lispector
8. With the End in Mind: Dying, Death, and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix
9. The Matriarch by G. B. Stern
10. Death of a Queen by Christopher St. John Sprigg
11. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
12. That's Not What I Meant by Deborah Tannen
13. The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski
14. Country by Danielle Steele
15. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
16. Outline by Rachel Cusk


17. The Puzzleheaded Girl by Christina Stead
18. Short Black 1 The Australian Disease by Richard Flanagan
19. The Skeleton's Holiday by Leonora Carrington
20. Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich
21. Unless by Carol Shields
22. The Evil Shepherd by E. Phillips Oppenheim
23. Back from the Dead: Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Justice in China by Jiahong He
24. The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy
25. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse


26. Down Below by Leonora Carrington
27. The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
28. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
29. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
30. The Common Good by Robert B. Reich
31. Loser Takes All by Graham Greene
32. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
33. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor
34. The Equestrienne by Ursula Kovalyk
35. Normal People by Sally Rooney
36. Happy Valley by Patrick White
37. A Cat, A Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki
38. Lamentation by C. J. Sansom
39. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Edited: Dec 2, 2019, 3:05pm


75. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
76. Surfeit of Suspects by George Bellairs
77. The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster
78. Arsene Lupin by Maurice Leblanc
79. Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper by Donald Henderson
80. Murder by Matchlight by E. C. R. Lorac
81. The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
82. Persuasion by Jane Austen
83. Ladies Bane by Patricia Wentworth
85. Family Matters by Anthony Rolls
86. The Threefold Cord by Francis Vivian
87. The Night of Fear by Moray Dalton
88. The House of Dr. Edwardes by Francis Beeding
89. The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers
90. Lucia's Progress by E. F. Benson
91. Trouble For Lucia by E. F. Benson
92. Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman


93. Deed Without a Name by Dorothy Bowers
94. Lucia in London by E. F. Benson
95. Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
96. Scarecrow: A Chief Inspector Pointer Mystery by A. E. Fielding
97. The House of Silence by Ralph Trevor
98. The Wedding-Chest Mystery: A Chief Inspector Pointer Mystery by A. E. Fielding
99. Midnight Murder by Ralph Rodd
100. The Yellow Streak by Valentine Williams
101. Miss Mapp by E. F. Benson
102. The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper


103. The Norwich Victims by Francis Beeding
104. Transit by Anna Seghers
105. Dr Wortle's School by Anthony Trollope
106. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
107. Joe Country by Mick Herron
108. A Wild-cat Scheme by E. M. Keate
109. The Glenlitten Murder by E. Philips Oppenheim
110. At the House of the Priest (Black Heath Classic Crime) by Sir John Adye
111. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

Edited: Dec 29, 2019, 2:57pm


112. The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude
113. Educated by Tara Westover
114. How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J. L. Carr
115. The Affair of the Thirty-nine Cufflinks by James Anderson
116. Black Sheep by Ruby M. Ayres
117. Address Unknown by Kressmann Taylor
118. The Beggar Man by Ruby M. Ayres
119. Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer
120. The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope
121. Prelude by Katherine Mansfield


122. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
123. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
124. The Snatch by Bill Pronzini
125. Peace by Garry Disher
126. No Man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell
127. She Came Back by Patricia Wentworth
128. Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope
129. The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham
130. Scrublands by Chris Hammer


131. The Marriage of Elinor by Mrs Oliphant
132. The Commandant by Jessica Anderson
133. The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
134. Burn This by Helen McCloy
135. The Impostor by Helen McCloy
136. Unidentified Woman by Mignon G. Eberhart
137. The Bellamy Trial by Frances Noyes Hart
138. The Chuckling Fingers by Mabel Seeley
139. A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
140. Cue for Murder by Helen McCloy
141. Murder for Pleasure by Howard Haycraft
142. All the Green Year by D. E. Charlwood
143. The Crying Sisters by Mabel Seeley
144. The Whistling Shadow by Mabel Seeley
145. One More Unfortunate by Edgar Lustgarten
146. Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys
147. The Dearly Departed by Eleanor Lipman
148. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum

Dec 30, 2018, 2:16pm

Welcome back and happy reading in 2019!

Dec 30, 2018, 3:07pm

Hi Pam.

Best wishes for a great year of reading.

Dec 31, 2018, 7:56pm

Thank you, Jen and James.

Dec 31, 2018, 9:17pm

Top Ten of 2018

The Backwash of War Ellen La Motte
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Submission Michel Houellebecq
Bosnian Chronicle Ivo Andric
The Line Becomes a River Francisco Cantu
The Unwomanly Face of war Svetlana Alexievich
The Periodic Table Primo Levi
Party Going Henry Green
Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio Amara Lakhous
Between a Wolf and a Dog Georgia Blain

Other contenders

The Dancing Bear Frances Faviell
The Daughters of Mars Thomas Keneally
Pedro Paramo Juan Rulfo
Memories - from Moscow to the Black Sea Teffi
Diana Tempest Mary Cholmondeley

Jan 2, 2019, 12:55am

I like the title Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio. :)

Good luck for your 2019 reading goals!

Jan 3, 2019, 3:59am

Finished the first book for 2019, Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.

Ursula Todd is born in England on a snowy night in 1910. She almost dies, and in one of her lives, she does. Initially I was didn't mind Ursula's alternative lives, despite being no fan of fantasy fiction, but when she ended up in Hitler's holiday compound in the hills I gave up and just plodded to the end of the book. A very long book!

If you don't mind fantasy, and an author who imagines that it is appropriate to base a fantasy novel on WWII, you might enjoy this book. Many people did. I thought the premise was tacky. If I'm going to read about WWII, I prefer an author who was there.

Jan 3, 2019, 10:48pm

Oh no! I loved Life after Life, and have the sequel high on Mt TBR! Oh well, life would be boring if we all had the same taste.

I do like how you persevered, even though you weren't enjoying it. I do the same! Really have to learn to just stop with books I'm not enjoying, life's too short. :)

Jan 4, 2019, 1:41am

I'd already read so much, and I had to see where the author was going. Teddy's survival is a bit too cosy! Enjoy the sequel.

Just finished Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser, which was written in 1936, but translated from German to English for the first time in 2004. Glauser, described as the Swiss Simenon, wrote a psychological detective series featuring the Swiss detective Sergeant Studer. Thumbprint is the first. It is surprisingly modern in its outlook, not at all a period piece. Glauser, an opium addict diagnosed with schizophrenia, spent much of his life in psychiatric hospitals.Many of his descriptions of people and surroundings are arresting in their technicolour oddness.

Studer is an honest man. He was once an inspector, but was demoted to the lowest rank for refusing to give up on a case that his superiors wanted to ignore, and has managed to work his way back to sergeant. Studer is an appealing, well-rounded character. He has arrested a young man for murdering his girlfriend's father, but something seems wrong, so Studer convinces the examining magistrate that it would be bad for his career not to allow Studer to reopen the investigation.

