Friday 12 December 2008

The spy who shagged me AND wrote cool books

In case you're wondering, my thesis defense went well and I'm free and clear. I did let out one incredibly loud "WOOOHOOO!" on the day, but mostly I've just been feeling really laid back and free of a burden that's been weighing on me a long time. It's nice!

But on to more important things: books. I brought 3 books with me to Kingston but I finished one on the train (Skellig) and am almost halfway through another (Stephen King's Night Shift) which is not the scary thrill-ride I was hoping for.

The third book was an Ellis Peters whodunnit which I haven't read because after devouring Skellig, I really wanted more kiddie lit. I ended up going to Novel Idea, Kingston's only independent book-seller of new books and spent money I don't have on a new book I should have instead borrowed from the library.

I ended up picking up Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red, Snow White purely on the basis of its title, which reminded me of a fairy tale I recall fondly from my childhood called "Snow White and Rose Red". It involved a prince disguised as a bear who's set free by the hot sisters' kindness.

The book wasn't obviously related to that particular fairy tale, but it was about Arthur Ransome who was a real author famous for his books Old Peter's Russian Tales and Swallows and Amazons. Ransome was also a reporter, a spy for the British, perhaps a spy for the Bolsheviks, and in love with a Russian woman who happened to have been Trotsky's secretary during the Russian Revolution. His life was complicated, and the book reflected his combined tastes for fairy stories, espionage, and foreign women by being itself a fairy tale, a spy thriller, and a love story all at once.

I thought Blood Red, Snow White worked best when it was addressing the political and historical issues through fairy tales. It was just a really good read then, and I thought perhaps an excellent way to get teens (the intended audience for this book, I presume) interested in history. When Sedgwick started emphasizing the spy/love stuff more I found it less compelling but who knows what the kidz would think.

What I do know for sure is that Sedgwick's book really made me want to read Old Peter's Russian Tales, which has been sitting around our house for the past 10 years feeling unloved and under-appreciated. Soon, my poor abandoned book, soon.

I realize my writing isn't very lively tonight. The fact is that while I'm very happy and relaxed right now, I'm also very tired. I promise to write positively sparkling, crackling, ass-kicking, jubilant, etc reviews soon. But now it's time for a 10-hour nap.


Bookfool said...

Oooh, that sounds kind of fun. I don't know if I've ever bought a book solely based on the title. Probably. I buy them for the oddest reasons. Congrats on your successful defense!

Bookphilia said...

I don't think I've ever before bought a book based just on its title but I may do so again: I ran across a book the other day called Madrigal for Charlie Muffin. It's supposed to be crime fiction but is it also hilarious? How am I supposed to take someone named Charlie Muffin seriously?