I’m not going to finish any more books this month, so I might as well do the summary now. Total number: 11
2 in French (which is why it took a while for me to read them), 1 translated from French, rest in English in original.
5 crime fiction (perhaps my lowest proportion in ages), 1 poetry
Pierre Lemaitre: Au-revoir la-haut – deeply moving account of soldiers’ return from the trenches of WW1
Dominique Sylvain: Guerre Sale (Dirty War)
The ‘dirty war’ of the title refers to the war over natural resources and selling of weapons, which wealthy countries carry out on the African continent. In this book, however, it is barely mentioned within the African context itself. Instead we see a stream of characters with links to the Congo (perhaps too many characters, it gets hard at times to keep track), all acting out their sad tale of corruption, revenge and nasty secrets on the streets of Paris. Sylvain can write a good old plot twist as well as the best of them, but the opening and close of this novel prove what a great writing style she has too. This is the fifth in the Lola and Ingrid series, and I love the dynamic between these two unconventional investigators, but this time it was the police inspector Sacha Duguin who took centre-stage.
Collected Poems of May Sarton
I’ve talked about Stela Brinzeanu’s ‘Bessarabian Nights’ and Claire Messud’s ‘The Woman Upstairs’ in the same post, dissimilar though they are in style and subject matter. I’ve also read two other books which I’ve occasionally heard labelled as ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘book club fiction’: Nancy Freund’s ‘Rapeseed’ and Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn: ‘The Piano Player’s Son’. Women’s literature or book club fictions sounds rather disparaging if you allow it to, but this is not my intent at all. Plus, I don’t like labels (on people, books or anything, except perhaps food labelling). However, they were of the ‘family secrets and resentments’ type of story. They were certainly not of the dull school of literary fiction, where nothing much happens except admiring self in mirror or noticing raindrops on the window. The stories were certainly not lacking in incident – in fact, there was perhaps all too much incident, like soap operas almost, full of ‘he said, she said’ accusations, misunderstandings, tears, shouting, sibling rivalry etc. I want to cast no disparagement against these writers – there were some entertaining characters and quite a few passages of excellent prose there, but I have to confess that book-length is just too much for me for this type of story. I am really not the best critic, as I am not the right audience for this kind of writing, but if you like family sagas, both these authors can write well.
Henry Sutton: My Criminal World
Tony Parsons: The Murder Bag
Tony Parsons, known for his ‘male chick lit’ type novels about the trials and tribulations of thirty-something men with relationship problems, is now crossing over to crime fiction. Can he carry it off? Well, you’ll have to wait and read my review on the Crime Fiction Lover website.
Mallock: The Cemetery of Swallows
An unusual story, straddling the Dominican Republic and Paris, with a nearly impossible set-up and a solution that seems to border on the supernatural. Reminiscent of Fred Vargas, Mallock (both the writer and his eponymous detective) has got a style all his own. To be reviewed soon on Crime Fiction Lover.
I don’t like spy thrillers, I don’t like lone rangers who are mankind’s only hope of survival… and yet I read this book very nearly in one sitting. It breaks all the rules… and gets away with it. The first person narrator suddenly starts telling you in great detail things that happened elsewhere and what was in his enemy’s mind, things he couldn’t possibly know. It jumps back and forth in time, from country to country, from character to character, all the while with the main protagonist pronouncing sombrely ‘And that was my mistake… this is where things went wrong… if I had only known about that…’, which adds to the sense of ominous foreboding. It is at times simplistic and racist, but at other times complex and nuanced. It is incredibly exciting, a cat and mouse chase which will leave you breathless, yet the story is nothing spectacularly new (terrorist attack through biochemical weapons, anyone?). It has disturbing graphic descriptions of torture – and also moments of introspection, of cynical realisation of the unsavoury practices of police and government agencies in every country. To my surprise, I loved it: it really is a wowser of a thriller!
So, all in all, an excellent month of reading: 3 outstanding books in 3 different genres, 4 very good books and no duds, just books that weren’t perhaps quite my cup of tea. For Crime Fiction Pick of the month I would say ‘I Am Pilgrim’, simply because it was surprising how much I enjoyed it – the magic of storytelling indeed! See what other book bloggers have chosen as their crime fiction pick of the month over at Mysteries in Paradise.
Coming up in May: non-fiction about parenting Far from the Tree, crime fiction of course, and some German and Japanese literature for a change.
16 thoughts on “April Showers of Reading – and a Wowser of a Thriller”
Marina Sofia – Glad you had a good reading month. And I really respect the diversity of what you read. And you’ve reminded me to that I should re-read some of Sarton’s work.
I think there was too much dark crime last month, so I wanted a bit of a change from that. I found myself missing crime, however, so my appetite is back.
I think it was here, in your last month’s summary, that I was recommended to read Lemaitre’s Alex, which I did and was bowled over by: a stunning piece. Can’t wait to get my mitts on Irene, actually Alex‘s predecessor, when its English translation appears Real Soon Now.
So pleased you enjoyed Alex – gut-churning and twisted, I agree. Sadly, you already know the final outcome of Irene, but it’s still a very well-written book (his debut novel, would you believe). And I loved his non-crime fiction war novel- so poignant!
Brilliant! How do you find time to read so much?? LOL! Great selection, thanks, I’ll be adding a couple to my (teetering) TBR! X
Insomnia helps – I get 1-2 hours of reading at about 4 a.m., then go back to bed to sleep for another hour and a half.
What a great selection of books. Oh, to be able to read in another language, how interesting.
It’s sometimes unbearably slow… and I’m probably missing a lot of nuances… but it’s especially good for poetry.
I have My Criminal World on the bookshelf. I read Get Me Out of Here by the same author and loved it so much, it made my best of year list.
I’ve heard some hard-core crime fiction fans did not like My Criminal World so much, because there wasn’t enough crime in it. But the portrayal of an insecure writer with murderous thoughts… spot-on and very funny!
Great variety of books! I enjoyed I Am Pilgrim though he seemed to be too much of a superhero for my liking, and I’m looking forward to digging into some Lemaitre. I’ve tried two of Messud’s books but didn’t finish them because they felt too long (The Woman Upstairs and The Emperor’s Children), and I will say that I was impressed with her writing much more than I’m impressed with the types of books marketed to books clubs in the United States. Also, I hope you enjoy Andrew Solomon. I’ve read excerpts of Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon, and I was very impressed.
Yes, I agree. I think with I Am Pilgrim you need to suspend your disbelief and your common sense, and just go along on the wild ride. I do hope he doesn’t turn this into a series, as repetition of the super-hero stuff would rapidly turn tiresome. Great fun for one (long) read though!
I’m intrigued to see Tony Parsons take on crime fiction so I’m eagerly awaiting your review.
It’s coming out on May 8th, so I suspect the review will be available within the next few days. Until then, my lips are sealed…
I like your review of I Am Pilgrim – I felt very much the same myself. It shouldn’t have been my thing at all, and it shouldn’t have worked, and it should have been way too long. But somehow I found it enthralling….
Late to this post, but now I know why. I was in Alabama when it was posted. I too enjoyed your review of I am Pilgrim, which I am reading right now… and liking a lot.