Mary's Library

Friday, July 28, 2006

What I'm Reading

I've started a lot of books lately, so I’m officially reading all those listed below but I’m spending most of my time with the ones I’ve given an asterisk.

* The Prime Minister (1876) by Anthony Trollope. My online trollope group started reading five chapters a week of this long novel back in May. We will finish in September. This may be one of my top ten favorite novels.

* Passion (2004) by Jude Morgan. This historical novel is about Mary Shelley, Byron’s sister Augusta, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Fanny Brawne, women who were relatives and lovers of the great Romantic poets, Shelley, Keats, and Byron.

* The Din in the Head (2006) by Cynthia Ozick. Lit crit that discusses Susan Sontag, Helen Keller, Tolstoy, Saul Bellow, Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwartz, Proust, Kipling, and others in short essays that go, as always with Ozick, to the heart of the matter.

*The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal (1991) by Lilian Jackson Braun. An interminable mystery series that stars two exceedingly personable Siamese cats and a man with a mustache that twitches when he’s in the presence of a clue, this is the perfect thing to read when it’s 105 degrees outside and you can’t bear to tackle even one more convoluted, symbol-drenched, Proustojamesian sentence and need the literary equivalent of iced Kool-Aid.

Deerbrook (1839) by Harriet Martineau. My not-trollope group will discuss this when we finish Castle Rackrent and Passion.

Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (2005) by Michael Dirda, one of the best book reviewers I’ve ever had the privilege to read. This book is a rambling commonplace book rather than a collection of reviews.

A Love Affair (1984) by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Written some time between 1935 and 1942, this book looked appealing when I found it on the shelf. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. In fact, it’s positively bad. I begin to think it may be a product of vanity publishing. Too bad.

I have recently finished reading the following. This time the asterisks indicate what I thought of the book (on a scale of 1 to 5.)

** Castle Rackrent (1800) by Maria Edgeworth. A vicious of satire of the Irish, drenched in irony. It was here that Thackeray got the idea for Barry Lyndon (1844).

** Charm City (1998) by Laura Lippman. The city in question is Baltimore and this is the solidly constructed second book in a murder mystery series.

*** A Grave Talent (1993) by Laurie R King. This is the first is a new series of mysteries that take place in contemporary San Francisco. King is the author of The Beekeepers Apprentice (1994), the much-praised series starring Sherlock Holmes. Both are outstanding.

** One Sunday Morning (2006) by Amy Ephron. Love and angst in 1920s New York and Paris.

** Old Filth (2005) by Jane Gardam. A retired Hong Kong judge comes to terms with his life and his sins.


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