My Cousin Rachel

Daphne du Maurier

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Well, did she or didn’t she? Or is it all an illusion in the mind of an immature boy? These are the questions raised but never answered in du Maurier’s cleverly constructed book.

I read a lot of du Maurier when I was younger, but I moved on to other books before I reached this one, and I’m glad. I’m glad I read it when I was old enough to appreciate the deft handling of her character and the pacing. The book starts slow and picks up speed, until by the end, it is racing along, taking the reader with it.

Here’s the set up: Philip Ashley  is the nephew of Ambrose Ashley, a bachelor, who raises the boy  with a love of the estate which is to be his one day. In middle age, Ambrose travels to Florence for his health and the warm climate. He sends home a few mysterious letters, which describe his declining health and his marriage to a widow, Rachel. Then he abruptly and unexpectedly dies, leaving everything to Philip.

Philip is stunned and builds an imaginary picture of Rachel, blaming her for his uncle’s death. When she appears in England, he is stunned to meet a beautiful, delicate widow. Vulnerable and delicate, she evokes a passionate love from the boy.

The deliberate ambiguity of the book is never resolved. Is Philip under a delusion of love? Is Rachel deliberately playing with his emotions? Is she an innocent victim or the manipulative woman taking advantage of the infatuation of a raw, inexperienced youth?

You decide.

 

 

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman

I can’t make up my mind whether this is an adult fairy tale masquerading as a book for children or a children’s fairy tale appealing to adults. I am confused by Gaiman’s skills as a writer (which appeals to adults) or to the age of the characters (which appeals to children). On the whole, I’d choose to put it in the adult fantasy genre. I think the character of Ursula Monkton and the actions of the father are too frightening for children.

The use of the maiden-mother-crone imagery for the Hempstock women is the most appealing aspect of the book. The life-threatening actions of Ursula and the boy’s father under her influence are the most frightening. Children need to trust in their caregivers, not be afraid of them. This element was what I found most troubling about Coraline as well.

Things are often not what they seem, and that can be frightening to us adults as well as children.

 

Women Like Us

Jason Pomerance

Women Like Us by [Pomerance, Jason]

I bought this book with low expectations. What man would dare call his book ‘Women Like Us’ without writing under a pseudonym? Well, as it turned out, this is a pretty good read. At first I thought is was to be the story of Susan and Andrew, an freelance chef and her boyfriend blueblood Andrew. Ultimately, though the story is taken over by her pushy, efficient mother-in-law, the Pasadena matriarch Edith. The book crackles when Edith is around, and soon I found myself caught up in the story. Bravo, Edith!

Spirits United

Alice Duncan

Spirits United (A Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery, Book 11)

I don’t know how she does it. I’ve read other series that run out of gas about the third book, but Alice Duncan’s series just keeps chuggin’ along. Each one seems as fresh and entertaining as the first. I’m so involved with Daisy, I worry about her sometime. Looks like she’s headed for the altar, and I wonder how her new husband is going to  like her continuing to work as a medium/spiritualist/amateur sleuth?

Oh, well, I’ll just have to trust Alice Duncan to work things out.

Mock My Words

Chandra Shekhar

A perfect little gem of a book. It tells the story of David, who has difficulties with spoken English, although he writes beautifully. His two books have been international bestsellers, leading to an offer from a private college to teach English Lit. Unfortunately his students are not willing to meet him halfway, and his difficulties with spoken English make communication a challenge. He has trouble at home, too, with a wife who is struggling with her own challenges at work. She is too wrapped up in her own problems to pay attention to David. I thoroughly enjoy this book and found the only criticism was that it was too short. I hope a sequel is in the offing soon. I love David and his struggles.

Flight Behavior

Barbara Kingsolver

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Dellarobbia Turnbow has a good life. She and her husband have to scrimp a little to pay their bills and feed their two kids, but her husband is a good man. A little unimaginative and too subordinate to his mother to suit Dellarobbia, but a good man. Then her life is turned upside-down by an invasion of monarch butterflies. Her church thinks it’s a miracle. Her in-laws think it’s nuisance, interfering with their decision to sell the trees for the price of lumber. To Dellarobbia it’s an invitation to a new world.

The Dark Labyrinth

Lawrence Durrell

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It took me two attempts to finish this book, and I wouldn’t have finished it the second time if it didn’t fill a block in my Book Bingo card (published in the year you were born). Maybe I would have been better off with The Diary of Anne Frank after all.

The set-up is given right at the beginning: an ill-assorted bunch of tourists are trapped in a labyrinth by a cave-in. This is followed by flashbacks telling the history of the people, in more depth than is interesting. In fact, by the time came for the cave-in, I couldn’t have cared less if all of them had been smooshed. Some survived and some didn’t, and it didn’t much matter to me which category each character fell into. The only way I could finish this book was by skimming over most of the description.

I don’t think the author was any more interested in his characters than I was.

 

MaddAddam Trilogy

Margaret Atwood

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I love Margaret Atwood and have ever since my book club choose her Alias Grace as a selection several years ago. I’ve been a fangrrl ever since. Aside from The Blind Assassin, which I found baffling, I have loved everything I have ever read by her. One of my favorites is the MaddAddam trilogy, which I just finished binge-reading, along with Handmaid’s Tale, which I haven’t finished yet. I chose the cover from The Year of the Flood because it is my favorite of the three. I have read it five times and listened to it  on audible once. I enjoyed the audible version so much, I bought a copy. It is just that good. Hearing the God’s Gardeners’ hymn set to music enriches the experience so much. They sound so like the horrible Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) played today in the megachurches, that I am sure Atwood is taking a sly poke at them.

The first time I read Oryx & Crake, I didn’t much care for it. It seem too short, as if there was more to the story. It just stopped, rather than coming to an end. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that Atwood was planning a trilogy. Read as the opening book, it makes sense. It gives us a background for the major characters and lays the background for the events to come in The Year of the Flood. The final volume, MaddAddam, wraps everything up and answers the question of what happens to the characters in The Year of the Flood.

I can’t think of a more satisfying reading experience. It’s Atwood at her best, and that’s very good indeed.

Mischief and the Masters

Cherise Sinclair

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I like Cherise Sinclair, but I feel she has run out of gas with this one. All the other subs have been paired off with Masters, with only Uzuri left. Sinclair tried to make her attractive, but she just wasn’t funny. The backstory of a stalker was boring and better done with previous subs. He wasn’t scary and Uzuri was just annoying. I get the sense that there won’t be any more Shadowlands stories, unless Sinclair gives us Holt’s story. He’s the only Master who isn’t married. I don’t know who he is going to marry because we have run out of subs.

Even the sex scenes seem tired and repetitive.