Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Books of 2012 - February

1. Death Comes to Pemberley. Fiction by P.D. James. I wanted to like this more than I actually did. P.D. James is a fantastic writer and I love the Jane Austen characters but this book is neither fish nor fowl: neither James' best work nor a believable continuation of the beloved Pride and Prejudice story. Plus some errors (such as which Darcy parent died first) just bugged.

2. The Brideshead Generation: Evelyn Waugh and His Friends. Non-fiction by Humphrey Carpenter. Read during an intense phase of interest in the "between the war" years of Great Britain and also a phase of interest in the Mitford sisters and their compatriots.

3. The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Non-fiction edited by Charlotte Mosley. (See my January post for the books that sparked my interest in this family.) These letters, edited by the daughter-in-law of one of the sisters, demonstrate why the Mitfords continue to be fascinating.

4. The Missing of the Somme. Non-fiction by Geoff Dyer. Part travel book, part memoir. I think Americans have trouble understanding the enduring effect the "Great War" had on much of Europe. This book might help fill the gap.

5. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. Non-fiction by Andrew Roberts. 608 pages of compelling history. Not revisionist, this book is almost anti-revisionist and corrects some of the fallacies and moral judgments historians (falsely so-called, in my opinion) have allowed to flourish in their recent works on World War II. A fantastic, comprehensive one volume history (which is rare, in my experience).

6. The Soldier's Wife. Fiction by Margaret Leroy. I wanted this to be enjoyable (I suppose I wanted another like this book) but it wasn't. I never really cared about the main characters or what happened to them. And, I'm sorry, but stories about adultery really ought to have something to redeem them. (An interesting  and well acted British TV series about this subject - the occupation of the Channel islands - is Island at War but I'm afraid it is definitely not rated PG so viewer beware.)

7. Fall of Giants. Fiction by Ken Follett. I've heard that Follett is an amazing writer who knows his stuff (in other words: does his research). Alas, I was not impressed by this monstrously thick (985 pages) book. It's crude, the history is clumsy, the politics are heavy handed, and if the action drags (often) he throws in a scene better suited to a bodice ripping romance novel. Yuck.

8. A Piece of Justice. Fiction by Jill Paton Walsh. Series mystery. An enjoyable, well crafted mystery and I also think anyone who enjoyed the Jennifer Chiaverini series on quilters might enjoy this as a quilt plays an important part in this story.

9. Mrs. Tim Carries On. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson. Sequel to Mrs. Tim of the Regiment. This one covers the early years of the Second World War and was first published in 1941 so it offers an interesting contemporary perspective. Hester (Mrs. Tim) is a likeable heroine but the people around her can be ridiculously annoying to read about.

10. Inheritance. Fiction by Christopher Paolini. I read these books primarily so I could talk about them with my younger brother. They are not as finely written as I would wish and I found the conclusion unsatisfying but I really must tip my hat to the accomplishment it is for a young author to create this world, publish four lengthy books, and inspire so many loyal fans (even if I'm not one).

11. A Poisoned Season. Fiction by Tasha Alexander. This series is just not growing on me.

12. The Creative Habit. Non-fiction by Twyla Tharp. Inspiring stuff! I filled several pages of my commonplace book with quotes from this one, many of which will no doubt be shared on this blog in the future.

13. Mrs. Tim Gets a Job. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson. The sequel to #9 above. My least favorite in the series. I think I would have preferred to read more about Hester's WW2 experiences.

14. Noblesse Oblige. Non-fiction edited by Nancy Mitford. A collection of essays on the use of language (and other defining characteristics) that separate the upper class from the lower class in England.

15. Crossed. Fiction by Ally Condie. Second book in a trilogy. OK, but it's no Hunger Games. I felt like most of this book could have been condensed into a few chapters at the beginning of the third book but it was a quick, enjoyable read nonetheless.

16. The Bronze Horseman. Fiction by Paullina Simons. Well researched, set in 1941 Leningrad. The first chapters are engrossing (considering the subject matter they could hardly fail to be, right?). There are the usual disclaimers: soldiers use bad language and some characters behave badly. If that were all I would {cautiously} recommend this book if you were especially interested in the time period or Russian history. Unfortunately, the later chapters descend into the worst sort of romance novel writing. I had to skip several chapters. I ought to have stopped reading altogether but I'll confess to reading the end to find out what happened to the two main characters. I was sadly disappointed in this book: so much research and historical detail just to be ruined by salacious writing. Why do historical fiction authors do this?! (See also #7 above)

Totals for February:
Fiction: 10
Non-fiction: 6

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2 comments:

Elisabeth said...

I love that you read a book just to talk about it with your brother. :)

Gram said...

Your brother had the same reaction to "Inheritance" that you did so I am holding off on it until I have nothing better to do. Ha!

I did read the previous 3 so I guess I will eventually read it just so I can say I finished the series, but I already know I. won't. be. happy!

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