Reading Highlights – April 2013

los-altillos-de-brumal-cristina-fernandez-cubas-762_MLA-O-129863660_5062I am still persevering with my aim to expand my reading a bit to include more general fiction novels and some non fiction books.  The plan is working though I found that last month I managed to read all of five crime novels.  This included Nairobi Heat by Kenyan/american writer Mukoma Wa Ngugi, which I have already reviewed here.  Of the others two were by Scandinavian authors – Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum and The Killer’s Art by Mari Jungstedt.  Both focus more on the characters and the psychological motivations behind the murders and both are very good.  I so much enjoyed Peter Temple’s Jack Irish novels that I decided to go ahead and read the fourth and final novel in the series – White Dog.  This one has all the familiar ingredients from the other novels – murder, corruption, plus a bit of cabinet making and horse racing, and is another very good novel.  The final crime novel was Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammet.  I have seen some of his work transferred to the big screen, but this was my first go at reading one of his novels.  I was a bit disappointed in Red Harvest.  Some good stuff, but it seemed more of a series of loosely linked short stories than a carefully crafted novel.

Last month I also managed to fit in some more general fiction reading.  This included two novels and five short stories.  The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale is a strange and ultimately unsatisfying novel.  It switches in time between the First World War and the present and deals with the experiences of the present day character’s grandfather who was killed during the war.  It is partly about bravery and cowardice, but there are too many subplots and the time switching is not very successful.  Could have been a good novel if Farndale had stuck to the First World War period.  He writes very well and convincingly about the horrors and stresses of that war.  The other novel was a light hearted tale by P G Wodehouse.  We had recently seen a rather good TV play about Wodehouse’s wartime captivity and this got me intrigued to read one of his novels.  Summer Moonshine is pretty true to its title, as it is a gently comic and witty romantic tale of the upper crust, the nouveaux riche and the wanna be rich.  As regards the short stories, three were by Anton Chekhov – In Exile, Ward No 6 and The Black Monk.  I am slowly working my way through a collection of his short stories in a translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhovsky.  The other two short stories were in Spanish by Catalan writer Cristina Fernandez Cubas.  Los Altillos de Brumal (The Attics of Brumal) and En el Hemisferio Sur (In the southern hemisphere).  Cubas is an author I had never heard of before and I stumbled across the book in the library.  Two very strange stories, both rather unsettling tales.  I was never quite sure whether I was reading about real events of the imaginings of the narrator.  Puzzling, but I now want to reread them and find out more about the author.

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