Sunday, August 25, 2013

Careless people

Having seen the film, which I enjoyed, a few months again I have recently reread The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

I was therefore interested to find in the library this new analysis of the book written by Sarah Churchwell. Subtitled: murder, mayhem and invention of the Great Gatsby, Careless people looks at events, including crimes, that occurred in New York, particularly in 1922 when the novel is set but also in 1923 and 1924, which possibly served as background for events in F Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel published in 1925. In the latter part of 1922 the Fitzgeralds lived in Great Neck (West Egg in the novel). The period after the First World War for many of the affluent in New York was a time for parties and living for the sake of living. It was also a time of transition with the return of servicemen after the war. Prohibition in the United States was in force though there was not a shortage of alcohol for those who knew where to obtain it. Life was not easy for everyone, however, and Churchwell describes the poorer areas, especially around the Ash Heaps. Churchwell provides a long list of notes with references to many newspaper and magazine articles providing additional information as well as an extensive bibliography.

The Burial

A first novel by Australian author, Courtney Collins, tells the story of a female bushranger / rustler in New South Wales in the 1920s. The novel is based on a true story. Jessie has had an eventful life as a child circus performer before the war, arrested for 'vanishing' cattle and horses resulting in a two year prison term and then being bonded to Fitz, initially to care for the horses but in reality to use her rustling skills for his financial gain.

We meet her when she is on the run after the murder of her husband and she needs to use all her bush skills as she heads towards the apparent safety of the mountain. The story also traces the story of two men who have links to her past and who set out to find her.

The book is about Jessie's self sufficiency, her knowledge and affinity with bush survival skills and with horses and her need for freedom. As a twist part of the story is told from the point of view of her dead baby who is seeking its mother.  This is a beautifully written and well crafted novel, almost poetic in the writing.

Read with Raf has introduced me to books and authors I have not previously read. This one I can highly recommend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I take you

The August book in  Read with Raf on 774 is Nikki Gemmell's latest book, I take you.
In 2003 Nikki Gemmell's book, The bride stripped bare,was published causing a stir among many readers (and possibly non-readers) of the book. In 2011 the companion volume of erotic fiction,  With my body, was published and the third book, I take you, was published this year.

Connie has been married for four years but two years into her marriage her husband has an accident resulting in him being confined to a wheelchair. Cliff is a successful banker and Connie in reality is his trophy wife expected to be at his beck and call in return for almost anything money can buy including living in an expensive five storey house in Notting Hill with access to an exclusive garden available only to residents. Although this is a loveless marriage there is much experimentation with sexual practices as Connie is submissive to her husband's demands and the requirement to be 'the good wife'. Eventually, however, Cliff goes too far and Connie decides to strive for independence and the opportunity to live her own life.

The first twelve chapter of the book contain graphic sexual imagery as the author portrays the extent of power that Cliff has over his wife. The story then runs parallel to the plot of Lady Chatterley's lover when Connie develops a relationship with the gardener, Mel. Excerpts from the writing of Virginia Woolf precede each chapter. With Mel Connie discovers a tender lover and she must decide whether to stay with Cliff and live in luxury or give it all up and start a new life.

This is not really my style of book however I found it relatively easy to read once I completed the initial chapters. Since 2011 the three volumes of the Fifty shades of grey trilogy have hit the headlines as being books of erotic romance. I think that it is interesting that although the cover of the copy of  I take you that I read is bright orange and blue with a drawing of the heroine on the cover, other editions have been published with a grey cover picturing a small locket - perhaps, in some countries, cashing in on the popularity of the E L James books?

Article about the book by the author in The Independent 11 August 2013.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Holiday reading

While on holidays recently I borrowed a selection of e-books from the library to read.

The first was Heartsong by American author, Debbie Macomber. This was her first novel and was published in 1982. It is the story of Skye Garvin who volunteers to help sick children and their families in the local hospital. One day she meets an adult patient, Jordan Kiley, who is recovering from a car accident. Much of the plot revolves around the developing relationship between these two, misunderstandings, the need for truth and trust in relationships and Skye's still strong feelings for a former love. To say that the book has strong Christian overtones would be an understatement. Because of this it has a strong following from some readers while others are put off by it. I found myself questioning whether my reaction to the book would have been the same if the heroine had song religious beliefs of another faith. I finished reading this romance but would not recommend it as a must read book.

For something completely different I then read The coast road by Australian author, Peter Corris. This is the 27th book in the Cliff Hardy series about a Sydney private investigator. The character of Cliff Hardy is well developed and the reader is well aware of his many faults as well as his strengths and talent for investigating crime. In this book he is investigating two cases - the mysterious death of Frederick Farmer and the disappearance of Marisha Karatsky's daughter. Much of the action takes place in the Illawarra area and it soon becomes obvious that there are people who do not want Cliff Hardy to resolve these, and subsequent, mysteries. A well written, gripping crime story that I enjoyed reading. 

The third book was Kerry Greenwood's novel, Away with the Fairies, number 11 in the Phryne Fisher series. When Miss Lavender, author of fairy stories for children, is murdered, Phryne is asked by the police to assist with the investigation and for a time works as a fashion reporter for a woman's magazine where Miss Lavender had worked. Phryne is also concerned about her lover, Lin Chung, who has travelled overseas and may have been abducted by pirates. Set in Melbourne in 1928 this is another enjoyable edition to a well loved series.