Friends, I am so damned sick! I have been mostly housebound for almost a week and am reading tonnes but don't have the brain or stamina to write full reviews of what's gone by. Welcome the hopefully brief return of the mini-review! I'm eating some restorative chickpea noodle soup as I write this.
This novel is So. Damned. Good. I am tremendously sad that this is the only thing di Lampedusa wrote, because I think he may have been a genius. Also, his translator (Archibald Colquhoun) is/was a genius - this English version read more smoothly than probably any other translation I can remember encountering; I kept forgetting that I was reading a translation. Loved it, loved it, loved it.
Also, I believe that in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell re-wrote a key scene from The Leopard - I immediately thought of Jacob's death scene when I read the Leopard's. No one can do literary homage (and kill their teacher dead) like David Mitchell can.
Thank goodness Dorothy Sayers didn't die young, for it means there are more books and I have much to look forward to. Gaudy Night is also So. Damned. Good. It's one of the best books I've read this year. It made think I made a wrong turn in life by not reading mysteries almost exclusively, like my friend Sarah does. But then, they can't all be this good, they just can't.
Reading Gaudy Night also made me wish I'd been born in England, at the beginning of the last century, so that I could have been a lady scholar at the lady's college at Oxford. I would have rowed, and scholared, and been unbelievably dry and witty, and maybe also have solved mysteries alongside extremely hot, rich British types like Lord Peter Wimsey.
The only bad news: this edition, published by New English Library, is filled with a shocking number of ridiculous typos. Avoid this publisher!
During the worst part of this wretched winter affliction, I had to go back to my reading equivalent of a favourite blanket - Brother Cadfael. An Excellent Mystery is the 11th of Ellis Peters's medieval whodunnits and it was as lovely and satisfying as the previous ten have been.
AND, I solved the mystery, which I very rarely do, and very early on to boot. This didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all; indeed, it increased it, because I knew what was at stake! I was on edge a lot, and also, as always, surprised and humbled by how humane and good Peters's characters are. Really, no author I've come across has made nice characters so interesting. Love!
The third installment in the Regeneration trilogy, The Ghost Road didn't really satisfy. The writing is very good, of course. But two things bugged me: 1) Dr. Rivers's flashbacks to his time as a missionary doctor in the South Seas just didn't make for good reading - and also didn't comment so profoundly on Europe's false sense of itself as civilized as I think Barker imagines it did.
2) Wilfred Owen was totally wasted in this one, being present only, it seems, to forebode Billy Prior's death a week before the end of the war. I thought making Siegfried Sassoon a major character in the first book was both gutsy and well done; he had life and energy which both added to and supported what is known about him. Owen in The Ghost Road was less than two-dimensional. Disappointing.
I really didn't like this book. It had some good moments and the writing was fine but if I were hell-bent on winning the Booker, I'd try to write a book like this. It's witty and gritty and it tells the "truth" about how shitty it is to be poor in India. It also blames poor brown people for keeping poor brown people down. Or, at least, the narrator does; I have no idea what Adiga thinks, but I'm not sure he's a good enough writer (yet?) to make distinctions between author and narrator clear in a first-person narrative.
I do know that I found The White Tiger profoundly irritating and not a good enough read for me to quibble less about its seemingly problematic politics. Thankfully, it was short. And I borrowed it from the library. And I have a public blog which my family and friends read, so they'll not buy me anything else by this guy.