I plan to read the next book in the series, In Matto's Realm. Glauser's books are published by Bitter Lemon Press,, whose catalogue has quite a few interrnational crime novels that look to be worth trying.

Jan 4, 2019, 4:12pm

Have an enjoyable reading year.

Pedro Paramo is sitting in my TBR pile.

Jan 4, 2019, 5:29pm

>12 pamelad: I love international crime novels and I've never heard of Glauser. Great review - I'm adding it to my TBR.

Jan 5, 2019, 4:55am

>13 Zozette: Thank you. I hope you get to Pedro Paramo soon.

>14 jfetting: I've borrowed his next one, In Matto's Realm from the Open Library. Should be good - it's set in a psychiatric hospital.

Jan 5, 2019, 10:40pm

The Little Hotel by Christina Stead

Text Publishing's catalogue includes some Australian classics that have been hard to obtain for decades. I read The Man Who Loved Childrenmany years ago, but had never come across any of Stead's other books until now. The Little Hotel was first published in 1973, but it is set just after World War II.

The Little Hotel is a cheap tourist hotel in Lausanne, on Lake Geneva. It is the off-season, so most of the residents are staying for many months at cheap rates. Some have spent the years after the war drifting around the world, speculating in currency. Some are in hiding. Others are ill and have come to recuperate or to die. Apart from one sympathetic character, this is a group of selfish people, caught up in pettiness and vindictiveness.

This is a witty, satirical book. I found it very funny, but was glad it was no longer because I didn't want to spend any more time with such dreadful people. After this reintroduction to Stead's wonderful writing, I'm going to read more, starting with The Puzzleheaded Girl.

Jan 8, 2019, 12:40am

In Matto's Realm by Friedrich Glauser

In Matto's Realm takes place in a psychiatric hospital. The deputy director has called in Studer because both the director and a convicted child killer are missing. Matto's realm is the realm of madness, which affects the staff as well as the patients, and everyone connected with them. A foreign voice on the radio says, "Two hundred thousand men and women are gathered here to cheer me. Two hundred thousand men and women have come as representatives of the whole nation, which is behind me. Foreign states dare to accuse me of breaking a treaty. When I seized power this land lay desolate, ravaged, sick...I have made it great, I have made others respect it.."

The deputy director tells Studer, "The man who was talking just now was lucky. Had he had a psychiatric examination at the beginning of his career, perhaps the world might look a little different today. As I said before, contact with the mentally ill is contagious. And there are people who are particularly susceptible - whole nations can be susceptible. I once said something in a lecture to which people objected. Certain so-called revolutions, I said are basically nothing more than the vengeance of psychopaths."

Glauser is writing in 1936 so the psychopath is Hitler, but the tone is familiar. It was the background - the politics, the corruption, Suder's sympathy for the poverty-stricken working people , the world of the mental asylum with its warders, its experiments on the patients - that held my interest, more so than the plot. In fact, the plot was confusing, as befits a crime in an asylum.

Well worth reading.

Jan 9, 2019, 7:10pm

What Not by Rose Macaulay

First published in 1918, then swiftly withdrawn, Macaulay's book deals with eugenics, newspaper censorship and government control of people's private lives. The book predates Brave New World and 1984 and may have been an unacknowledged influence on both.

Kitty Grammont works for the Ministry of Brains, whose goal is to make the British people more intelligent. The rationale is that, had people been more intelligent the Great War could not have happened, and in future an intelligent population will avoid wars. The Ministry plan to achieve its goals with a mixture of training and eugenics. The population is classified according to intelligence, from A to C3. People in the lower groups must marry someone more intelligent, and A's must marry down, and as a result the average intelligence of the population will increase. People must be certificated in order to marry. Those below C3 cannot marry and reproduce; nor can people with genetic abnormalities in their families, no matter how how their intelligence classification. To enforce the rules, people who have unsanctioned children must pay huge fines, and those who follow the rules get bonuses. Newspapers are banned from criticising the actions and policies of the government.

Unlike Huxley's and Orwell's books, Macaulay's is set in the near future, and is obviously an extension of the current reality. It is far more human and domestic that the other two books.

Worth a read.

Jan 10, 2019, 3:31pm

>18 pamelad: - wow, that sounds great, I'll definitely check that out. Thanks, Pam.

Jan 13, 2019, 1:16am

>18 pamelad: Fascinating. I had Rose Macaulay classified in my mind under "travel" and "Christianity", but not as a pacifist. I see What Not is in Gutenberg. Two BBs in two posts from you.

Jan 14, 2019, 12:32am

>19 john257hopper: Very happy to be able to introduce you to one of my favourite writers.

>20 haydninvienna: I have always classified Rose Macaulay as a comic/satirical writer, and particularly liked The Towers of Trebizond and Crewe Train.

Jan 14, 2019, 2:10am

>21 pamelad: I knew that Rose Macaulay wrote religious books (I seem to recall her as being one of C S Lewis's correspondents), but all I know of The Towers of Trebizond is the famous first sentence.

Jan 22, 2019, 12:35am

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington

It made me laugh so many times. I'd be reading away with a small smile when something so ridiculous, so unexpected, would be so delightfully funny that I'd laugh out loud.

Marian Leatherby is 92 and has been living with her son and daughter-in-law for the last fifteen years. She's almost deaf, so she can't hear what her family is saying about her until her friend Carmella gives her a hearing trumpet. Carmella is a wonderful character, as are Marian and all the other old ladies in this book.

Weird things happen. Wait till you find out what happened to the leering nun whose portrait overlooks the dining table.

I don't usually read Fantasy, but I loved this book.

Jan 23, 2019, 6:19am

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski

Melly, a young mother suffering from TB, lies down on a chaise-longue and is transported into the 1860's where she finds herself in the body of Milly, who is dying of TB.

This book was written in the 1950s. The antibiotic triple therapy for TB had been discovered in 1952, so I could not believe that Melly might die of it, or that she needed to spend so many months in bed, except for the sake of the plot.

Feb 1, 2019, 5:02am

Outline by Rachel Cusk

The female narrator is a writer, in Athens to give a week-long writing course, in English, to a varied group of Greek students. The book consists of conversations with people the narrator meets, with the narrator saying, or at least recording, little herself. She contributes opinions, impressions, and bits of her own philosophy. Occasionally I would nod to myself and think, 'Well put," but mostly I didn't care about the people, who were writers, playwrights, academics, bankers and diplomats. A bit rarefied. I would have liked a shop assistant, or a cleaner to appear and be taken seriously.

Two main problems: the characters are too middle class; a distant, detached tone from a dreary narrator. Minor problems: she used the word 'enormity' to mean a very big thing rather than a very bad thing, and she used the word "concretise", so I couldn't relax. I kept expecting the wrong word to appear.

Not a terrible book, but I didn't much like it.

