Month: February 2014

Monthly Review – February 2014

Posted February 28, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

And the mountains echoedThe Literary Exploration reading challenge is going so well; almost 2000 books have been read from the group so far. I’m so happy with the response and pleased to see people still had time to read And The Mountains Echoed. Some interesting thoughts have come out of this book from the group and while there were people that didn’t like the book (me included), I’m so glad to see so much great constructive criticism in the threads; this is what we live for. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my post here.

I’m so happy to see that the book club continues to be entertaining and as we move into March, I’m looking forward to seeing what people will say about Middlesex for our literary fiction theme. I’ve not read this book yet but I’m a fan of Jeffery Eugenides’ other book, so I’m excited to try this one. Currently I’ve read eleven books towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here.

I thought I had a quiet month reading but I’m still happy with my effort of seven books (plus a few comics). Highlights this month include My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey, a post-modern take on one of the biggest literary hoaxes in Australia and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy which I’ve been reading since October. One book I will most likely be talking about continuously for the rest of the year is The Dark Path by David Schlicker, a memoir about the battle between his desire to become a priest and his attraction to women. How was February for you and your reading life? Let me know in the comments below.

Read More


The Portrait of Mr. W.H. by Oscar Wilde

Posted February 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Short Stories / 0 Comments

The Portrait of Mr. W.H. by Oscar WildeTitle: The Portrait of Mr. W.H. (Goodreads)
Author: Oscar Wilde
Published: Hesperus Press, 1889
Genres: Short Stories
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The fact that William Shakespeare’s Sonnets are dedicated to one Mr W.H. has been the source of much speculation. Eighteenth century critic Thomas Tyrwhitt suggests that the sonnets are written for a person known as William Hughes. He bases this theory on his interpretation of the Sonnets, lines like “A man in hue, all Hues in his controlling” (the 20th sonnet) where the word ‘Hue’ is capitalised and italicised and the multiple puns on the name ‘Will’ found in the sonnets.

The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a short story by Oscar Wilde; it only took me about twenty minutes so I don’t think I’ll say much about it but it was a story I wanted to review. Yes, it was required reading for university but it was an interesting enough piece that getting my thoughts down seemed like a good idea. I remember reading The Picture of Dorian Gray a long time ago and not getting on with it; maybe I wasn’t for me or maybe I just hadn’t had the literary knowledge to get something out of it. In any case, I’m curious enough that maybe Dorian Gray will be a reread in the future.

I want to compare The Portrait of Mr. W.H. with My Life as a Fake because they both seem to talk about a similar topic. While My Life as a Fake covered a literary hoax, The Portrait of Mr. W.H. looks at a piece of literary criticism that has been around for a long time and is often talked about. I don’t agree with this theory and it is important to know that Oscar Wilde didn’t either, although by the end he almost did. What I really liked about this story is the fact that Wilde took a differing view of the Sonnets and tried to explore it. This is an excellent example of literary criticism because it got me looking at the Sonnets in another way, even if I didn’t agree with it.

The fact that Oscar Wilde managed to write this literary criticism in a form of a story was equally impressive. The whole story has this real gothic feel about it and the character of Willie Hughes showed vampiric characteristics in the way he destroyed lives, in particular Cyril’s. Yet another similarity to My Life as a Fake is the whole idea that literature or the author can be portrayed as a monster.

I read this story as social criticism, looking at the homo-eroticism of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and question if a particular piece of text has any effect on the value of the art form. I don’t know many people complaining about the homoerotic nature of Shakespeare but I’ve heard complaints about it when referring to Oscar Wilde. Wilde was a big believer in celebrating art as being art and not letting the opinion of the artist affect it. This means The Portrait of Mr. W.H. is a satirical look at the art, where you have to take a more literal approach and explore the life of William Shakespeare as an artist and its connection to the Sonnets.

