Tuesday, 27 July 2010

forty-six.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (1958)

"The instant she saw the letter she squinted her eyes and bent her lips in a tough tiny smile that advanced her age immeasurably. 'Darling,' she instructed me, 'would you reach in the drawer there and give me my purse. A girl doesn't read this sort of thing without her lipstick.'
Guided by a compact mirror, she powdered, painted every vestige of twelve-year-old out of her face. She shaped her lips with one tube, coloured her cheeks from another. She pencilled the rims of her eyes, blued the lids, sprinkled her neck with 4711; attached pearls to her ears and donned her dark glasses; thus armoured, and after a displeased appraisal of her manicure's shabby condition, she ripped open the letter and let her eyes race through it while her stony small smile grew smaller and harder."
Holly Golightly, Travelling is written on her mailbox. Men are always coming and going into her apartment. The narrator is stunned by her appearance and intrigued by her crazy life.

I loved every word of it which is why it took me over a week to read the hundred pages. The next film I will watch is definitely the adaptation of the book.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

forty-five, forty-four, forty-two: poirot

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie (1936)

An archaeologist's wife is feeling threatened at a dig in Iraq and the man insists on getting a nurse to watch his wife. The nurse discovers that there is something weird going on in the camp, the atmosphere is rather stuffed. And then the wife is found dead, murdered in her room in the middle of the day and nothing suspicious has been seen. Hercule Poirot, who happens to be travelling by, takes the case and solves it, but not until another murder has taken place.

Another excellent Poirot story. And I liked the twist where the story is narrated as a book written by the nurse, with an introduction and everything.


Death on the Nile (1937)

Hercule Poirot is on a holiday in Egypt when a young woman tells him that she intends to murder someone. A man she loves left her and married her much richer and prettier friend. And then the murder happens, but the woman has an alibi. When the ship reaches its final destination four people have been murdered and one suicide, but Poirot has also solved the case.

This is quite a long Poirot story. It is really built up well, the motives for going to Egypt from everyone involved are explained and I got really involved in the story. And for once I finally guessed who did the murders. Definitely one of my favourite Agatha Christie stories.

Appointment with Death (1938)

Hercule Poirot is in Jerusalem where he overhears someone saying You see, don't you, that she's got to be killed? and he knows that he will recognise the voice if he hears it again. Two doctors are also at the same hotel and they observe an American family with odd behaviour. The adult children are afraid of their mother who is rather sadistic. The doctors travel to Petra where they meet the family again. And the mother is found dead, one of the doctors suspect murder and Poirot gets involved.

Another good read, but not as quite as good as the other two in the Poirot in the Orient omnibus. I was quite surprised to see so much xenophobia and racism in the stories, but it definitely mirrors the British world view in the 1930s. And I was also surprised to discover that Poirot lets some crimes slip through his fingers - after telling the criminals that he knows the truth, of course.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

forty-three.

the Missing Person's Guide to Love by Susanna Jones (2007)

Isabel flies in from Istanbul to be at an old friend's (Owen) funeral. But she is also looking for the truth of what happened twenty years ago when their friend, Julia, went missing. She believes that Owen either murdered Julia or know who did it.
"When she returned, years later, to the palaces, they weren't the same ones. Only their names were the same, as if new buildings had been put up but they had kept the old signs. The Dolmabache Palace was the wrong way round. She couldn't say what she meant by this, only that she seemed to be facing the wrong direction all the time. Topkapi was smaller. Perhaps it was simply that he wasn't there any more, so it couldn't be the same"
The book is narrated by two persons, Isabel herself, and her aunt, Maggie, in italics, more like an introduction to each chapter. It is a mix of present and past, both from Isabel and Maggie's lives. It was an easy page-turner and nothing fantastic, until the end. Those ten last pages really flipped the book around and made me all confused and disappointed at the last word. Disappointed because it ended the way it did and I know I will reach the full concept of the book unless I pick it up and reread it. Which is probably why I'm stuck left with the impression of having read a good book although I know it wasn't until the last pages. And I know it will be messing with my mind for a while, dammit.

Friday, 16 July 2010

forty-one, thirty-nine, thirty-seven: poirot

the Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (1923)

Hercule Poirot receives a telegraph from France asking for urgent help as a man believes he is in grave danger. But Poirot and Hastings arrive too late, the man is already murdered, a grave has been dug but the body is laying outside of it, and his wife was found tied and gagged in bed. A letter indicating blackmail is found, there is a mistress and clues suggest that South Americans are involved. There is also a famous French detective on the case and the two famous detectives are not very fond of each other. And then a stranger is found murdered in a shed on the property.

