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L. R. Fisher "lucy_fisher4" (London)

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From Doon With Death: A Wexford Case - 50th Anniversary Edition
From Doon With Death: A Wexford Case - 50th Anniversary Edition
by Ruth Rendell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Good social observation, but what became of Dudley?, 12 Oct 2014
Just reread this. It is atmospheric - you can see the houses where the characters live. Murder victim Margaret Parsons lives in a largish Victorian house that has not been "modernised" - it looks unchanged for 50 years. There is parquet-effect lino on the floor and a brass letter rack on the wall. This is in contrast to her two old school friends' homes: one is tasteful in a colourless, Gothic style, with tapestry hunting scenes in the large entrance hall; the other is nouveau riche, with play equipment for the children and a hammock in the garden. Clothes are also a class giveaway: Margaret wears permed hair, a cotton dress, bare legs, sandals, a cardigan and a rain hood. (This was frumpy in 1964, and she's only 30.) Nouveau riche Helen wears a lot of turquoise and royal blue (together), while tasteful Fabia prefers dark colours. We don't learn much about Wexford and Burden - they are defined more by their modernistic police station (with steel and tweed chairs). Later books became more soap opera, and we learn a bit too much about them.

One good point about this (very short) book: she is writing about people and interiors she knows. Later books sound as if they are based on research.

One thing puzzles me, though: what becomes of Dudley Drury? Why was he so frightened? Was his wife ever questioned? What had he buried in the vegetable plot? What is he hiding?


A case of human bondage
A case of human bondage
by Beverley Nichols
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant insight into the past, 7 Oct 2014
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I endorse the first review. Who knew that celeb and name-dropper Beverley Nichols was such a good writer? He gives an insider's view of the Maughams' marriage (it was a bit "crowded"). I am fascinated by Syrie Maugham - as a decorator, she was an artist whose works have disappeared. Nichols' account of their flight to England while she regales the staid diners on a British train with the inside dope is hilarious, punctuated with "black please, no sugar". In those days, as he points out, well-bred English people spoke in whispers in public. If you like this, try The Scandal of Syrie Maugham. Nichols draws the veil over Maugham's homosexual menage, but remember when his account was written. His stories of Maugham's fury when Nichols was found in the wrong bedrooms have surely been massaged, but we can forgive him. Maugham comes over as rich, spoiled and domineering; but his charming alcoholic lover, Gerald Hatton, has the power in the relationship.


Can't and Won't
Can't and Won't
by Lydia Davis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

1.0 out of 5 stars So boring I threw it in a bin in the park, 5 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Can't and Won't (Hardcover)
There are a few interesting items, such as a list of reasons for not reading articles in the London Review of Books. I can see that she wanted to write about her sister, but it seems for herself, rather than for public consumption. The interesting bit about her sister comes earlier. Their parents were always "nag, nag, nag; harp, harp, harp" at her sister, who moved to the UK, worked for the disabled and eventually received an OBE from the Queen - her parents were in the audience. Immediately after the ceremony, they no longer nagged her to her face, just "carp, carp, carped" behind her back. Davis muses: "Thank God it happened finally. If only it hadn't taken a move to another continent. And how long will it last?" I'd like to hear more about the mother from hell.

There are several stories in the form of letters to public bodies, which reveal a writer tediously obsessed with detail and irrelevancies. They are like a shaggy dog story - OK, I get it, but it's a pain to read.


The Cherry in the Martini (Coronet Books)
The Cherry in the Martini (Coronet Books)
by Rona Jaffe
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Looking forward to rereading, 1 Oct 2014
I've just ordered this book because I've just read Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado, and I remember this book being somewhat similar - the memoirs of a young girl in the mid-60s. She's so naive she thinks you put a cocktail cherry in a martini, and ends up on many dates with older real-estate salesmen with "talcumed jowls", I seem to remember. A precursor to Sex and the City, a successor to Butterfield 8.

I found her later books a bit long and humdrum, though also full of social observation. The girl characters seem to spend their evenings on tedious dates until they marry and move to a stifling life in the suburbs.


The Dud Avocado (VMC)
The Dud Avocado (VMC)
by Elaine Dundy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Social document, 1 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Dud Avocado (VMC) (Paperback)
Sexual intercourse began in 1963? A lot was going on in Paris in 1958 (and in London in the 20s, according to Dodie Smith). It's good to read a book written in the voice of a young woman, though I agree with others that the protagonist is quite irritating. She might have found life less confusing if she had held back on the alcohol. She is the 50s version of the Bright Young Thing. And goodness gracious, Americans who can afford have been living a self-conscious vie de Boheme in Paris for decades. (We thought the hippies were NEW! Silly us.) But most of them could go back home to the proper job and the sensible marriage. What do young people do now? They go to university to drink and have affairs - no need for Paris. I suppose in both cases they read a few books, look at a few pictures, and have a few intellectual discussions. Sally Jay Gorce spends the book pursuing another expat, the patronising Larry, while having affairs with other men. Larry turns out to have worse vices than telling young girls they are just "green tourists", however. This seems a bit melodramatic - but in real life Dundy married Kenneth Tynan.

