Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 books, #56-60

A river in the sky, by Elizabeth Peters. London: Robinson, 2010.

I've read all the books in this series, the last few shortly after they came out, and although they're always well-written and funny, the last couple have been somewhat... staid, as the characters become older and more sensible. So I was absolutely delighted to find that this new one is set in the pre-war period of irresponsibility and derring-do. I think this is the narrative of an event which is mentioned in the subsequent The falcon at the portal. Set in Palestine in 1910, this is absolutely classic Peabody, but also has a very healthy proportion of extracts from "Manuscript H", the Ramses-centric narrative. Lots of captures and rescues, disguises, mysterious strangers and German spies; both Peabody's little pistol and parasol/sword-stick come into play. A wonderful return to form.

Whistling for the elephants, by Sandi Toksvig. London: Sphere, 2002.

This was a de-acquisitioned library book I acquired last summer but hadn't got round to reading; it was my Stirling book. Eleven year old Dorothy Kane moves to upstate New York with her upper-class English parents, and moves from childhood to adolescence in the company of an extraordinary band of people and animals living in a dilapidated zoo. It's almost Swallows and Amazons as written by Isabel Allende, but with Toksvig's absurdist sense of humour thrown in. And it's wonderfully moving; I made a bit of an idiot of myself by weeping while reading the final couple of chapters over a glass of wine in St Pancras Station before the last leg of my journey home. This is one I'll remember for a long time.

Dead cert, by Dick Francis [audiobook]. Read by Tony Britton. Bath, BBC Audiobooks, 2010.

A re-release of the audiobook - I first read this one as a teenager and heard Tony Britton's wonderfully spare reading of it about 15 years ago. One of my favourite Francis books even though by now I know what's going to happen. It's weird that the racing element of it hasn't dated at all, but social attitudes in 1962, when this was written, have obviously changed a great deal. It turns out this was his first book - I now have an urge to go through and listen to the others again in order...

Trust me, I'm a (junior) doctor, by Max Pemberton. London: Hodder, 2008.

Based on the author's own experience as a brand-new doctor completing his junior year. It veers between the hilarious, the tragic, the completely absurd, the absurdly moving and conveys the sheer bone-crushing exhaustion of the hundred-hour week. Pemberton is always compassionate in his descriptions of patients, even when they're being completely unreasonable, and there are some wonderful touching moments alongside some genuinely ridiculous ones. Probably not one to read while in, or preparing to go into, hospital...

Awakening, by S. J. Bolton [audiobook]. Read by Alison Reid. Bath: Chivers/BBC Audiobooks, 2010.

Another one well up to the standard Bolton set herself in Sacrifice, this time set in Dorset and featuring a vet as the main character. Someone is terrorising the local village with venomous snakes, and the story behind them goes back into history... The main protagonist Clara Benning is a strange character; we find out towards the beginning of the book that she has a facial disfigurement which has turned her into a virtual recluse, but we don't find out the circumstances until very near the end. The title is apt; things are awakened from the past life of the village, but it's also a transformative time for Clara. Not one to read if you have an instinctive dislike or fear of snakes, though!

(And because I can't help myself, I'm going to have a quick whinge about Chivers/BBC Audiobooks and their newly non-removable inlay sheets on the covers; wherever you put the date label and barcode on a CD, it's going to obscure something or other, and being able to manoeuvre the information sheet gingerly out of the top of the box used to really help! In this case all the publishing and copyright information were obscured...)

1 comment:

Wibbo said...

I've just reviewed "Awakening" - thought much the same as you ;oP

Totally agree about the new boxes - here the label's usually obscuring the author details...