This is the best Poirot story I have read so far. It is narrated by Hastings which gives it an interesting personal aspect. And it has such clever twists and of course I couldn't guess the murderer.

the Mystery of the Blue Train (1928)

Miss Grey spent all her life in poverty but inherited a large sum of money after her mistress died. She decides to go to the French Riviera with the famous Blue Train. On board, she talks with a rich woman who is in despair as she has made the wrong choice in a matter of the heart and is travelling with her maid and some famous jewellery. The next day, when arriving in Nice, this lady is found dead. Hercule Poirot also happens to be on the same train and he wants to solve the crime with the help of Miss Grey. They soon discover that not only is the woman's lover on board the train, but also the husband, and why did the maid get off the train in Paris?

I cannot put my finger on exactly why, but I found this Poirot story rather disappointing compared to the rest I have read. Oh well, on to the next one!

Death in the Clouds (1935)

A woman is found murdered on an aeroplane. The murder is extraordinary, she was killed by a dart dipped in snake poison and no one saw anything. Hercule Poirot was on the plane, but he was asleep the whole time. Who had the opportunity to murder her and what was the motive?

Another brilliant Poirot story. And of course the murderer was no one I suspected.

These three stories are found in the French Collection, although Murder on the Links also appears in the Complete Battles of Hastings vol 1.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

forty.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)

Tambu is not sorry for that her brother died. Because his death means that she can go to the mission school as she is the oldest girl. She also moves away from her life as a peasant and to her uncle's house at the school. Her uncle is the head of the family as he is educated by the whites and the headmaster at the school and therefore rich. Tambu is eager to begin her new life as an educated girl and leave her old life as a poor peasant behind.

Tambu is very bright and resourceful and is doing everything in her power to achieve her goals. Because her parents only could afford to send one child to school and because she was a girl and her brother not, he was sent. Realising how important education is, she plants her own crops and sells them in order to pay for her own education. And when her brother dies and she finally can go to a better school, she studies hard to be one of the best in her class so she can get scholarships to go on to higher education. But she also realise that being educated means leaving her peasant identity behind, no longer staying in touch with her family and culture. But she also discovers that being educated means having other troubles.

This book made me realise how important education is, having taking it for granted all these years. Such a wonderful book about and Tambu is definitely a heroine. I'm very tempted to break my self-imposed no-more-new-books-until-2011-rule to buy the sequel with the curious title the Book of Not: Stopping the Time.

Friday, 9 July 2010

thirty-eight.

the Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden (1998)
"His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadj Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.."

Dr. Garrigan takes a position in Uganda in the early 1970s. When Idi Amin gets hurt in an accident by the town Garrigan resides, he gets to treat him. Idi Amin is so impressed by the Scottish doctor and wants him as his private physician. As he is tired of not being able to treat the people coming to the local hospital because of lack of necessary equipment, he takes the position. He witnesses the horrors of Idi Amin, but also gets enchanted by the charismatic dictator and decides against leaving. He also gets entangled in politics; the British want him to assassin Idi Amin as he is the only one who has access, but he refuses as a doctor saves lives, not taking them.

Dr. Garrigan is a fictional character, but the book is based on real events that took place during Idi Amin's reign of terror in Uganda. The book was made into a film in 2006, and I'm glad I didn't remember too much of the film as I think that would have ruined the book for me. What I really liked about the book is all the things I learnt from it.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

mine lesevaner.

Norunn har laget en test hvor du kan finne din lesepersonlighet. Hvordan du skal tolke svarene står på bloggen hennes.

1) Leser du rutinemessig bøker om igjen?


Fra jeg var 14 til den første filmen kom ut så leste jeg Hobbiten og Ringenes Herre årlig og i fjor leste jeg de endelig igjen. I tillegg så har jeg jo lest Harry Potter omtrent årlig. Akkurat nå har jeg funnet fram noen bøker som jeg vil lese på nytt, men ellers så prioriterer jeg nye bøker.

2) Er du opptatt av å holde bøkene dine pene?

Tja. Jeg skriver aldri i de (gjelder også pensum), men jeg leser når jeg spiser og de blir litt krøllete, men det er jo fint når det ser ut som de har blitt brukt.

3) Har du lister av bøker du planlegger å lese?

