Monday, February 7, 2011

{review} a mixed batch

There are a few books I've read which don't really run to a full review. The sort of 'yes, I'd probably read the next one in the series eventually' or 'hmmm. I enjoyed it but it's not going to stick in my mind...' or 'everyone else's read that ages ago and what can I add?'. That sort of thing.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

For example, Lauren Willig's The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (2005) was an amusing take on historical fiction slash chick lit slash mystery. There are many more in the series and I'll probably read another one at the very least. Willig favours the parallel narrative. Her modern day historian's search for the identity of an elusive contemporary of the Scarlet Pimpernel encases an inner narrative of the story of a feisty young woman's search for adventure and love in Revolutionary Paris. So strong was the internal narrative (in a Georgette Heyer fashion) that I sometimes thought that the more chick-lit type external narrative could have been ditched. It's an interesting combination and I'm probably not going to be able to resist finding out what comes next.

Instruments of Darkness: A Novel

Imogen Robertson's Instruments of Darkness (2009) is the first in a series as well and I'll definitely be reading the second one. Who is the dead man in the woods? Is he the missing heir to the nearby manor house? What secret is the anatomist Gabriel Crowther hiding from the strong-minded, independent heroine? This is a straightforward historical crime novel with another feisty heroine determined to demonstrate that her intellect is by no means inferior to that of a man. I sometimes thought, 'too feisty for 1780', but, hey, it's fiction. There's a lot of good work in the setting of this book, with various historical borrowings used to set the scenes. I thought her dark, dirty and dangerous London was particularly well drawn.

The Tapestry of Love

I'd heard good things about Rosy Thornton's The Tapestry of Love (2010) - but it didn't really grab me. It was a 'nice' book: lovely setting in the Cévannes, but a bit plotless, slow and romantic for me. Good writing with a fine eye for details of everyday life. Apart from loving France, I was clearly the wrong audience. One bit did grab me: the heroine was able to sort of 'free-hand' her tapestries without any plan except a picture in her head of what it should look like. I'm in awe.

The Rose of Sebastopol

More historical fiction: Katharine McMahon The Rose of Sebastopol (2007). Such a disappointment - I didn't enjoy it at all. I kept wanting to smack the hero(es), the heroine(s), etc. Where's a well-timed cannon shot when you need one? Even the decent historical setting couldn't win back my love. And I found a typo... I'd been expecting something as good as The Crimson Rooms. Now I'm not sure I want to check out the sequel to that. Dear oh dear. I'm not sure I like historical fiction, actually (at least at this point!). ;-)

My Cousin Rachel (Virago Modern Classics)

"She was my first, and last". I'll end on a positive note: Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel (1951). That's how to do historical mystery/fiction. It is 100% perfect and if I can't get the word "frape" into conversation this week I shan't let myself read any more du Maurier although I crave a return to Rebecca. I also adored the short stories in Don't Look Now (so spooky). I think I'll add Justine Picardie's Daphne to the TBR.

Daphne Don't Look Now: Selected Stories of Daphne Du Maurier (New York Review Books Classics) Rebecca

2 comments:

  1. I was a disappointed with Rose of Sebastapol as well. There was a strange structure, strange relationships and it just plodded along. It was disappointing because there are surprisingly few novels that talk about what happened in the Crimea particularly given the significance of Florence Nightingale. Personally I preferred Julia Gregson's take on this setting.

    I am reading the Lauren Willig series. Some of them are better than others, but I keep on reading.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to re-read The Scarlet Pimpernel and all of Georgette Heyer again when I read Willig! I've now downloaded the 2nd one to my kindle, so I will see if the chick lit elements annoy me too much. I've not read any Gregson - thanks for the recommendation. The closest I've got previously to the Crimea is that Anne Perry 'William Monk' series with the nurse.

    ReplyDelete

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