As you know, I love a bit of cosy crime. I’ve enjoyed reading Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle for as long as I can remember. More than anything, I have an affinity for the novels from the Golden Age of detective fiction. Just give me a whodunnit in a country house, an amateur sleuth and plenty of red herrings. That’s all I really need. Modern crime fiction is getting too pretentious for my liking. It’s trying to be more like television and it’s getting ridiculous. So, when this contemporary version of a Golden Age novel I knew that I had to give it a go. I’m always wary of books that get compared to Agatha Christie because no modern writer has ever been able to match her genius. Still, I’m always hopefully that someone will come close.
So, yet again, my Christmas reading hasn’t gone to plan. It’s my own fault really because who has time for much reading at the moment? I just always seem to have something to do. Meaning all of the books that are over 200 or so pages just seem super long. To get something finished for today’s post, I decided to pick up another short one. I don’t think I’ve ever read the original version of The Nutcracker by German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Although, I’ve had this gorgeous illustrated copy for years. I figured it was worth finally checking it out.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s rundown, my reading hasn’t exactly been great recently. I’m being a bit slow and not getting through my Christmas TBR very quickly. So, I really need a few short reads to boost my numbers. Otherwise, I’ll get to December 25th and still have so many festive reads to get through. Exactly what happened to me in October when I neglected my Halloween TBR. Thankfully, my most recent read was a super quick one that I managed to finish in less than a hour on Sunday. It’s exactly what I needed and has, hopefully, set me on a positive literary journey during my days off. Or, it will give me a false sense of security and I’ll forget to do any of the things that I need to do. But, we’ll get to that when we get to it.
The recent lockdown has caused a major disruption to my usual Christmas themed Instagram. Under normal circumstances, I’d have been able to pick up a cheap box of crackers on my lunchbreak at work. Since all shops have been closed and I’m, once again, staying inside as much as possible, it’s been harder tracking them down. Or, at least, tracking them down for a price that is cheap enough considering I’m going to destroy them. Thankfully, I found a box on Oxfam and decided that the additional charitable donation would somehow offset my intentions. While I was browsing the site, I got a bit sidetracked by all of their Moomin related items. I put a whole bunch of stuff in my basket but, after a lot of thought, got rid of all but a few things. One of them was this delightful book containing two stories by Tove Jansson. It seemed like a must for any real Moomins fan.
So, 2020 is almost at an end and it’s not exactly been the year that any of us expected. In terms of general life, it’s been pretty sucky but, in terms of reading, it could not have gone better. I surpassed all expectations this month despite it being quite a nothing month. Second lockdown wasn’t good in most ways but I did get more reading done. Thanks to a late night on Monday, I actually managed to finish one final book in November. It’s such a recent read that it wasn’t even included on my Instagram warp-up post. These are exciting times indeed. So, what were my November stats?
Number of books read: 11
Number of rereads: 1
Number of physical books: 5
Number of ebooks: 2
Number of audiobooks: 4
After finishing Mr Wilder & Me, I was hoping to start reading Jonathan Coe’s Brexit novel Middle England. However, I knew that if I did that, I would never finish it in time for today’s review. Instead, I went to my Audible library to find a quick read that I’d been putting off. I guess the melding of fact and fiction in Mr Wilder & Me made a bit of an impact on me because I went with this Julian Barnes book. I don’t know as much as I should about classical music and I don’t know as much as I’d like about Russian history. I did know enough about the Stalin’s Russia to have been excited about this one. Could I have done with knowing more about Shostakovich before I went in? Possibly but, then again, wouldn’t I find out everything I needed to know?
I have to admit, I haven’t watched a ton of Billy Wilder films. I’ve watched a lot of the big ones but not enough. I have loved Some Like It Hot since I was a teenager. My sister had a copy of it on VHS and I used to steal it from her room all the time. Without asking obviously and I wouldn’t give it back if I could help it. I sort of hoped that the longer it was in my possession for the easier it would be for me to just claim it as my own. Of course, at that point, I didn’t know anything about the Austrian born director or his Moldovan co-writer Iz Diamond. I just knew that it was a funny film. I’ve since learnt a thing or two about the pair, so I was very excited when Jonathan Coe’s new book was announced. Not only was it an insight into the real-life figures but it was a blending of fact and fiction. I love books that mess with real-life events. I bought it a week or so ago and I started it as soon as I possibly could. I knew that I was going to like it but would it become my new favourite Coe novel?
As is so often the case for my second book review of the week, I’m reviewing a short book because I needed to finish something quickly. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy as there are some really good short books out there but it still feels like a bad reason for picking something up. Although, I don’t think I’d ever regret picking up a Neil Gaiman. Well, I didn’t like The Ocean at the End of the Lane when I read it but I suspect I missed something there. After all, the majority of people rave about that book. I keep meaning to give it a reread but I’m still wary. But that’s beside point. This time, I went back to a classic Neil Gaiman story. One that feels so Gaiman. There’s Norse mythology, an odd (literally) protagonist, and Chris Riddell illustrations. I decided to listen to the audiobook at the same time because I needed the comfort of his narration.
How could I not read this during my Agatha Christie month? After all, it’s 100 years since it was first published. 100 years and Agatha Christie is still an important part of the literary canon. The fact that this year sees the release of another adaptation of Death on the Nile only proves that. As a writer, she is so often dismissed as being a writer of cosy crime but she has continually shown her longevity. It’s ridiculous to think that people still underestimate her but that’s always been the problem with the literary canon. And I understand that there are more than a few unsavoury moments that haven’t aged particularly well over the years but she’s not alone there.
Earlier this week the Irish Times published a review of writer Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghost. The review was negative and its tone caused some major controversy on social media. There were plenty of people who believed the review shouldn’t have been published and was overly harsh. Something that was deemed even worse considering the novel was her first fictional release. I wasn’t planning on discussing it all because I haven’t read the book in question. In fact, I’ve not ready anything written by Alderton so I wasn’t exactly emotionally invested in the saga. This week, something happened to change my mind. Something that wasn’t linked to this story in anyway but certainly got me thinking about it.