Jeg har over 100 uleste bøker i hylla, men som oftest velger jeg en når jeg nærmer meg slutten av en annen så det er tilfeldig. Akkurat nå har jeg dilla på Afrika. I tillegg så har jeg store ambisjoner om å lese minst et verk av alle som har fått Nobelprisen, samt jobber sakte men sikkert med 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die og Guardian's 1000 Novels Everyone Should Read.

4) Hvordan velger du ut hvilke bøker du leser?

Tema, utseende, anbefaling, anmeldelse, pris, impuls. I tilfeldig rekkefølge.

5) Finnes det bøker du aldri ville nedverdiget deg til å lese grunnet omtale?

Man skal aldri si aldri, men jeg tviler på at jeg kommer til å lese Knausgård.

6) Leser du alltid ferdig en bok hvis du ikke liker den?

Hvis det går tregt så gir jeg den opp før side 50. Har jeg kommet over det så tvinger jeg meg igjennom, ofte tar det månedsvis. Akkurat nå måtte jeg legge fra meg Coming Up for Air av George Orwell, var visstnok ikke i humør for en så pessimistisk begynnelse.

7) Hvor mye leser du hver dag?
Det varierer veldig. Akkurat nå som arbeidsledig adjunkt med ingen sosialt liv så blir det veldig mye.

8 ) Tenker du noen gang på at du burde skjerpe hva eller hvordan du leser, på samme måte som du tenker at du burde spise sunnere eller trene mer?

Kanskje litt mer variert? Men jeg får som regel i meg en god blanding i løpet av et år.

9) Språk eller handling, eller er dette et absurd spørsmål? Tenk fort.
Fungerer ikke språket så har handlingen lite å si, og omvendt.

10) Regner du mer enn 60% av din lesertid som avslapning?

Absolutt. Kunne til og med kose meg med pensum.

11) Er litteratur hovedsaklig underholdning, dannelse eller flukt?

Jeg tror jeg har lært mest av bøker, men det er også god underholdning og tilfluktssted.

12) Har du noen gang likt en bok og nektet å innrømme det av kulturstatusårsaker?

Tror ikke det.

Så må jeg bare dele det jeg fant under oppussingen av mine foreldres kjellerstue:

Saturday, 3 July 2010

thirty-six.

A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul (1979)

"Small things can start us off in new ways of thinking, and I was started off by the postage stamps of our area. The British administration gave us beautiful stamps. These stamps depicted local scenes and local things; there was one called "Arab Dhow". It was as though, in those stamps, a foreigner had said, 'This is what is most striking about this place'. Without that stamp of the dhow I might have taken the dhows for granted. As it was, I learned to look at them. Whenever I saw them tied up at the waterfront I thought of them as something peculiar to our region, quaint, something the foreigner would remark on, something not quite modern, and certainly nothing like the liners and cargo ships that berthed in their own modern docks"
Salim grows up on somewhere on the East Coast of Africa, but his ancestors came from India. Looking to get away from the place, he buys a shop in a city by a bend in the river in the heart of Africa. He arrives in the midst of decolonisation. He watches the city growing, first slowly and then very rapidly under the new government. The new president (or Big Man) must be popular, his face and people are everywhere. Salim admires him and ignores the signs that tell him to leave while he still can.

I could quote every passage from this book. It is a marvellous story about post-colonial Africa and feeling out of place. In some ways the writing style and theme reminded me of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, but I definitely liked this book better.

Friday, 2 July 2010

thirty-five.

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt (1990)

An academic finds a letter from a famous male Victorian poet to another poet. He seeks expertise from a female academic who also happens to be related to the female poet. Together they unravel a correspondence which turns into obsession. But other academics are also on the hunt for the new information that could change everything.

I was definitely the wrong reader for this book. I don't have the patience to read and analyse poetry (words that probably never should be said by an English teacher) and I actually skipped a lot of the poems that probably make this book meaningful. I liked some parts of the book, the parts that dealt with the present and some of the past, but I skimmed a lot as it got to the end.

For people who like poetry, mythology, the Victorian period and romance this is probably the perfect book, but if you have no particular interest in these things this is not the book for you (and me).

Thursday, 1 July 2010

summer purchases.

No more buying books until 2011 or when I get a proper job (whichever comes first). Missing the Last Living Slut by Roxana Shirazi as it won't be released until Mid-July. Instead of putting books in my basket at Amazon, I have started to put the books I want on my Wish List, more or less obsessive-compulsory.

But more than anything I need a new camera. Hard to take good pictures when the screen is black.

Blog Archive