Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Start the Year Off Right

For one, I'd suggest beginning with some Dorothy Whipple. As 2010 began, I had a nice little stack of books on my nightstand, each of which was making me happy. They Were Sisterswas pleasing me most of all. This is the story of, yes, three sisters, and their relationships with one another and with their own families. One sister became caregiver to the others quite early on so she remains a bit of an authority figure to them. These three sisters are married, one to a somewhat dull but very solid presence, one to a loving husband whom she does not respect, and one to an abusive and degrading man. It is worth mentioning that Whipple creates a sense of fear surrounding this abusive man, and yet there is no physical violence, he abuses with his words and attitude.

How very difficult it is to describe what is so wonderful about Dorothy Whipple, why her books are just so readable, for that is what they are. Characters are fully and honestly drawn, and the drama all happens at home or in the minds of the characters. Whipple's books are not the sort that would be termed cozy; there is a great amount of discord and unrest here, and one hopes that there will be a happy ending for someone, at least. All in all, totally satisfying for me and it is all I can do to stop myself from plowing through my other Whipples right now.




Another book that started off my year right was John Harwood's The Seance. I had wanted to read this ever since I first heard about it, despite my slight disappointment in the ending of his previous novel, The Ghost Writer. The Seance has many elements that I enjoy; a Victorian setting, a mystery, somewhat of a story within a story. In a nutshell, Constance Langton has had a disappointing childhood, and as a young woman finds that she has inherited an old country mansion Wraxford Hall. But this is no ordinary mansion, as Constance is advised, amongst other strange occurrences, people have vanished into thin air. The middle part of the book is told from several perspectives, detailing the mysteries surrounding Wraxford, then for the ending we go back to Constance for a final adventure. I liked this book a good deal, but something occurred to me; I think I like John Harwood's writing better than his plotting. Sometimes things get a bit far-fetched, or complicated, but it's all beautifully told. Another book to recommend, and an author to watch, for sure.

13 comments:

Ti said...

I just finished a Persophone book last night. It was titled Kitchen Essays. You would love it! I haven't read any Whipple though but I so want to.

JoAnn said...

I can't wait to read They Were Sisters! It will be my next Persephone purchase.

Eva said...

Yay for Whipple! :) Like you, I've read both of Harwood's novels, and I really did love them both, but I think you're right...his writing is stronger than his plotting.

Kristen M. said...

The thing with Harwood is that his books are just good enough to make you want to try more ...

And I am definitely going to read Whipple this year!

jennysbooks said...

You're so right about Harwood - he overreaches himself with the plot, and it doesn't end up as satisfying as I feel like it could be.

Staci said...

Whipple is an author that I want to read this year for sure. Don't you just love it when you start off with awesome books!!??

Dips said...

Just read Someone at a distance by Whipple and really enjoyed it..wish I could get more of those out here..Im pining for 'They were sisters' - it was not even in stock last I checked..

Paperback Reader said...

I also find Whipple immensely readable and enjoyed both Someone at a Distance and They Were Sisters. She evokes raw emotions very well whilst also writing about the everyday. I can't wait to read her other books although I'm also rationing them out.

Gentle Reader said...

I can't believe I've never even heard of Dorothy Whipple. She has gone straight to the top of my list! Thanks :)

Danielle said...

I've yet to read a Dorothy Whipple novel and I feel like I am the last person to do so! The next Persephone I pick up will have to be one by her! And I liked the Seance--maybe didn't love it, but I think you're right there are elements of the far fetched to it. Still it was an entertaining if not perfect read!

Tara said...

Ti, I think I will like it too - I have it! hehe.

JoAnn, I hope you like it!

Eva, I'm glad it's not just me thinking that way about Harwood.

Kristen M., that is so true, I will definitely read his next one!

Jennysbooks, yes - it just seemed overly complicated and bogged down at times, but the bones were good.

Staci, I love when it works out that way, yes!

Dips, Glad you enjoyed it! I usually order my Persephones directly from their website or from the book depository.


Paperbackreader, so true what you wrote about Whippple and emotions. I do hope Persephone published more of her work.

Gentle Reader, really?? I hope you give her a try!

Danielle, I think you will like her. Totally agree with you on The Seance, not perfect but I'll be back for more.

Darlene said...

So glad that you enjoyed your Whipple...how could you not! I have this one on my bookshelf but am rationing them out slowly.

Tara said...

Darlene, exactly, how could I not?? I have my fingers crossed that persephone will give us more!