So the trees are at the tip, the presents exchanged or kept, the decorations are stashed away and we are back to normal. Am I the only one who is glad when all the hoo hah is over? I know I am very Scroogish when it comes to Christmas, but I find the build up goes on so long and is so tedious and good to get back into the routine, though I see that some supermarkets have their Easter Eggs out already....
Right so here we go. Just catching up as you will know I had a difficult time before Christmas with a bereavement and a funeral, months of legal stuff to sort out as well ahead of me, and reading rather went to pot. I need to give a quick review of books over the last month or so.
The Mistresses of Cliveden - Natalie Livingstone. I spotted this book in Waterstones some time ago and popped it on my list, but it was only before Christmas that I managed to get a copy from the library and it was just perfect for my reading pattern at the time. I could read a section/chapter a day and then put it to one side. All I knew about Cliveden was the Astor family and the Profumo affair back in 1963 and I was totally unaware that its original name was Clifden and the first building was erected by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham and a friend and favourite of Charles II. The book takes us through all the ladies who reigned there, one being the Duchess of Sutherland a bosom friend of Queen Victoria who I had heard of through diaries and letters of Her Maj, but knew very little about other than that.
Nancy Astor lived there of course when she was in Parliament and I have to say she sounds a most unpleasant and bigoted woman. I now need to read more about her and so a biography of this lady is on my to get hold of list. This is a terrific book, excellent writing and very engaging. Social history, which is my favourite kind of history, at its best and I finished it on New Year's Day so it makes the cut for this year.
Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown NOT Agatha Christie. Classic setting. A village cut off by deepening snow and all is quiet and getting ready for Christmas, when the body is found at the vicarage. He is the son in law of the vicar who seems a pretty unpleasant person and is not mourned by anybody very much. Suspects abound as everyone seemed to dislike him including his wife who had left him, and his in laws. At first I thought this book seemed promising and so it was, but I found it incredibly dated. Now this is odd as it was written in 1988 and yet I found some of the language jarred and the relationship between Chief Inspector Lloyd and his ex colleague with whom he had had an affair slightly off putting. Odd that the crime stories I have read set in the 1920s and 1930s have not dated but this one has. I have to be honest and say this was a fairly mediocre book and not sure that I shall seek out any more by this author.
Death in Ecstasy - Ngaio Marsh. Have decided to do a re-read of books by this author which I seem to do every two years and the contrast in style, wit and narrative to the McGown book is extremely marked. I am a huge fan of Dame Ngaio anyway, but always happy to give credit to other mysteries both old and new, but really she is one of the queens of the genre. Always enjoy her.
Ngaio Marsh, the woman and her Work - edited by B J Rahn. Had this book on my shelves for several years and decided to refresh my memory by a re-read. A collection of essays by authors such as Catherine Aird, Julian Symons and friends discussing not only her books but her theatre work for which she is better known in New Zealand, the place of her birth. One fascinating essay on the meaning of the relationships and character's names in Death and the Dancing Footman (a favourite title of mine) is masterly and a pleasure to read. I shall re-read this one next.
Tricky Twenty-Two - Janet Evanovich. The latest in the Stephanie Plum series and had me laughing. Better than the last one but that is all I can say about it. Having discovered the 'writing' methods of James Patterson last year and finding his genre ranging from good to bad, it is clear that Janet E also adopts this method - ie, coming up with the ideas and somebody else putting it down on paper as she has co-authors now. I am beginning to wonder if she ever actually writes anything herself. Passed a couple of hours and, as I said, better than the last one and had me laughing but the pleasure in these books is beginning to fade. In the Patterson books we do get character development and relationship ditto, but none in these so the Ranger/Joe/Stephanie set up needs to be resolved or else stop writing them.
Well that is it for now. I am determined that I will pay more attention to Random this year. 2015 was not one of my best years and ill health etc got in the way, but I am determined to get better this year and fitter.
I wish all of you who have stuck with me through thin and thin my love and best wishes for the coming year.