Edited: Feb 17, 2019, 12:31am

Unless by Carol Shields

Reta Summers translates the works of the famous writer, Danielle Westerman, from French to English, and is writing her second light comic novel. Her daughter, Nora, has dropped out of university to beg on the streets of Toronto, wearing the sign, Goodness, around her neck. Reta's hypothesis, arrived at with Westerman's input, is that Nora has embraced her female powerlessness.

An easy enough read, but I didn't like this much. Found it cringeworthy.

Edited: Feb 17, 2019, 5:19am

Svetlana Alexievich won The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.

From the Nobel website

Svetlana Alexievich depicts life during and after the Soviet Union through the experience of individuals. In her books she uses interviews to create a collage of a wide range of voices. With her "documentary novels", Svetlana Alexievich, who is a journalist, moves in the boundary between reporting and fiction.

In Second-Hand Time, the author's most recent work, the voices of Alexievich's witnesses chart the ending of the Soviet era.

The stories were personal, and went into people's thoughts and feelings and domestic lives, not just historical events. We learned a lot about the ways that real people lived in the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in the accommodations that loyal Soviet people had to make to accept Stalin, how people said that the Soviet way of life couldn't have happened without Stalin, despite the murders, the prison camps and the starvation that they had experienced. It was a surprise that no one knew about the war in Afghanistan, or the gulags.

I appreciated the layering of the stories. Similar events seen from different viewpoints, by different generations. Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin. The putsch. The inside view of the violence in Azerbaijan and Chechnya. The domestic violence.

The violence against women made a strong impression: alcoholics drinking away their wages and beating their wives and children; the young woman who went as a police officer to Chechnya and came home in a coffin, labelled a suicide but probably the victim of her drunken male colleagues; the young Jewish girl raped and killed by partisans.

The only negative, from my perspective, was the subjectiveness of the author's choices. It became clear, as the book progressed, that she was seeking out stories she'd heard of, and I wondered if she was looking for evidence to support her own theories: the Russian love of suffering; that Russians cannot be free; the love of war. It's a quibble, because we know that she collapses stories and people to make the narrative flow, so selecting the stories that fit the narrative is just another example of artistic licence.

I recommend this book highly.

Feb 17, 2019, 6:27am

>27 pamelad: - sounds fascinating and depressing in equal measure, Pamela, a great insight into a national psyche.

Feb 21, 2019, 2:10am

The Evil Shepherd by E. Phillips Oppenheim

A British crime novel published in 1922. I thought it was ridiculous and enjoyed it a lot. A bit of romance, a potential master criminal, a fine young Englishman. Oppenheim wrote hundreds of these.

Mar 3, 2019, 1:09am

23. Back from the Dead: Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Justice in China by Jiahong He
24. The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy
25. My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
26. Down Below by Leonora Carrington
27. The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa

23. An essay about a miscarriage of justice in China. A man's wife disappears and he is convicted of her murder. Eventually, his wife reappears. This case led to changes in China's legal system The author is a legal professor and a well-regarded writer of crime novels.

24. A book about statistics. We are more likely to believe and remember negative news, leading to over estimations of negative occurrences. It's not a new phenomenon. Interesting in this era of fake news.

25. A collection of short stories, some of which do not feature Jeeves and Wooster, and appear to be precursors of the Jeeves stories. I've read the good ones before, in various collections, and can see why the others have remained in obscurity.

26. After The Hearing Trumper I've become a Leonora Carrington fan, so had to read her account of an episode of insanity which led to her incarceration in a brutal Spanish asylum. She remembers her delusions and her obsessions and the behaviour they led her to. There's an eerie logic to what she thought and did.

27. A minor work by the Nobel Prize winner. The narrator, Ricardo, first falls in love with the bad girl when he is fifteen, and she a little younger. She appears in his middle-class Lima neighbourhood, masquerading as a Chilean to conceal her humble origins. Ricardo's obsession with the bad girl grows over the decades as she reappears time and again in his life, only to leave, driven by the search for money, security and excitement. About two-thirds of the way through things took quite a masochistic turn, which seemed out of character, but I'm no judge. Even so, I wanted to know what happened to the two main characters. Worth reading for Llosa's writing and an overview of four decades of Peruvian politics.

Mar 3, 2019, 4:32am

An eclectic mix of interesting reading, Pamela.

Edited: Mar 13, 2019, 2:56am

28. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

29. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Three stories about grief.

30. The Common Good by Robert B. Reich

The culture of "whatever it takes", winning at all costs has overtaken government and business. I read this book because I knew I would agree with Reich. That's part of the problem. Fortunately things aren't quite so bad in Australia, for which we can thank compulsory voting.

31. Loser Takes All by Graham Greene

A novella set in Monte Carlo. A romance of sorts, but I pity the woman who married the self-absorbed main character.

32. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock

A comic novel from 1818. It satirises the gothic and romantic novels of the time.

33. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

A girl is lost in the hills outside a small English village. She is never found. The life of the village goes on, but no one forgets the missing girl. The language and structure accentuate the people's daily lives and the passing of time. I lost track of some of the people, who appear briefly then reappear months or years later. If your memory is as bad as mine, I'd recommend making a list of characters.

Mar 18, 2019, 8:25pm

The ABC Murders is one of my favourite Agatha Christie books.

My copy of Down Below has arrived and I will probably be reading it next month.

Mar 19, 2019, 4:58am

>32 pamelad:, >33 Zozette: I have always particularly enjoyed The ABC Murders, too. There was an excellent dramatization of it on BBC Radio 4 a few years ago, starring john Moffatt as Poirot.

Apr 4, 2019, 2:10am

East is Always East by Pamela Wynne

I downloaded this book, first published in 1930, from Faded Page because I couldn't resist the description:

A story of two beautiful twin sisters taken to India by their mother, one of whom becomes the object of the adoration of an Indian, Prince Hernam Singh, whose mother, the Maharanee, is violently opposed to their marriage. So extreme is the hatred of the mother to this union of her son with the foreign woman that she plots to break it by kidnapping the girl and throwing her to him in the belief that his Oriental blood will tell, and that he will treat her as he is accustomed to treat women...

It took quite a while for the mother and her twin daughters to get to India because the widowed mother fell in love with a man she met in a London boarding house (a genteel one) and a lot of romance went on. The widow was attractive to men because she was slim, youthful, elegantly dressed and as thick as a plank. More romance ensued on the boat, resulting in one of the twins becoming engaged to an India-based British major, so on arriving in India there was only one eligible woman left.

It wasn't the plot that kept me reading, nor the characters. It was the authentic, British Raj racism. The author lived with her husband and family in Bombay and was part of the Raj. Her characters' racism is virulent and unquestioning. They advocate violence and are disgusted with the namby-pamby bureaucrats in Simla who fear riots. The author's descriptions of Indians reveal loathing and contempt. Even Ghandi gets a contemptous mention. The British officials want only to go home to Britain. I think these were the genuine views of the author, who provided an authentic glimpse into the last days of the Raj.

