Thursday 25 November 2010

Got plans this evening?

Hey friends, if you like YA fiction featuring girl spies in Victorian London, you should come to Type Books at 883 Queen St. West in Toronto tonight. Author Y.S. Lee will be reading from The Agency: The Body at the Tower from 7-8:30 pm.

I finished reading The Body at the Tower a few days ago, and thought it was even more of a rollicking good read than the first book in the trilogy, A Spy in the House. Like the first, Lee's second installment in this series features a mystery to be solved, novice spy Mary Quinn skulking about trying to solve it and generally being a bit awkward, and Mary also being alternately distracted and assisted by the dangerously attractive James Easton (attractive in spite of especially because he's recently acquired that brink of death look).

Lee is a Victorianist and this book is uber-Victorian in its creation of atmosphere; the story, however, is positively Shakespearean in its playful approach to girls dressing up as boys - the very best kind of sexiness and hi jinx ensue. I'm really looking forward to the third installment in the series!

FYI: I know Ying, from the grad school, but neither she nor her publisher gifted me this book for review. I bought it and read it just because I felt like it.

I wish I could say I enjoyed Ihara Saikaku's Comrade Loves of the Samurai half as much as I did The Body at the Tower. Like Five Women Who Loved Love, this is a collection of short stories connected by a common theme - in this case, how awesome manly man on man love is. The stories were okay, but ultimately indistinguishable. Part of the problem is that Saikaku was perhaps a little overly repetitive, but I think the translator, E. Powys Mathers, was a bit of a disaster too.

Comrade Loves of the Samurai is just so damned clunky; the Songs of the Geisha Mathers appended is even worse. Translating poetry is always risky, and I have to say that in this case, I don't think Mathers was up to the job. I read all of the songs in this section, but I remember none except those that made me cringe; I won't quote them here.

Ihara Saikaku will not be having a reading tonight at Type Books because he died in 1693. He also didn't send me a review copy of his book, for the same reason.


Y S Lee said...

Thanks for coming to the party, Colleen! It was great to see you briefly (too briefly). And I'm so glad you enjoyed Body.

Bookphilia said...

We will catch up in December, when I will expect a full report on your reading of Wolf Hall. ;)