Monday, 28 June 2010

twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-four: poirot

Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie (1935)

An old vicar falls dead during a dinner party. Everyone assumes it is of natural causes, even Hercule Poirot. But when yet another man, a famous doctor, dies in the exact same way at another dinner party, mr Poirot and his helpers are certain both cases are murders. But why would anyone murder a sweet old vicar? And whom among the dinner guests is the murderer?

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie (1940)

A young girl is on trial for murdering her aunt and the girl who used to take care of the aunt. Even her attorney believes she is guilty. But the local doctor believes she is innocent and puts Hercule Poirot on the case. Poirot is not fully convinced of her innocence, because who else has the motive to murder both victims?

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie (1941)

Hercule Poirot is on a holiday on a small island on the British Coast. He and the other guests observe an ongoing love affair between two of the guests, both married. And then the woman in the affair, a famous actress, is found murdered. There are many people who would liked to see her dead, but all of the guests have their alibis in order.

the Hollow by Agatha Christie (1946)

Poirot is invited to lunch but walks straight into a crime scene. He sees a body (a doctor) in the swimming pool and a woman (his wife) holding a gun. The wife swears she did not kill him, she just picked up the weapon. And again Poirot is looking for motives. Could it be the wife, the mistress or the woman he loved fifteen years ago that suddenly reappeared the day before the murder?

These four novels are collected in Poirot - 4 Classic Cases. The one I liked the least is the Hollow but they are all excellent crimes. What I like about Agatha Christie is that her novels are as much about human nature and every day life.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2003)

"Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère."
Kambili never speaks unless she's spoken to and never smile. Her father is a rich man and a devoted Catholic is admired by everyone. Yet he punishes his family when they aren't number one in class and when they sin. The biggest sin is to eat at their grandfather's house, the heathen. He beats his wife so severely that she miscarries. Kambili and Jaja's rescue is their aunt, their father's sister, and her small house full of love and laughter.

Another beautiful book by Adichie that I could not put down. It is sad yet very hopeful. It is set in Nigeria, mainly in the university town Nsukka, which also played a major role in Half of a Yellow Sun. The coups and corruption is also part of the background of this book. Needless to say that I loved it. I'm definitely going to teach this book to the right class someday.

Saturday, 26 June 2010


A Clergyman's Daughter by George Orwell (1935)

Dorothy is a spinster, living at the home of her father, the rector of the church. She takes care of the house and the parish, doing her father's work as he's getting more and more mentally ill. She punishes herself if she is not able to do the work she set out to do that day. She is also determined to never marry and have devoted herself to God. One day she loses her memory and do not know who she is. She follows a group of kids living on the streets to Kent where they go hop-picking. There she suddenly remembers who she is and because of the scandal that her sudden disappearance from her village caused, she cannot go back. Instead she goes to London to find work but ends up living on the streets.

It took me a while to get into it as I found the descriptions of village life tremendously boring, I actually left the novel alone for six months before I picked it up again. It gets a lot more interesting once Dorothy loses her memory. What I liked the most was this excellent sentence:
Women who do not marry wither up - they wither up like aspidistras in back-parlour windows; and the devilish thing is that they don’t even know they’re withering.
(I accidentally deleted this entry while editing the blog so this is re-type and not as good as the original post.)

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. (1964)

The place is Brooklyn, New York, some time after World War II. The gang hangs around Greeks, a local bar, looking for sailors and military men to rob and pick fights with, girls and fairies to lay and cars to steal.

With this book, Hubert Selby Jr. replaced Charles Bukowski as my favourite dirty old man. I love his introduction to the book where he explained how and why he learnt to write. It is a hard book to read. It took me a while for me to get used to the language, the way he glue the words together, but the book wouldn't be the same if it was written in standard English.