Apr 13, 2019, 11:11pm

Jane Harper's The Lost Man is set on a cattle station in outback Queensland, many hours' drive from the nearest small town, or even the nearest neighbours. The body of a man is found next to a stone monument, the only landmark for many kilometres. His fully equipped vehicle is parked 9 kilometres away, laden with food and water, but the dead man has died of dehydration in the searing heat. That's all the Australian atmosphere there is: heat, dust, distance. I could picture neither the countryside, nor the station house. The description of the outback was generic. There was absolutely no humour - none of the dry laconic outback wit you'd expect - everyone was deadly serious and dreary. Quite un-Australian. There was even some British slang coming out of the mouths of outback Australians. (The author has spent some time in Australia, but even more in Britain, where she was born.) This is a competent crime novel, except for the ending which is far too tidy, but it is not at all authentic.

Wildly over-hyped.

I have not forgiven Jane Harper for using the name of a revered Labor Prime Minister for the murderer in The Dry. Tone deaf.

Apr 13, 2019, 11:51pm

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

In contrast to The Lost Man Gessen's book is based on real people in a real place. Like his main character, Andrei, Gessen emigrated from Russia to the US when he was six and, as an adult, moved back to Moscow for a year to look after his grandmother. The book is set in 2008-9 The Soviet system is no more, the oligarchs have taken Russia's resources. Professional people are poor, and only businessmen and criminals are rich. Andrei's grandmother has been cheated out of her dacha, and is about to lose the flat she has lived in for over fifty years. Andrei gets involved with a group of idealistic young Russians who advocate a new era of Socialism but, in his American naivete, fails to understand the reality of the Russian system.

I have recently read Second-hand Time, about the collapse of the Soviet system. It increased my interest in Gessen's book, which is a snapshot of a group of people and the way they lived in the new Russia. It's full of day-to-day details: buying food, catching buses, finding an affordable coffee shop, trying to meet people, playing hockey. The centre of the book is Andrei's grandmother, who is gradually succumbing to dementia.

This is a warm-hearted, open-minded, observant book. I recommend it highly.

Apr 14, 2019, 12:14am

The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq

This was brilliant. It's funny, erudite and wrong. Jed Martin, the main character, is an artist. He is making a good living photographing industrial objects, but becomes fascinated by Michelin maps. His Michelin map artworks attract Michelin sponsorship, and a beautiful Russian Michelin employee. Jed becomes successful, rich, and famous, so famous that his backers employ the celebrated author, Michel Houellebec, to write the catalogue blurb for Jed's next exhibition. Houellebecq consistently describes himself as "the author of Atomised" and I laughed every time.

This book is a reflection on art and the art industry, marketing, capitalism, architecture, William Morris... There's an appallingly brutal murder, which you can't possibly take seriously. Jed helps to solve it.

If you like Houellebecq, read this. It won the Prix Goncourt.

Edited: Apr 14, 2019, 12:17am

They were numbers 43 - 45.

Apr 26, 2019, 2:12am

50. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

Amazon has offered another two free months of Kindle Unlimited, so I've sifted through the chaff and come up with this useful title. Edwards provides reviews of his 100 books, and mentions other books and writers in passing. I've read quite a few already, some of which I have rated highly and some as rubbish. Edwards loves a good locked room mystery, but I'm not so keen. I've found a few of his recommendations on Kindle Unlimited and have chosen some by authors I'd not heard of, and some obscure titles by authors I'd already encountered.

On the KU list: Calamity town by Ellery Queen; An Afternoon to Kill by Shelley Smith; Murder in Picadilly by Charles Kingston.

I've added a lot of others to my wishlist to read later.

Apr 30, 2019, 2:00am

Calamity Town by Ellery Queen An early Ellery Queen by the original writers. It's an artificial puzzle with a background of small town hypocrisy and viciousness. Flawed but readable.

Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert Set during WWII in an Italian prison camp for British officers. Atmospheric, with a ring of authenticity because the author spent part of the war in a similar camp. A good read.

I gave up on Murder in Piccadilly.

Apr 30, 2019, 2:08am

Just found that I read Death in Captivity in 2010. I did think it reminded me of something I'd read, but not the same book!

May 2, 2019, 4:56am

53. The Long Farewell by D. E. Charlwood

The voluntary passengers on the sailing ships that left Britain for Australia in the mid to late nineteenth century expected never to see their homes again. Some of them would never see land again, dying during the long and treacherous voyage. Others would make prosperous lives in their new country.

A few of the travellers kept diaries of their journeys, and Charlwood has mined them for the details that make his descriptions of these journeys so engrossing. In fact diaries comprise the the last few chapters of the book: a merchant travelling second-class; a married woman in steerage; a ship's doctor.

This was a Kindle Unlimited selection. Best one so far.

Charlwood also wrote All the Green Year, an Australian coming of age classic, and two books of autobiography about his experiences as a navigator in Bomber command during WWII. One of them, Journeys into Night is available in Kindle Unlimited, so I'll give it a go.

May 13, 2019, 12:00am

55. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

If you are interested in Russian history, do not read this book! It is a twee fairy-tale written from the snide perspective of a snobbish American.

Our book group chose it, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to finish it.

Some good books about Russia:

Second-hand Time and The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
Life and Fate and Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman
Memories: from Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi

May 13, 2019, 6:31am

>44 pamelad:. I entirely agree. I couldn’t work out why this book enjoyed so much success as I was unable to finish it.

Edited: May 13, 2019, 3:20pm

>44 pamelad:/45 - I am interested in Russian history, and did have some doubts about whether to read this. I downloaded it on my Kindle when it was 99 pence, but have yet to read it.

I have read Life and Fate, in many ways the 20th century's War and Peace.

May 22, 2019, 6:20pm

The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair

First published in 1917, this is the story of a middle-class English family. It touches on suffragism and spiritualism, but the main interest for me was the impact of WWI, described by someone who was living through it. By 1917, young men knew that their deaths were almost inevitable, but it was a matter of honour to enlist and to sacrifice one's life. Families were shamed if their sons did not enlist. From my perspective in 2019, the concepts of the nobility of sacrifice, the ecstasy of death in battle are toxic, but in 1917, with sons, brothers, friends and husbands dying at the front, people must have needed to comfort themselves that these deaths were for a purpose. I've heard the term "the war to end all wars", but this is the first time I've seen it written by someone living through it, who desperately needed to believe it.

Edited: May 22, 2019, 6:33pm

An Afternoon to Kill by Shelley Smith

This was a recommendation from The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. It's available on Kindle Unlimited.

A callow young man, on his way to a job as tutor to the son of a maharajah, lands in a north Indian desert when the plane he is travelling in has engine trouble. He makes his way to the only building in sight, a villa occupied by an eccentric old woman who tells him a story of deceit, corruption and murder as he waits for the plane to be repaired.


