Category Archives: Books

What I’ve been reading lately, part 18

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

Evil under the Sun — Agatha Christie

Like And Then There Were None, this is set on a smallish island off the south coast of Britian — in fact, apparently, it’s a slightly differently fictionalised version of the same island.

The real Burgh Island Hotel, with the rest of the island behind it. From the hotel's own website.

The real Burgh Island Hotel, with the rest of the island behind it. From the hotel’s own website.

This time, though, it’s a bit more civilised, the island is connected to the mainland by a causeway at low tide, and Poirot is there to sort out what’s going on before too many victims succumb. Lots of very neatly laid false trails, well-planted clues, and a resolution that I didn’t at all see coming but which made sense once it was explained. One of the better Christies, though not in the very top rank.
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What I’ve been reading lately, part 17

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

Happy Christmas, everyone! (Or, for those of you prefer a different holiday greeting, please read it as the one you prefer.) Thank you all, sincerely, for reading my wildly varying musings — and thank you even more for commenting and discussing. I deeply appreciate you all, including (sometimes especially) those of you who disagree with me!

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And now, on to the last WIBRL of the year!

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“As though God were a god”

I’ve just finished re-reading C. S. Lewis’s first Christian book, The Pilgrim’s Regress. Published in 1933, just four years after he “gave in and admitted the God was God … perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in England”, the book is an allegorical account of his own journey into Christianity, which was largely a philosophical rather than emotional or personal one.

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I very much enjoyed the first three quarters or so; but as the book draws towards its climax, the characters display a regrettable tendency to break into poetry — a form which I have always struggled with.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 16

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

And Then There Were None — Agatha Christie

Arguably Christie’s most ridiculous plot — it strands its principal cast on an island and features ten murders and a suicide. Yet also, oddly, one of her most successful books, both commercially and artistically. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, it’s not only Christie’s best-selling book, but the fifth-best selling single-volume book of all time (surpassed only by The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Little Prince and, er, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. All seven of the Harry Potter books make it into the top 20).

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Is it worthy of that level of popularity? Well, no, of course not. Continue reading

On “On “On Monday I placed two apples””

In November 2016, an anonymous critic wrote a sustained analysis of Andrew Rilstone’s now classic essay “On Monday I placed two apples“. The critique was published without a title, and is referred to for convenience as On “On Monday I placed two apples”.

I was fortunate enough to receive in the post a pamphlet containing this analysis, from an anonymous sender. It is itself a fascinating piece of work. The author appears to have had unprecedented access to Rilstone, allowing him or her a level of insight into the creative process not previously seen in other critical appraisals.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 15

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

The Martian — Andy Weir (for the second time)

I read this not long ago; but having seen the film in the mean time, I was keen to re-read it. (As I own the paperback, I cheerfully pirated a copy for my Kindle. How do you like them apples?)

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I’m glad I did. Even though I knew what was going to happen at every stage, I enjoyed it just as much this time as I did before. I relish the brutal technicality of Mark Watney’s struggle to survive a year and a half on Mars alone, and I enjoy the leavening of humour, often at the most unexpected points.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 14

[See also previous and subsequent posts in this series.]

CAREER OF EVIL — ROBERT GALBRAITH

As we all now know, Robert Galbraith is the detective-novel pseudonym of J. K. Rowling. I read Career of Evil, the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, not because I wanted to read Rowling particularly, but because the book is heavily influenced by the songs of Blue Öyster Cult — a band that I love.

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But I got more than I bargained for. Rowling-as-Galbraith is a compelling author: not a much better prose stylist than Rowling-as-Rowling, but with the same knack for narrative that makes you want to read on. Continue reading