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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Books Read in December


Love's Shadow by Ada Leverson

Love's Shadow is like an Oscar Wilde play in the form of a novel.  It is a social comedy and 'full of froth and bubble', but Leverson has very sharp insights into people's behaviour.

Like most social comedies this book involves many love triangles.  Hardly anyone is really happy.  Edith Ottley is married to the rather volatile and unlikeable Bruce - they form 'the little Ottleys'.  Edith's life becomes much more interesting when she starts watching what her friend, the beautiful Hyacinth, does.  Hyacinth loves Cecil Reeves, but he is fascinated by the bohemian Eugenia.  Sir Charles adores Hyacinth, but he is stuck with his formidable wife. The only one who has some semblance of happiness is the strange Ann, who also adores Hyacinth, but is willing to be friends with her.

I didn't think that any of the characters were especially interesting, but the novel is so light and charmingly written and so Edwardian in a rather modern way that it is really irresistable reading.  I also always wondered who 'the little Ottleys' were so I was quite pleased to find them in the library by accident!

I enjoyed Robert Wagner's autobiography, Pieces Of My Heart 
very much.  It was especially interesting to read about his great love, Natalie Wood.

Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexander

Be warned! This is NOT holiday reading! I found this historical novel rather harrowing. Our heroine, Rosa, has to endure prison, rape, and trying to care for an illegitimate child.  And that's not all!  The book is set in the dreadful era of Mussolini's Italy but Rosa had to go through too many torments for my liking.

Alexander knows how to tell a good story although the writing is a bit amateur at times.  The setting is thoroughly researched and the characters are well-drawn.  Rosa is extremely strong and likeable.  

         

                          I thought that the final twist was completely unbelievable and not explained very well, unfortunately.  The book would have been better off without it.   Tuscan Rose is worth reading if you like historical novels and you don't mind a tortuous story full of suffering and sadness.


The Fast Life and Sudden Death of Michael McGurk by Richard Vereker with Mark Abernethy

The murder of property developer, McGurk, caused a sensation in Australia.  This was partly because he threatened to release secret tapes which he said could bring down the New South Wales Labor government.

After reading this book I wasn't surprised that McGurk was killed.  He annoyed so many people.  He was apparently involved in many get-rich quick schemes and scams.  He didn't hesitate to defraud people, according to this book. 

He was also addicted to drink and cocaine.  This made his delusions of grandeur and sceming much worse.  It also increased his money problems and made his life very difficult.

This wasn't the whole story about McGurk, however.  He loved his family dearly, went to church regularly, and tried to overcome his addictions.

This wasn't my usual type of book.  I wanted to learn a few secrets about shady deals in N.S.W. but I'd have to read a different book to find out about corruption in the state. Property developers and the government are certainly too close for my liking, however.  It was a very complicated story and some of McGurk's schemes were hard to understand, but the book does give the reader an insight into the close links between property developers and MP's.

I find it a bit difficult to see why Vereker wrote the book.  He keeps referring to himself as a 'friend' of McGurk's but I wouldn't want to be a friend of anyone who'd write such a story about me!  I can't help wondering whether the main motive here is money, unfortunately.

                                   

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Tsar's Ballerina



There is a new novel about Mathilde Kschessinska: The Memoirs of Little K. Her child certainly wasn't the Tsar's but I am interested in reading the novel which has had good reviews.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

All things Alcott Challenge



I read Eight Cousins for the All Things Alcott Challenge but I didn't finish it.

When the book begins Rose, a pale orphan, lives with her old aunts who over-protect her and give her lots of pills for her health. She's living rather a dull life. Things change when Uncle Alec turns up to save the day! Uncle Alec throws the pills out, makes Rose have plenty of light and air, and gives her wise advice. He encourages her to make friends with her seven boy cousins. I did think that the Uncle was a bit too enlightened when he gave Rose a medicine containing hemp!

Rose and the other characters are all very engaging. The problem was that I found this book just too moralistic. Uncle Alec gives Rose lectures and advice all of the time. He stops her from wearing corsets and high heels, for example, and shows her their dangers. I didn't finish because I got a bit tired of all this.

However, I may prefer Rose in Bloom and I'm certainly going to give it a try!