Jun 2, 2019, 4:04am

Sting of Death by Shelley Smith

You have to be lucky to find anything worth reading on Kindle Unlimited, so Shelley Smith's crime novels have been a real find. This one was set in the aftermath of WWII. It contains some well-drawn, worldly, obnoxious characters, as do all of the Shelley Smiths I've read so far. Having unwillingly ploughed my way through 460 pages of A Gentleman in Moscow, I'm pleased that these crime novels are short. This one was only 158 pages. Thank you, Shelley!

The others I've read but not mentioned are Come and Be Killed, The Ballad of the Running Man and The Party at No. 5. The last is in H. R. F. Keating's list of 100 best crime novels.

I am also reading Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope. Enjoying it. I don't think he ever wrote a bad book.

Jun 4, 2019, 10:34pm

The City & The City by China Mieville

In an effort to expand my reading range, I'm dipping into some genres I don't normally read, such as fantasy and science fiction. While I admired Mieville's imagination, attention to detail and craftmanship in the creation of the divided cities of the book, and was entertained by the story, I thought the elaborate construction was pointless.

I'm still planning to try some fantasy and science fiction classics, and have the following books on my list of possibilities: Dune, I, Robot, A Canticle for Liebowitz, Solaris, The Left Hand of Darkness. Any recommendations?

Jun 8, 2019, 4:53am

>50 pamelad: I could not get through Dune. The Left Hand of Darkness is on my Wishlist. I read I , Robot many, many years ago, I think I enjoyed it. I listened to Solaris about three years ago and gave it a 4/5.

Jun 9, 2019, 3:23am

>51 Zozette: Thank you. I'm starting with The Hand of Darkness.

Jun 9, 2019, 3:24am

The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald

This is difficult to describe, so I'll quote Susan Sontag from the back cover: "It's like nothing I've ever read.. A book of excruciating sobriety and warmth and a magical concreteness of observation.. I know of no book which conveys more about that complex fate, being a European at the end of European civilization. "

Sebald's narrator describes the lives of four men: two Jewish boys, a doctor and a painter, left Germany as children, finding out when the war ended that their families no longer existed; a primary school teacher with one Jewish grandfather was Jewish enough to lose his job, but German enough to be conscripted; before WWI the narrator's great uncle travelled the world as a paid companion to a fragile young man from a wealthy American Jewish family, and never recovered from the young man's early death. What the four men have in common is an early life of love and happiness that has been destroyed, leaving them living melancholy, twilight lives. The holocaust permeates the book, but is never named.

The narration seems to be balanced on the divide between fact and fiction. The four men are based on actual people, or composites of actual people, and the events that they experienced happened to actual people. There are extracts from diaries, old photographs and facsimiles of letters throughout the book, none of them captioned. There is no real plot, but the writing and the atmosphere draw you in.

I recommend The Emigrants highly, and will seek out another of the author's works.

Jun 9, 2019, 3:26am

The Emigrants is delicate, tactful, diffident.

It's an antidote to books like A Gentleman in Moscow.

Jun 9, 2019, 7:50am

>54 pamelad: -sounds good, Pamela, I will check that out.

Jun 15, 2019, 11:39pm

71. The Grass is Singing

Doris Lessing left Rhodesia for England with the draft of this book in her suitcase. It is the tragic story of two people, woefully unsuited to each other, whose marriage is the start of their destruction. The man is running his small farm into bankruptcy by sheer incompetence, while the woman, who is unable to help herself, becomes obsessed by an African servant. These two characters come alive, but the servant does not, and remains an archetype. Even so, this is a harrowing depiction of institutionalised racism in Southern Africa, where the native people are valued less than farm animals.

This book has been on my wishlist for years, ever since I read the Martha Quest series, also set in Rhodesia, also highly recommended.

Jun 15, 2019, 11:58pm

72. Queen Lucia by E. F. Benson

Like Noel Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Nancy Mitford and W. H. Auden who would "pay anything for Lucia books" I love this series. Lucia is the queen of the social scene in Riseholm, a small, English sea-side town. The competition for her position is ruthless, but Lucia can out-manoeuvre anyone. British high comedy at its best.

I am absolutely in the mood for Lucia because we had a meeting of the owners' corporation for our block of units yesterday. Ruthless oneupmanship! Started Mapp and Lucia, another in the series.

Jun 18, 2019, 5:31pm

I adore the Lucia books! Time soon for a reread, I think.

Jun 19, 2019, 2:54am

Fantomas by Pierre Souvestre

Fantomas is a ruthless criminal, a master of disguise. Juve is the policeman, also a master of disguise, who has dedicated his life to destroying Fantomas.

This French crime classic was first published in 1911. It is ludicrous, blood-thirsty and entertaining.

Jun 25, 2019, 5:06pm

Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson

Lucia has cemented her position as the queen of Riseholme's social scene and is in need of new territory to conquer, so she rents out her house in Riseholme and moves to Tilling. Miss Mapp has long established herself as the leader of Tilling's social scene so Lucia's incursion leads to a battle.

Trivial, waspish and very, very funny.

>58 jfetting: Absolutely!

Edited: Jun 30, 2019, 4:46pm

Top Six new reads so far this year:

The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
Second-hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq
The Little Hotel by Christina Stead
The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

Special mention:
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

Jul 2, 2019, 6:01pm

In case I'm missing out on some really good books by avoiding the science fiction/fantasy genre, I've read the classic The Left Hand of Darkness. I admired the imagination that could manufacture a whole new world, complete with language, but was irritated rather than entertained. A Canticle for Liebowitz is still on my list, but maybe next year.

Jul 15, 2019, 1:04am

Read two books from The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper is written from the perspective of a murderer who kills for amusement and wants to be caught. It was a light, entertaining read, but the levity made me cringe.

Murder by Matchlight was first published in 1945 and is set in London during the blackout. Atmospheric, but a very artificial plot. I was interested in the extreme prejudice against the Irish: ...he became a living symbol of what we used to call the Irish Problem. He had the wit, the versatility, the charm and the good looks of the real Southern Irishman - and he had the illogical, rebellious, thriftless living habits of that type.

How's that for a stereotype!

Jul 15, 2019, 1:06am

Read The Hearing Trumpet again, because I've inflicted it upon our book group. They had better like it!

Jul 15, 2019, 5:16am

>63 pamelad: - that kind of stereotype of a particular nationality is sadly very common in literature of that period. So, in a number of Agatha Christie novels, an Italian character is suspected as they're all hot-blooded and therefore more prone to stab people, and so on...

