Sunday, September 9, 2012

Still life

On Tuesday, while I was helping a patron reserve a copy of Louise Penny's latest book, I was asked if I had read any books by this Canadian author. She told me that they were well written mystery / crime novels set in a Canadian village near the American border. She particularly liked the portrayal of the main characters, especially Armand Gamache who leads the investigations, as well as the French / English setting of the novel. I was also told that in order to really enjoy the books I should begin at the first book.

I have now read Still Life the first book in the Armand Gamache series and have already placed reservations to read the next three volumes - there are eight volumes in the series so far. I had not heard of this author previously and now wonder how many other enjoyable books to read that I have missed.

Still Life is set in the village of Three Pines hidden in the middle of a forest. All appears to be quiet in this small community until the body of Jane Neal is discovered in the forest. She has been shot with an arrow. As this is hunting season the death is at first considered to be accidental however when this is proved not to be the case unease spreads as the residents wonder who killed  among them their friend. This could just be a run of the mill crime story but the development of the characters - the local and the police - combined with the descriptions of the rural setting and lifestyle make this book more than a who-done-it.

The website of Louise Penny provides additional information about the author and this series of books published since 2006. Plans for a film based on Still Life have also been announced.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Charles Dickens and the great theatre of the world

2012 celebrates two hundred years since the birth of one of the most influential English writers, Charles Dickens. In this book Simon Callow looks at the life of Charles Dickens not only as a popular writer but also through his involvement with the theatre. Dickens loved acting and the theatre and at one stage envisaged becoming a professional actor. Producing and acting in dramatic productions for family and close friends and also as a fund raiser for special causes became an important part of his life. In his later life he spent much of his time entertaining audiences with dramatic readings from his books. Dickens' love of the theatre can also be seen in the dramatic character of his novels, many of which were adapted for the theatre. Callow provides us with a greater understanding as to what drove Dickens to undertake the challenges of writing so many books along with contributions to magazines and newspapers along with live performances for his legion of fans. His works were not only entertaining but provided social commentaries on aspects of life in Victorian England. At the time his written work received mixed critical acclaim but his audiences largely loved it providing him with celebrity status in the UK and America. Today his works are still widely read, critically studied and transferred to film.