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Archive for June, 2008

Recent reading

I’ve just learned a lesson:  never recommend a book you haven’t read.  I just read the latest Peter Temple, The Broken Shore, which is getting great reviews, and which, based on that and the fact that I loved his earlier books, caused me to recommend it to my sister’s book group. I like his writing which like Hemingway’s, has lot going on under the surface.  This might be annoying for some people (my CE put it down almost immediately, but he also hates Hemingway).  I think you have to like figuring out what is not stated outright.  As I’ve said before, I wish it were easier to get hold of his earlier “Jack Irish” novels.  I read the first two, Bad Debts and Black Tide and loved them, (see previous post), but wasn’t able to go any further.  This latest novel has the typical Temple style, but at least includes a glossary of Aussie slang; the books are dense with slang, another thing that takes getting used to.  The new character is another beaten-down crime fighter type, troubles with women, money and the job, and the minor characters are all deftly-drawn and compelling, especially the ‘swaggie’, Villiani, cousin Bern and the hero’s mother, “Syb”.  The descriptions of the weather, dogs, landscape, moments of daily life are all spare yet beautiful with an underlying elegiac quality.  The dialogues take some working out what with the slang and the verbal ellipses, but they are as funny and revealing of character as something by Jane Austen.  I’m trying to find a bit of dialogue to show the style, but this is a family blog! I admit, some of the language is coarse, and certain words that we would never use here are used quite freely. It reminds me of something I just learned while listening to Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue.  A word like ‘bloody’ is still considered vulgar in the UK; other words that were once beyond the pale gradually achieve common usage. I am thinking of several words that are now heard on TV or seen in The New Yorker (but NOT The New York Times!) that I still find off-putting.  But, that’s another topic.  I stand by my opinion of the book, but I wish I had given a caveat about the language. Even worse, the criminal investigation (never the most interesting thing about a mystery in my opinion) revolves around a particularly sordid story with gruesome murders involving (deserved) torture.  Finally, there are so many loose ends that the story cannot even be said to conclude, it just ends.  I feel like the publishers did the same thing they did with Angela’s Ashes, splitting one book into two for money-making purposes, so that the much-inferior Tis was foisted off on those who liked the first book.  Well, I don’t mind the loose ends in this case since for me the plotting is secondary to writing and characters; however, I do object to not even understanding what happened at the end.  I feel rather dense but I don’t even know how he escaped death at the hands of the killer! I was finishing it late at night, then I went back and skimmed the last chapters again a few times – still no clue. It’s a mystery all right!

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I just indulged myself with the fifh Aubrey/Maturin novel, Desolation Island.  This was a quick read, but so enjoyable; I was literally holding my breath during the ‘stern chase’ in the howling forties with the huge Dutch frigate bearing down on them.  This book leaves so many loose ends – they never even reach Botany Bay or have the anticipated meeting with Captain Bligh (the Captain Bligh), we never find out the fate of Grant and the others who set out from the iceberg, who knows what Diana is up to, etc., that I may have to break my rule of one a year and get hold of the next (The Fortunes of War). But first, I’ll listen to this one on tape, which is almost as much fun as reading them.  If I ever get through the twenty books, I may just start over again!

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