Sally Jay aspires to be a woman sipping cocktails in the Ritz wearing a lot of jewellery and pale furs - would she have been shocked to find that 10 years later, the fashion was for dirt, purple velvet, drugs and discotheques? At least the promiscuity wouldn't have bothered her.


All is Discovered (Linford Mystery)
All is Discovered (Linford Mystery)
by Joanna Cannan
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Bilious tale which seems more interested in criticising the vulgar ..., 27 Sep 2014
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Bilious tale which seems more interested in criticising the vulgar decor of the lower middle classes than setting us a decent puzzle. Series detective Price is pompous and intolerant and has the gall to call his sons Howard and Norman. The plot involves a refugee from Romania who is found murdered in a boathouse.


The Lost World (Children's classics)
The Lost World (Children's classics)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful art, but the text retains Victorian racism and violence, 27 Sep 2014
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This is a ripping yarn of Victorian explorers in search of living dinosaurs in South America. The pictures are wonderful and dramatic, in that 70s Ladybird style. However - is it suitable for children? It is apparently "retold in simple language", but it is full of words that a 10-year-old, for example, will be baffled by. But the real problem is the "of-its-time" racism. The explorers have a faithful negro servant, who gets left outside the lost world. Once there, they meet two races of men: some "hideous, brutish etc" ape-men, and some "noble savage" Indians (Native Americans). They side with the Indians and the ape-men meet the violent end they had planned for Homo sapiens. (The explorers return home and give a talk at the "institute". Their live pterodactyl is a hit, but escapes through a window to wing its way back to the lost world.)


Away from the vicarage
Away from the vicarage
by Noel Streatfeild
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 27 Sep 2014
This review is from: Away from the vicarage (Hardcover)
The second volume of Noel Streatfeild's fictionalised autobiography, in which "Victoria" becomes an actress in the 20s.


How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much
How To Be A Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much
by Samantha Ellis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Sisters Are Doing What...?, 18 Sep 2014
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This is a lovely book. Samantha Ellis started writing as a journalist on the Evening Standard, and it shows. She is direct, witty, unpretentious, engaging. This is the best kind of writing. Her analysis of her favourite books (Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables) reveals how their heroines affect the self-image of generations of young women. (I modelled myself on Anne and became whimsical, fanciful and poetic - what a PITA I must have been!) I'm always happy to meet Mildred Lathbury of Excellent Women again. The book ends with an imaginary party for all the girls. My only criticism - Ellis concludes that her heroines reveal that women can find a life without men - that they don't need a man to lean on. This is old-style feminism. Are these books just propaganda to keep spinsters happy (and safely in their place), in a society in which a proportion of women will never marry? (Because their mates have been killed in wars, or because new mores mean it is easier for a man to get away without "committing" for a lifetime?)


The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories (Agatha Christie Collection)
The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories (Agatha Christie Collection)
by Agatha Christie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Moving last story in a fascinating series, 15 Sep 2014
I have just been reading (and listening to) several of these stories. I love the stories of Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin (collected in The Mysterious Mr Quin). She wrote the series in the 20s, and the tales are very of their time. She wrote this last story in the 50s, although it wasn't published until the 70s. Mr S is 69 at the end of the series, so he'd have to be about 90 in this last story! Let's stretch a point and suppose he is now about 85. He bumps into his friend Mr Quin in a small-town teashop that also sells china and nicknacks. He is filling in time because his car has broken down (fortuitous breakdowns often bring the friends together). In her mainstream novels, Christie was tough-minded about the charlatans and quacks who take advantage of people's wish to believe, and often uses seances and mediums (never genuine) as a means to reveal the truth. In her stories, though, and particularly in this series, another dimension to life is simply assumed. Mr Quin is an other-worldly figure, who likes to bring lovers together and make sure the dead find peace and justice. Mr S visits some old friends (I'm sure Christie was laughing at herself as she sets the scene at a teaparty under a cedar tree - a dig at her early novels featuring moneyed people who don't have to work). Mr S thinks he can still see Mr Quin in the distance - though his hosts tell him it's only a scarecrow. I won't give away the plot, but Mr S sees justice done as usual. Now he sees beside Mr Quin - or the scarecrow? - the figure of a beautiful woman he used to know. Surely Mr Quin has come to fetch his old friend?


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