Jul 24, 2019, 6:28pm

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

Last year at the Melbourne International Film Festival, I saw Christian Petzold's film Transit, which was based on Segher's book. The film transplanted the story from 1942 Marseilles to a modern setting which didn't really work. I thought the pluses were probably due to the book, so I put Seghers on the wishlist. After reading The Seventh Cross, I'll definitely read Transit as well. Here's a review of the film:

The Seventh Cross was first published in 1942, and is set in 1936. People are already incarcerated in concentration camps for political dissidence, or because their neighbours denounced them. Outside the camps, the population is adjusting to the Nazi repression, pretending not to notice the screams coming from the camps and trying to stay out of trouble. The seven crosses stand for seven escapees from a concentration camp. Some of the escapees, including the main protagonist, are activist members of the Communist Party who will have to rely on their old friends and political networks for their survival.

This is a gripping, suspenseful story. Despite the desperation of the times, the message of human solidarity is uplifting. The author was Jewish and a Communist. She and her family escaped to Mexico just in time, but her mother died in a concentration camp.

Highly recommended.

Edited: Aug 24, 2019, 5:44pm

After a binge on obscure crime novels, most of them short, I've reached the hundred.

I can recommend the following:

Israel Rank by Roy Horniman is the book on which the film Kind Hearts and Coronets was based. The humour is darker than the film's. It reminded me a little of Diary of a Nobody and Augustus Carp, which is high praise.

Midnight Murder by Ralph Rodd is an entertaining, well written crime novel from the thirties.

The House of Silence, Deed Without a Name, Scarecrow: A Chief Inspector Pointer Mystery and The Wedding-Chest Mystery are so-so. I've been checking out republished Golden Age crime novels in the hope of finding writers who've undeservedly fallen into obscurity. Mostly, their obscurity is warranted.

I also read Janet Frame's Faces in the Water, fiction that is clearly based on her experiences in psychiatric hospitals in New Zealand in the forties and fifties. In vivid and poetic language, Frame describes a barbaric system where patients are treated as naughty children and ECT is used as a punishment. It would have been almost too harrowing to read, except for knowing that the narrator had escaped the system to write the book.

Aug 26, 2019, 4:49am

>67 pamelad: Congratulations on bringing up the century!

Aug 26, 2019, 5:22am

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Wow, It's great to read 100 books in a year. It's great to learn something new through these books.

Crane On Hire In Mumbai

Crane On Hire In Navi Mumbai

Aug 26, 2019, 5:47am

It really is an ad for a crane in Mumbai!

I don't need one. Thanks.

Aug 26, 2019, 5:49am

>68 Eyejaybee: Thank you.

Sep 9, 2019, 9:24pm

104. Transit by Anna Seghers. Still thinking about this. It deserves an thoughtful review.

105. Dr Wortle's School by Anthony Trollope. Just what I wanted: multi-dimensional characters, a sure moral sense (which reminds me of Jane Austen), humour, and happy endings for the deserving.

106. Joe Country by Mick Herron. This series is becoming tired. Too many dead people. I kept reading to see which of the Slow Horses would survive the book.

Sep 10, 2019, 9:46am

>72 pamelad: Dr. Wortle's School - I've never heard of this one. Trollope wrote so. many. books.

Sep 17, 2019, 1:56am

>73 japaul22: Welcome!

I've started another Trollope, The Three Clerks, which is going well. In this uncertain world, the existence of so many more Trollopes makes things seem a little more stable.

Oct 4, 2019, 12:53am

Transit by Anna Seghers
Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

I've grouped these together because they are pieces of history, written by people who were there. Transit was first published in 1942, and Untouchable in 1935.

Transit's narrator is unnamed. He has escaped a concentration camp and made his way to Marseilles, where he would like to stay but cannot. People can stay in Marseilles only if they are trying to leave. They are waiting for passages on ships to South America, accumulating masses of essential documents, finding themselves trapped when one document expires as they wait for another. The talk is of ships and visas. Seghers herself existed in this limbo, escaping France on the last ship to South America.

RebeccaNYC wrote an excellent review of Transit, which is on the third review page (dated 2013). Rebecca is sadly missed, and it's good to be reminded of her via her library and reviews.

Untouchable is a day in the life of an Indian sweeper, a member of he lowest rung of the lowest caste, who has to warn others that he is coming in case they inadvertently touch him and contaminate themselves. The writer is of a much higher caste and has tried to imagine the thoughts and feeling of his main character. I don't know that he has been successful, but that's not the main point. India is fighting for independence, and the liberation of the untouchables is a core aim of Ghandi's crusade. The book brings the plight of the untouchables to the attention of educated, high caste Indians. Towards the end there is even a debate, where two intellectuals discuss Ghandi's policies. I thought that this was a so-so piece of fiction, but was fascinated to be there, seeing the fight for independence through the eyes of someone who was present.

Oct 4, 2019, 1:12am

113. Educated by Tara Westover

Westover is the youngest of the seven children in a fundamentalist Mormon family who believe that the end of the world is near and are preparing for the apocalypse by storing weapons, water, fuel and food. Lots of jars of preserved peaches. Her father, Gene in the book, may be bipolar. He is certainly erratic and reckless, and puts his family in danger, trusting that the Lord will protect them, or, if the Lord doesn't, that the injuries are God's will. One of the brothers, Shawn, is a violent misogynist who leaves his sisters and girlfriends fearing for their lives. The parents take his side against Tara.

In Gene's family, girls are expected to live modestly and obediently, to marry as soon as they are old enough, to have lots of children, and to believe everything their father tells them. The younger children have never been to school, and their births have not been registered. They are taught to read, but after that their education lapses. When Tara decides to go to university, she knows almost nothing.

Good on Tara for getting an education and learning to think for herself. The book is too long, and might have been better had Tara left it for a few years so that she had a bit more perspective, but I applaud her efforts and sympathise with the pain the breach with her family has caused her.

An interesting read.

Oct 27, 2019, 8:18pm

114. How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J. L. Carr

J. L. Carr wrote short, sardonic, comic novels with an undercurrent of melancholy. A Month in the Country, which won the Booker, is his best-known and, until recently, the only one in print. I was surprised and pleased to find How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cupon display at the local library Thanks Penguin.

This book was published and set in the seventies, but it dates back to Carr's experiences in a local football team in the thirties. A Hungarian professor supplies the plan for the Wanderers' success; a former professional footballer who has returned to his birth-place of Sinderby with his badly-injured wife to be near his family puts the plan into action; another ex-professional who gave up football because it was meaningless is persuaded to join the team; a freakishly well-coordinated milkman is trained to be goalie. Although I have no interest in soccer, I was highly amused by this ridiculous book.

115. The Affair of the Thirty-nine Cufflinks by James Anderson

Entertaining enough cosy crime novel. Set in the thirties, written this decade. Not memorable.

116. Black Sheep by Ruby M. Ayres and 118. The Beggar Man by Ruby M. Ayres

I had come across the author's name in novels of the thirties, usually in the context of snotty upper-middle-class women making scathing comments about the reading habits of the lower classes. I cannot remember which of these books is which, now. Rich, older man with chequered past marries naive young woman far below him on the social scale.

