Binge-reading into winter: a mammoth Quicklit update
The Nesting Dolls, 12 Rose Street, The Last Good Day, The Gifted, Verdict in Blood, The Glass Coffin, & A Killing Spring, by Gail Bowen
In late September, I went away for a weekend retreat for the first time in years, leaving house and children in my husband's capable hands. I picked up a hoard of Gail Bowen mysteries to keep him company in my absence, only to read them all myself on my return, even the ones I'd read before. I've listed the thrillers in the order I read them, and it differs widely from the order in which they were written. I'm evermore impressed with Bowen's ability to allow her highly chronological series to be read in almost any order at all. She fills a reader in on enough of Joanne Killborn's past to give proper context for her current adventure, but she leaves out the pertinent details that would give the earlier games away, in case you'd like to get to them later. Joanne speaks and thinks of friends and acquaintances who met their ends in previous novels, but doesn't mention who their killers were or even that their deaths involved any foul play. So if you'd like to give Bowen a try, don't worry about finding the first book. As long as you read Murder at the Mendel before The Gifted, none of the plots will be spoiled.
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
Much like the Antoinette tale I read in August, I made the delightful discovery that a famous figure I knew very little about was an absolutely fascinating person. Gregory tells the story of Anne Boleyn's pursuit of queendom through the eyes of her younger sister, a person almost lost to the historical record but for the fact that she was Henry VIII's mistress in the years before he set his eyes on Anne. Gregory takes meticulous research and a rich imagination to create an engrossing tale, rift with dangerous games, complex characters, and detailed machiavellian intrigue. It's a little on the racy side at times, but not nearly the bodice-ripper I was afraid it would be. I'm looking forward to reading more about the Tudors.
Jane of Lantern Hill, by L. M. Montgomery
This out-of-print lovely spent a long time coming to me, and then was gobbled up in a day. It was typical Montgomery: a stifled child blossoming in a new environment, a thwarted romance with potential for mending, and the joys of country living in good old P.E.I. I'm so glad the Book Man found it. NB: I linked to that video on purpose. You're welcome ;)
The Blue Castle, by L. M. Montgomery
Jane's transformation from a frightened hopeless clutz to intelligent and confident home manager reminded me so strongly of Valancy's that I picked up her adventure next. The Blue Castle has been my favourite Montgomery book for years, and I don't see that changing (though Jane of Lantern Hill is vying for close second). It's amazing the turn that life can take when one lets go of one's fears. I never tire of reading on the subject.
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Remember last spring when I skipped QuickLit to keep reading The Brothers K? It happened again in October, but this time the culprit was Gone with the Wind. I couldn't believe how engrossing it was; every one of those thousand-plus pages was rift with action, drama, and vivid imagery. Scarlett O'Hara makes for an almost omnipotent narrator; she witnesses so much that she fails to take in. A reader is more than free to disagree with the heroine's point of view, which - given Scarlett's perfect storm of prejudices, snap judgements, and faulty conclusions - is often a very good thing. You remember all that she's dismissed or forgotten, and those details bring her main supporting actors a depth of character far beyond what Scarlett herself would ever grant them. On the other hand, Mitchell's black characters are only seen as Scarlett sees them, but that strange mix of loyalty and suspicion, dependency and paternalism explains a lot about the master-to-servant attitudes portrayed in Stokett's The Help and Monk Kids' The Invention of Wings. I can see why it's such a controversial classic.
My Secret Sister, by Helen Edwards & Jenny Lee Smith
I picked this fascinating story of twins separated at birth off my parents' shelf over Thankgiving. I'd meant to leave it for later, but when my eight-year-old starting eying it, I thought I'd better give it a thorough read before handing it on to her. It was a good call. Edwards and Lee Smith take turns telling of their separate lives as far back as they remember right up to the point, nearly sixty years later, when they finally discover each other's existence. It's a fascinating memoir of two very different growing ups through the 1950s and 60s, but the abuse and neglect on Helen's side would be a bit too much for such a young reader. In a couple years, it will be a different story. I only wish the sisters had been able to find out why their mother made the choices she did; but that's the difference between truth and fiction I suppose. You don't always get to pick your own ending.
The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
I enjoyed Rowling's second private eye novel even more than the first, and that's saying a lot. The Silkworm digs into the fragility and self-importance of the post-modern publishing world, where every writer believes they deserve to be famous and that no relationship is worth more than a story that sells. Smart, fast, and - despite centering on a novel too disgusting for publication - not nearly as explicit as A Casual Vacancy.
And that's all she read. Really. If your appetite's larger than mine (or your tastes differ), do head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for many other great reviews.