Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dying to Know

Well. Perhaps you've been dying to know what books were bugging me last week. Maybe not! In either case, here they are:

1939: The Last Season




I was expecting something different, I think, in this book by Anne De Courcy. I thought it would be about British 'Society', debutante balls, the last hurrah before WW2 intervened. It was sometimes about those things. I enjoyed chapters about what the process was to be presented at court, health and medical care at the time, the lives of servants and the upkeep of those enormous country estates. I did not so much enjoy chapters about particular parties, and who attended, and what they wore and what was served for dinner, all told in a dry journalistic tone. I suppose that is what bothered me about this book - it was very dry and almost too 'stick to the facts' in form. I wanted personal stories and anecdotes; that is what brings history to life, I think, and it was not really achieved here in my opinion. Certainly I learned some things, but reading this became a chore.

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me


It surprises even me that Ruth Rendell wrote a book that was at times yawn inducing. This is the story of several women whose boyfriends and husband have died or disappeared and how they are all connected. Then there are a series of murders (we know the culprit) that affect all of these women, and we peer over the shoulders of police as they discover who-done-it. This book feels like Rendell and if you've read her, you know what that means. It's suspenseful and mysterious, people are a little bit...off. At first the reader is in the dark and is let in on the secret a few chapters in. Then we wait for things to come to a head. They do. Then I wondered what on earth is going to happen in the second half of this book. This is actually a good book and a decent read, it's just not up there with the other Rendell/Vine books I've read. It's much, much more psychological novel than it is a straight mystery/suspense/detective story. Published in 2001, I think it might be the most current Rendell/Vine book I've read and it's worth reading - it's just not her best or most typical book.

9 comments:

jennysbooks said...

I wasn't crazy about Adam and Eve and Pinch Me - I checked it out a while ago wanting to see what Rendell's books were like, and I was a little disappointed in it. Sounds like I should give her another try.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

What a pity about 1939. It looks like it could have been a fascinating book, in someone else's hands, apparently!

bermudaonion said...

That's too bad - the cover of 1939 The Last Season is just gorgeous.

Staci said...

Honestly I wouldn't have picked up 1939...the cover doesn't intrigue me at all. I haven't read Rendell yet but I've heard great things about her.

Hannah Stoneham said...

It is interesting to hear what you have to say about 1939 as I have that one but it has been languishing at the bottom of the to be reads for some time... maybe rightly! thanks for sharing, Hannah

Nan said...

As I read I found myself thinking about the book about the time just before the First World War - The Perfect Summer: Dancing Into Shadow in 1911 by Juliet Nicholson. Over here they titled it - The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before The Storm. I guess they thought we might not get what it was about. :<) I hope they didn't change the inside words too, but I'll get the British version just in case. I can't remember if you've read it or not.

Danielle said...

Too bad about 1939--I'm looking forward to reading it still, but I was hoping it would be more personal and anecdotal as well. I've not read a single NF yet this year--I just can't seem to get going with things. And I'm in the mood for a Rendell/Vine book but haven't picked one up in ages. She's pretty prolific so it's not surprising not all the books are at the same level of her best ones. Is this a later one? Maybe she is changing her style a little? Her earlier books are really wonderful, though, I think. Hopefully your next book will be a great read!

Danielle said...

Too bad about 1939--I'm looking forward to reading it still, but I was hoping it would be more personal and anecdotal as well. I've not read a single NF yet this year--I just can't seem to get going with things. And I'm in the mood for a Rendell/Vine book but haven't picked one up in ages. She's pretty prolific so it's not surprising not all the books are at the same level of her best ones. Is this a later one? Maybe she is changing her style a little? Her earlier books are really wonderful, though, I think. Hopefully your next book will be a great read!

Tara said...

jennsybooks, do give Ruth Rendell another try! This was atypically dull for her. I enjoyed Judgement in Stone and The Crocodile Bird, also she writes under the name Barbara Vine and her earliest books are fabulous.

rhapsodyofbooks, I thought so too, and was prepared to love this. It was a disappointment.

Kathy, I think so too.

Staci, Rendell is usually amazing, give her a try.

Hannah, thanks for stopping by. I have another of this author's books to read - hope it is better!

Nan, I haven't read this one yet, but I do own it (the British version I believe) and I believe the reviews are very good. I hope we like it!

Danielle, I hope you like it more than I did. I was hoping for something more along the lines of Singled Out, but that amazing book will be hard to beat. I've been a bit slow on the NF reading myself, partly because I wanted to finish this before starting another NF book. Yes, this is one of Rendell's later works, 2001 or so perhaps? I agree that the earlier stuff is hands down amazing.