117. Address Unknown by Kressmann Taylor

Written in the thirties, this is an exchange of letters between a Jewish, New York-based art dealer and his business partner who has returned to Germany. The early letters are between friends, but as the political climate changes in Germany the relationship between the men changes. This book gave an early warning of the situation in the Germany of the thirties, and as a demonstration of the way people can allow self-interest and prevailing opinion to overcome their own ethics, it is still important today.

119. Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer

This book about grammar was too American for me and I found the author's humour irritating.

120. The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope

The three clerks are typical of Trollope's characters in that they are a mixture of good and bad, in various proportions that often depend on their age, their situation and their finances. His villains have no redeeming qualities, so it is satisfying to see them end badly. Trollope is such a good-humoured, tolerant writer, with a firm moral basis. When Trump and Johnston are on the front pages, Trollope is the antidote.

121. Prelude by Katherine Mansfield

A long short story about a family in New Zealand. Mansfield really seemed to know what people were thinking, the undercurrents beneath a seemingly happy family. So many small, significant details.

Oct 27, 2019, 10:32pm

Very belated congratulations on reaching 100!

And you're making me want to revisit Trollope. :)

Nov 2, 2019, 8:08pm

122. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

I started this earlier in the year, put it down, then started again. It follows the life of Teddy, ideal son and brother, a paragon of kindness, a WWII fighter pilot. Contrary to expectations, Teddy survives the war and returns home. He deserves a happier life than the one Atkinson gives him. Such a dreary, depressing book. As for the ending, literary onanism!

Nov 5, 2019, 9:39pm

123. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My book club chose this. I wouldn't otherwise have read it, due to the twee title, but enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I was amused by Eleanor's acerbic descriptions of people. I didn't find her authentic, but she was entertaining.

Nov 7, 2019, 10:27pm

I'm glad you liked Eleanor Oliphant! But I hope we have a different opinion on the Atkinson novel. It's on my TBR pile... From memory, you didn't like the first one either? I thought it was great, so maybe this is where we can agree to disagree. :)

Nov 12, 2019, 10:21pm

124. The Snatch by Bill Pronzini

This is the first in the Nameless Detective series. The 9-year-old son of a millionaire is kidnapped, and Nameless is called in by his desperate parents. There's an awful lot of description in this book - furniture, clothes, scenery - which slows the pace. I guessed the kidnapper early on.

125. Peace by Garry Disher

Disher's Australian crime novels focus on character. His people are recognisable types. They're a flawed, funny, kind, interfering, violent, ice-addicted, sponge-baking mixture. Peace is set in a tiny South Australian town near Port Pirie (which is a long, long way from anywhere). It's a police procedural whose main character is Hirsch, an honest detective who was tarnished by a corruption scandal in which he played no part. He's been demoted and sent to Woop Woop. Hirsh doesn't just enforce the law: he checks on the welfare of the people living in his vast police district.

There's a horse slashing, where a breeder's ponies are killed, and a murder that might be connected to police corruption. This was not one of Disher's best plots. Even so, I enjoyed the book. Hirsch isn't the cliched depressed detective - he has his good and bad days. He doesn't have an alcohol problem. He's not a super cop - he makes mistakes. Disher was brought up in the bush and knows the people he's writing about. This is much more nuanced than outback noir.

Nov 20, 2019, 11:48pm

128. Is He Popenjoy?

The Marquis of Brotherton has spent most of his adult life in Italy, living on the proceeds of his estates and leaving the rest of his family to scratch along in what is, for the upper classes, semi-poverty. His brother, Lord George Germaine, marries Mary Lovelace, the daughter of the dean of the local cathedral. She is beautiful, good-humoured and wealthy, but her father started life as a stable boy so she is barely accepted by Lord George's mother and sisters and not at all by the Marquis, who is a very nasty piece of work.

Just when everyone has accepted that the Marquis will die young of self-indulgence, he turns up at he family seat with an Italian wife and infant son, and boots the family out. The dean's dearest ambition is to be the grandfather of the heir to Brotherton, so he sets out, aided by the energy, competence and intelligence that have enabled him to rise so far from his humble beginnings, to prove that the Marquis's son is illegitimate, dragging the much less capable George along with him. Popenjoy is the name given to the heir of Brotherton, hence the question, "Is he Popenjoy?"

This is a very good Trollope. Wonderful characters, particularly the dean. George acts like a pompous fool, but Trollope sympathises. That's one of the things that I love about Trollope's writing, his liking for his characters and his fairness to them. You know that if a character ends up badly he, or she, truly deserves to.

Nov 28, 2019, 4:23pm

130. Scrublands by Chris Hammer

This book won a CWA award for the best crime novel by a first-time author, but it is a deeply flawed book. The female characters, including the main female character Mandalay Blonde (really?) are victims. Mandalay is, of course, beautiful, as befits a main female character who is the love interest of the tired middle-aged reporter, Martin Scarsdale. Wish fulfilment for the ageing reporter who wrote the book! Most of the other male characters are two-dimensional collections of quirks.

The action takes place in an imaginary small town in south-west NSW, in the Riverina. It's summer (of course!), and there's a drought. The town is dying. The locals are depressed, which is reasonable because there are so many vicious criminals and psychopaths around that they must be scared witless. A year ago, the local Anglican priest, all dressed up in his vestments with the sun shining on his cross, shot and killed five parishioners with a high-powered rifle. Scarsdale, racked with PTSD from an incident in the Middle-East, has been sent by his editor to follow up on the mysterious priest and the aftermath of his crime.

Scrublands has enough plots and sub-plots for two or three books. The ending is a ridiculous cliche. It romps along because there is so much going on, but overall it's a great disappointment.

Dec 2, 2019, 7:25pm

131. The Marriage of Elinor by Mrs Oliphant

Elinor has been brought up by her widowed mother and is used to having her own way. While staying with relatives in London she falls in love with the disreputable Phil Compton, the youngest son of an earl. She thinks she can change his ways and refuses to listen to warnings from the many people who are concerned for her welfare and know more of the world than she does.

I enjoyed The Marriage of Elinor for the well-drawn characters, including the intensely irritating Elinor, the observations of people's behaviour that brought to mind people I know know, and the the snapshot of women's lives in the 1890s. Women had few rights, and if they separated from their husbands they risked losing their children, no matter how bad the husband's behaviour.

Dec 4, 2019, 5:34pm

132. The Commandant by Jessica Anderson

This is part of the Text Classics series, forgotten books by Australian writers. It is Jessica Anderson's only historical novel, set in the penal colony of Moreton Bay, in the vicinity of current-day Brisbane. The prisoners are re-offenders, treated as hardened criminals who can be controlled only by severe physical punishment. The commander, Patrick Logan, is notorious for the harsh treatment he metes out, with 100 lashes the norm for even minor infractions. A journalist in Sydney has published a rumour that Logan's excessive punishment has killed a prisoner, and Logan is suing for slander, but is unable to see that the court case will put his reputation and career at risk. Logan himself believes that he is carrying out the Governor's orders, and that the Governor will back him, but the government in England has changed, as have policies on the treatment of prisoners. The Governor has sent a Captain, the same rank as Logan, ostensibly as a replacement for a Lieutenant but, unknown to Logan, in reality to take over his command.