It was banned in England for being controversial. And it is brutal. Cross dressing, drugs, foul language, violence and very descriptive sex scenes. I will not recommend it to the faint-hearted. But it is definitely a book worth reading.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (1992)

Miss Smilla is half Danish, half Inuit and a glaciologist. When a Inuit child fell from the roof from the building where she lives, she refuses to believe that it was an accident. Her investigation leads to a dangerous voyage to the Greenlandic ice. What discoveries will she make?

This book is more than just a crime fiction. It is an account on the relation between Copenhagen and Greenland and how Inuits are struggling in the big city. After her mother died, Smilla was sent from her community to live with her estranged Danish father in Copenhagen. It also teaches you a lot about ice and snow. The dead boy's mother is an alcoholic who often did not feed him. Smilla reminded me a lot of Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson), but she is definitely more kick-ass.

I definitely picked the wrong season for reading this book. It should be read in those dark December and January months when the snow silences everything.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

twenty-five, twenty-six: short stories

Miss Marple: the 13 Problems by Agatha Christie (1932)
Miss Marple and some friends gather for dinner parties where they take turn presenting a mystery to the others. It is 13 short stories that all are connected but can be read as just one short story. The guests are very much surprised every time Miss Marple guesses who the murderer is. She claims that living in a small village all her life has made her an expert on human psychology and relations and often finds similarities in the cases to her small village.

I love Miss Marple, having read all the other books previously. And I cannot believe that I have yet to guess who is the murderer in Agatha's works, she is too clever for me. This will be a summer devoted to Mr. Poirot.

Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

This is a collection of short stories that are snippets from ordinary people's lives, out and about in the streets of Dublin.

In the beginning it was hard for me to just read 20 pages and then go on to the next story. I wasn't used to have to take a pause and ponder over what I just read before continuing. I learnt to read more patiently and finally managed to get into the atmospheres of the stories. Because there is a lot of atmospheres and beautiful writing. And Joyce was a master of describing characters and settings. My favourite story was Eveline, where a girl had to decide between staying with a bleak future in Dublin or running off to Buenos Aires with her lover. I need to read more Joyce.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

Nigeria, 1960s. A young boy, Ugwu, is sent to the city to work as a houseboy for an academic. The academic often has friends over who talk about how African nations should kick out the colonisers and become republics. Olanna is the daughter of rich parents, she got her education in London and falls in love with the academic and moves in. Her twin sister meets an English writer, Richard, who decides to stay in the country despite the warnings from his friends and family. They live comfortable lives until Biafra declares its independence and war with Nigeria breaks out in 1967. Then they have to flee.

This is such an amazing book. Adichie manages to capture both the good intentions of the people in charge and the horrible outcomes. It also captures the mix between traditional indigenous life and modern life. My favourite part was the small book within the book that told the facts about the Biafrans fight for independence. And I really liked that I never had to feel sorry for the characters.


Friday, 11 June 2010


Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (2003)

After losing his wife, Trond moves to a remote place close to the Norwegian-Swedish border with a dog as company. When he discovers that his sole neighbour is someone he knew 50 years ago, he cannot stop thinking about the tragic summer that changed everything.

It is a beautiful book. The way the pine forest is described definitely made me smell it. I kept waiting for something epic to happen, but nothing does. I wish there were more to this story. I didn't connect with Trond because I knew nothing about him. I'm slightly disappointed, and if it wasn't for the beautiful language, I'd be a lot more disappointed.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


the Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (1993)

A woman, Zenia, who they buried, is seen in broad daylight. None of the 3 friends, Tony, Roz and Charis, are surprised by this. Zenia was after all the face of all evil. She had stolen all of their men, and two of them never came back. Why has she come back? The story goes backwards in time to the time Zenia weaselled her way into their hearts and homes. Zenia is a master of lies, she tells different stories to different people and they all believe her.

The 3 women are very different. Tony is the history geek with a love for war and battles, Charis is new-age and seeing auras, while Roz is the career woman. The thing that brought them together was their hatred for Zenia. The women are strong, the men are weak.

This book didn't capture me as much as the other books of Atwood. But it was a good read.

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