I read four books in February, which feels like a good number. Especially with how much time one in particular took me (see the last entry). Honestly, I didn’t love any of the books I read this month. I did find a couple of them somewhat enjoyable, though. Hopefully March will be better.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
I was very familiar with this book, but I had never read it. I have seen two film versions of it and have read plenty of criticism of it, but I never managed to pick it up. SO one night last month I did. It was slightly more of a children’s book than I realized, but otherwise was exactly what I expected.
I’m sure nearly everyone knows what this book is, four children transported to a fantastic land inside a wardrobe. It has some heavy Christian symbolism, but it works very well and in no way detracts from the book. One thing that I was not ready for was the humor in the book. While this is a children’s book, Lewis managed some witty and wry humor along the way. Lines and observations that don’t necessarily fit into the narrative, but they got a chuckle out of me anyway. Comparing it to the recent, largely faithful, movie, the biggest thing I noticed is how downplayed the battle is. It happens, but the book stays with the girls and leaves all the action off the page, only covering the tail end of the battle. It shows just where Lewis’ focus was. A classic for a reason.
All the Wimsey stories were on sale not too long ago, so I picked up most of the rest of them. This was the next one in the series. Here, Wimsey hears a story about a mysterious death from a Doctor and even though there is no evidence of a crime he starts to investigate. Actually, he sends Miss Climpson, a spinster that he has employed, to investigate things in the town. Unfortunately, his investigation causes the murderer to panic and commit more crimes to try to hide the first one.
The most interesting part of this book, especially since the mystery is not very mysterious, is that the victim was pretty obviously a lesbian. The book never comes out and says it, but it is still pretty obvious. The victim, who died as an old lady supposedly from cancer, lived her whole life with another woman. She is leaving all her money to her friend’s niece. The murderer’s situation is quite similar. While not all the characters necessarily approve of these character’s lives, they really aren’t judged or excluded. The stable hand who work his whole life for this women doesn’t see them as anything other than a couple of ladies. Of course, the book is set in 1927, after WW1 when there simply were many more women than men. The mystery here is not the best, but the lives of the characters are interesting enough to make this worth reading.
To Marry an English Lord
Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
I picked this up on a whim from the Kindle store. It is a study of the phenomenon of rich American girls, excluded from the elite of New York society turned instead to the nobility of Europe, primarily England. This worked to both sides advantage, as the women got high places in Society and the nobility got all that American money. This happened quite frequently for about thirty or so years around the turn of the century before it just sort of stopped.
It is a fairly intriguing look at something that I wasn’t aware of. The biggest problem I had was that this book wasn’t really formatted for the Kindle. Large part s of it were simple hard to follow because of how the pages were laid out. It was also reliant on a lot of photographs, which again didn’t make the translation to the Kindle very well. Still, large parts of it came through well. It is fascinating to read about the seemingly slight differences between the two English speaking nations and how they were actually much bigger than most of the women who married realized. Also, it shows a thawing in the relations between America and Great Britain. Americans were both proud of our lack of class distinctions and envious of the lack. This is far from an essential read, but largely entertaining.
Gardens of the Moon
I hated this book. I am generally a fan of fantasy and this came highly recommended, but I hated Gardens of the Moon. This read like the heavy metal version of a fantasy world. Everything is blood, guts and rust. It is a deeply unfriendly world. There seems to be no good in this world. It is all war, war that would seem completely unsupportable in term of feeding people. It is also written as though the writer didn’t care if anyone could read it. It starts with a series of flashbacks and chapters that are separated by time and space, so it takes a long time to get to anything resembling a plot.
The thing, once it does get going it isn’t too bad. Unfortunately, that isn’t until more than a third of the way through the book. When the book finally introduces the gang of miscreants from Darujhistan it actually becomes entertaining. That group is not unlike the core cast of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Of course, realizing that made me wish I was reading that instead of this. Still, this book is long, unfriendly and absurd in its “gritty” darkness. I am glad to be done with it.