The Commandant dominates the book, but he is a background figure. In the foreground are his wife Letty, her sister Frances, and the two doctors. The doctors deal with the aftermath of Logan's punishments, but the women remain unaware until a domestic incident results in a revelation.

The Commandant is based on real events and real people. Logan is remembered for his exploration of the land around Brisbane, as well as for his notorious cruelty.

Dec 6, 2019, 1:46am

133. The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

This book won the Stella Prize. The author was born in Canada, but spent many years in France and is now settled in Australia. She preferred to live as far away as she could from her mother, the central character of this memoir, the parent of nightmares. As the book begins, Laveau-Harvie's mother has been hospitalised with a broken hip just in time to prevent her from killing her husband and throwing away all their money on internet scams. She has already persuaded her husband to disinherit their two daughters and ban all contact, but the women take the opportunity to visit their father. The narrative hops back and forward in time, adding layers to the character of this monstrous mother. Throughout, it is enlivened by the author's black humour. She has done well to survive, and I admire her.

The author is in her seventies and this is her first book. It is well worth reading.

Dec 10, 2019, 10:59pm

I've been reading Howard Haycraft's Murder for Pleasure and following up some of his recommendations.

134. Burn This by Helen McCloy
135. The Impostor by Helen McCloy

The first book in Helen McCloy's Basil Willing series was published in 1938, but I started with the last one, Burn This because it is available in the Open Library. The plot was just silly. The Impostor a non-series book was also one of McCloy's later efforts, with a plot even sillier. I haven't given up, though. I'm going to try one of her earlier books.

136. Unidentified Woman by Mignon G. Eberhart

Howard thought that romance had no place in mysteries and that many women writers paid far too little attention to logical detection so, in defiance, I searched the Open Library for one of my favourite formulaic female writers, Mignon G. Eberhart. Fabulous name! This one sticks closely to the formula. There's a wealthy female orphan in peril, a wrong Mr Right who is behaving oddly and manipulatively, a Mr Wrong who is looking more and more like Mr Right, and lots of murders. Who can this poor girl trust?

137. The Bellamy Trial by Frances Noyes Hart

Howard says this book has historical significance because it is the first detective novel based on a trial. It was first published in 1927 and was based very loosely on the 1926 Halls-Mills trial. I can recommend it.

This was downloaded from Faded Page and is free of the typos that litter the epubs from the Open Library.

Dec 11, 2019, 5:03pm

Gave up on The Road to Little Dribbling because Bill Bryson was such a misery, whining his way around England. Grumpy old men are not entertaining!

Dec 12, 2019, 5:35am

>89 pamelad:. I was interested to see your comment about The Road to little Dribbling. That has been on my growing pile of books to be read, but I think I might let it languish for a bit longer. I think that Bryson can be very amusing, but I often find something extremely smug about his writing.

Dec 12, 2019, 10:31pm

The Chuckling Fingers by Mabel Seeley

Howard Haycraft was enthusiastic about Mabel Seeley, so I borrowed this book from the Open Library. I was surprised to find that it was a Had-I-But-Known, because Haycraft commented scathingly on this sub-genre of detective fiction, but I don't mind a good HIBK, and this was a good one.

The Setting is a huge old house called The Fingers after the geological feature where it is sited, a rock formation on the shores of Lake Superior where the moving water makes an eerie, chuckling noise. The house is occupied by two branches of the Heaton family: the two daughters, Myra and Octavia, and son, Phillips, of Charles Heaton, and Bill, the son of Charles' brother, Dan Heaton. Charles' branch is declining, while Dan's branch is flourishing.

Bill has recently married Jacqueline, the widow of Myra's son, who has a little daughter, Toby, the loved grand-daughter of Myra. Things aren't going well at Fingers. Ann Gay, Jacqueline's cousin, as close as a sister, receives a letter telling her that Jacqueline needs her help. Jacqueline certainly does! There are some very nasty things going on at Fingers, and Jacqueline is the scapegoat.

I enjoyed this atmospheric, forties mystery, and will read more by Mabel Seeley. Many, many typos, however, in this epub. Not enough recognition in the OCR.

Dec 17, 2019, 12:31am

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is set in India in 1919, in the last years of the Raj. It is OK, but too long, too slow, too cliched, with too much anachronistic language. I doubt that people "progressed things' in 1919 or spoke of windows of opportunity or en suite bathrooms. The main character has a quite unnecessary morphine dependence that does not make him more interesting.

Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 9:01pm

148. Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice by Martha C. Nussbaum

There are many things to think about in Anger and Forgiveness. Transition-anger is a useful concept: the idea that instead of becoming enraged and demanding payback when someone does something terrible, you acknowledge that the act was outrageous and move on. Focus on the future. What is to be done? It was also useful to read about anger caused by an action that diminishes your status - this is so common and often not deliberate. The section I found the most interesting was the middle realm: I have worked with people just like those Nussbaum describes and have become just as frustrated. I found the political section less interesting - perhaps it needs more space and more depth.

I think the current political situation would benefit from Nussbaum's approach. The left and the right in countries like the UK, the U.S. and to some extent, Australia, are becoming more and more divided and are hurling abuse at one another. We need to bridge the gap rather than continue to widen it.

Edited: Dec 30, 2019, 9:01pm

146. Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

I'd forgotten what a good writer Rhys was. She only has one character, a version of her self, this time named Anna Morgan. Anna was born in the West Indies, a vibrant, passionate, colourful place. With the death of her father, Anna has been cast adrift. At only 16, she arrives in England with her mercenary stepmother who has no interest in Anna's welfare and leaves her to support herself as a member of the chorus in a touring musical comedy. Anna moves from one grey, dismal English town to the next, staying in seedy boarding houses, being befriended by women older than her who have accepted the need to find generous men to feed them, clothe them and buy them expensive gifts. Anna is picked up by a wealthy man who looks after her and sets he up in a flat. She falls in love, and when the inevitable end comes she is devastated.

It's not the plot that makes Voyage in the Dark worth reading. It's the descriptions of surroundings and places, the telling observations of people, the haunting central character, the memories of the Caribbean, the spare, poetic language.

Highly recommended, but very depressing.

Dec 30, 2019, 9:09pm

147. Dearly Departed by Elinor Lipman

I've just bought a Kobo and have been practising downloading library books using Overdrive. This one is a light, humorous, American book about two people who meet at their parents' funeral and find that they have the same father. There's a romance, but not between these two, fortunately.

I wouldn't go out of my way to get this book, but it was entertaining enough.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 2:53pm

Hemlokgang has set up the 2020 group. See you all there.