December – From the Libraries – Nesbo, Galbraith, Rankin, Mankell, Hornby and Miller

Some months are good for reading and some aren’t. When you’re enjoying a book you can find plenty of time for reading but if the pages are dragging then daily reading time dwindles. December was a good month and here are my reactions   You can find out more about the stories elsewhere in WordPress blogs, written by people who specialize in doing that.

Police by Jo Nesbo

I was just finishing this book at the beginning of the month.. You either like crime novels or you don’t.  You either like translations of Scandivian crime novels or you don’t.  I do, and this book was no exception. And a lot depends on the translator to produce a fluid translation in the new language. This was the tenth book in the Harry Hole series and didn’t disappoint.  I’ve been interested to note that  Nesbo is now working on a couple of new novels under the nom-de-plume of  Tom Johansen.

Cuckoo Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K.Rowling

I go to the library to collect books that I have decided I want to read but I always have a quick look at the Returned Books Shelf.  You never know what you might find there.  On one such day Cuckoo Calling was displayed prominently.  Now I am full of admiration for J.K.Rowling for her ability to write books that children want to read.  But I found her first adult novel, Casual Vacancy, very disappointing and had decided never again !  Famous last words. There it was, sitting on the shelf mocking me, Cuckoo Calling, so down it came.  And the inevitable happened, I just loved it.

That wasn’t my reaction in the first three pages where she set up the crime which is going to need solving.  My prejudices were there and I was muttering words like Adjective Junkie, and, Any High School kid could do better than that. Bees humming AND buzzing in the same sentence,  Not the bees that I know.   But once she starts the real story she is off and running, a real story-teller.

There is the suitably dishevelled, highly intelligent but damaged detective, struggling to make a living.  He is assisted by a delightful, resourceful and tactful Secretary who he gradually comes to realize that he couldn’t do without. (I’ve already cast the delightful Scottish actress Kelly McDonald in the role of the Secretary ! )  It sounds familiar, doesn’t it and I wonder if Rowling had a smile on her face some of the time while writing.

The end is such that further stories could be written.   How they would fare I do not know as even though I enjoyed the books the characters don’t have the depth, that you find in a Henning Mankell or Jo Nesbo book,  which you need for a lengthy series.

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Knots and Crosses is another  random choice book, displayed front and centre on the Returned Book shelf,  just waiting to be taken home for a visit.  Over the years I have seen TV interpretations of the Rebus series.  I remember enjoying the series when John Hannah played Rebus but when a different actor took over the role they became just another cop show of no particular interest, I even read a couple of the novels.  But that is all in the past and the details were fading from the memory  so I was a bit amazed when I found myself enjoying Ian Rankin’s first novel far more than I expected to.  Rankin’s words and my imagination renewed my interest in  the characters I remember seeing  on the small screen. Further interest came from filling in the earlier life of Rebus.

The Pyramid by Henning Mankell

This book got renewed twice at the library before I finished reading it. This was possible as it is a series of five  shorter Kurt Wallander mysteries which progress through his life from his beginnings as a detective, through his marriage, fatherhood and  the breakup of his marriage. But it wasn’t written until eight of the main Wallander mysteries had been written and helped to fill in the back story.

As well as wallowing in crime stories there were a couple of light pieces from the library on my mini ipad, used for late night or coffee shop reading.

How to be Good by Nick Hornby – a bit of fluff

Lovesong by Alex Miller  With an inter-country marriage how do you cope with the family ties pulling in different directions.

One thing I don’t lack is a choice of bookmarks for each of my reads.

Bookmarks 2

Grandpa and his bushfire

At this time of the year Down Under there are many reports of bushfires.  Some are quickly controlled but others go on for days or weeks.   My grandfather was caught by one but that was a long while ago..  The dry weather had brought swarms of locusts and by February 1, 1898  Beech Forest was described as being ablaze, just one of the many fires that had been devastating the Otways, turning day into night.

Grandpa and his father and brother had come down each year from central Victoria in the off season to clear land for a dairy farm.  It was in the hills above Apollo Bay, then still known by its original name of Krambruk.  They had built a house and Grandpa was settling in well.

The Otway Forest was fast coming into prominence as a coastal tourist resort. That summer distinguished visitors to the various small communities were reported, as were the balls and Sports Days. On Tuesday, February 8, 1898 it wasn’t a particularly hot morning, but the wind was gusty. And when the wind swung to the north the burning-off which had been  started by the Beech Forrest settlers as a precaution got out of control and headed towards Apollo Bay.

About 11.30 in the morning my grandfather was helping his next door neighbour, William Methven. They saw the fire making for their houses at the top of the ridge so they began to hurry home.  Grandpa reached Mr Methven’s house first and stopped briefly for a drink of milk, the older man having lagged behind, then hurried to his own home.

There was little Charles Fricke could do to save his home.  The fire was so intense he crouched behind a table with a bucket of water for five hours, tearing the back out of his waistcoat to dip in the water and cover his mouth.  The table was too small to cover his feet and the heat drew the nails out of his boots.  His horse was the only one of his animals to survive the fire, even though his mane had been burnt off.

Alone, blinded by the heat, he decided he would rather die on the road to the township where his body would be found more quickly.  And so, feeling his way with a stick, he set off on the three miles to Apollo Bay.  Mrs Costin took him in and put him to bed and nursed him back to health but his neighbour had died trying to reach the sanctuary of the creek.

As the telegraph line was burnt down the news of the fire had to be taken out by horseback.  The coaches could not get through as the track became blocked and the corduroy was burning. So it was Friday before the outside world knew what had happened.

After eight years of clearing scrub, splitting palings, fencing, building, and creating a farm, it was a case of start again.  First priority was shelter. Grandpa built a  temporary humpy using the roofing iron from his burnt home.  .  And so, full circle, he started again. Dear Grandpa.

Image

Grandpa and his humpy

Impressions of Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth

Please don’t think that I am trying to write a book review.  What I am doing is merely giving you my impressions of a book.   I have now finished reading the book and it has gone back to the library, hence the word impressions – what am I left with, which is not a page by page description of the story.

So….  My impression is another great book by Ian Mc Ewan, set in the 70’s just after the Cold War.   One of the characters is a writer so as examples of his work  we have some interesting complete short stories within the novel.  I do remember  that I found one of these stories  particularly fascinating as he was using  mathematical logic and probability as the basis for actions taken  in real life.

Among the many layers another  impression is of the part Deception and Betrayal  can play in life.  Early in the book a major player is involved in a fairly serious and ongoing  deception.  But after a while you begin to wonder if there is anyone else who is not really the person they seem to be.

I enjoyed his little digs at the Booker Prize and the Book Reviewers and their ramblings.  I wonder a little, as I usually do with McEwan, about the way he writes about his female characters.  There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on but  sometimes when he is giving thoughts to his female characters  I feel uneasy,  a reaction I don’t have with other authors.

Was I so wise when I was her age, particularly when she  was analysing the fictional author’s personality and reading all kinds of meanings into his writings.  But this is a remembrance.so perhaps I read too much into her attitudes.

When I was getting well on with the book, the tension was really building up and I had a feeling of doom and suspense.   I was very tempted to have a look at the ending, but fortunately I resisted .  When I was nearly out of words to read my eyebrows went up, my mouth dropped open,  I smiled, I laughed, I laughed out loud. Perhaps I’m naïve but it wasn’t an ending I was expecting and it took some moments for the full scope of what he had done to become clear. It is worth reading the whole book for that final explosion of insight.  Such a clever author.

Sweet Tooth