Oscar Wilde tantalises the reader with his literary and social criticism, mix in the satirical nature of this story and the wit of the author and you have a compelling read. One thing I’ve been thinking about is the connection between this story and The Picture of Dorian Gray which I would like to leave you with. They both share very similar titles but in Dorian Gray you have a portrait that ages and the reader see the truth, of Gray and all his sins. While in The Portrait of Mr. W.H. the picture of Willie Hughes is a lie and I have to wonder the meaning behind this imagery when comparing the two.


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Posted February 27, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled HosseiniTitle: And the Mountains Echoed (Goodreads)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Published: Bloomsbury, 2013
Pages: 404
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Abdullah and Pari are close, very close; Pari idolises her older brother and there is nothing he wouldn’t do to keep he safe. But at the age of three Pari is sold to a glamorous young woman who couldn’t have children in Kabul. Without any form of goodbyes Abdullah never forgets his younger sister, but she has forgotten all about her previous life.

Khaled Hosseini sets out to explore the different ways in which families nurture; he begins this novel with a fable about a mythical creature known as the div who comes to the village and takes young children to his fort in the mountains. One day a farmer was so heartbroken of the loss of a child that he climbs the mountain to kill the div. After a brief battle with the creature the div shows him the most beautiful place the farmers ever seen and the children all happy. The div tells the farmer that he has come to test him and he has to choose what is best for his child.

I might lose some fans but I have to say it; people talk about Khaled Hosseini’s literary genius, with so much hype surrounding And the Mountains Echoed but I don’t see it. I will admit that I have not read The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns so I’m only judging his literary merits by this alone and I might be wrong. Here is my thoughts based on only this book; he is a great storyteller but he is no writer of literary fiction, in fact I think he still has some work to do, before I would consider him a good writer and I don’t think I would even class this as literary fiction.

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading this novel but I was expecting literary fiction and I was disappointed I didn’t get it. I was also reading the most wonderful novel at the same time, which actually covers similar themes and plot points. So I continually compared this novel with the other and when you are facing off against A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, it really had no hope in winning. The story was nice and I found myself racing though the book but all the time I wanted to go back to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.

Well well go and play till the light fades away
And then go home to bed
The little ones leaped and shouted and laugh’d
And all the hills ecchoed.

The title of the book comes from a William Blake poem called Nurse’s Song (I have no idea why Blake spells echoed with a double c but if you have any insights on that I would love to know) which feels fitting to the book. I think of Abdullah as the nurse who wants to protect but Pari is off having a good time (a far better life) and I’m not good at interpreting poetry but I think that’s where the analogy ends. There is the moral and ethical dilemma here about Pari, is she better off with the rich family or with her brother and family struggling.

As far as I can see this was a great story and I would read Khaled Hosseini again; I am curious to compare this to his other two books. I just think this is just great storytelling with a moral but there is nothing to make this stand out and think this is literature. In fact none of the characters or plot was so memorable, so when it came to talking about this book in book club I struggled to remember the plot and characters and I only finished it the day before.

At times I felt this book was a little staged and forced and I finished the book not learning anything about Afghanistan and the life of the people living there, so I felt disappointed. I know of offended people on the Khaled Hosseini bandwagon but sadly I just didn’t get into it. I liked the book but there is no lasting impression left on me and since I was reading a book that will easily be in my top five  books of 2013 at the same time, I think that really gave me a negative opinion towards And the Mountains Echoed. This is the type of book you take to the beach or on holidays for a mindless but enjoyable story, there is nothing really else there.


Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Posted February 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: a REWIND! (Pick from previous topics that you want to do again or may have missed). So I had a look through previous Top Ten themes and decided to pick Auto-Buy Authors. This topic seemed like a lot of fun and I was curious to see what I would pick, so in no particular order here are ten authors I would auto-buy if they ever released a new book.


All That Is by James Salter

Posted February 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

All That Is by James SalterTitle: All That Is (Goodreads)
Author: James Salter
Published: Picador, 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

After 30 years James Slater returns to the literary world with a new novel, All That Is. With 88 years of life experience under his belt, Salter offers a unique perspective of life, passion and regret. All That Is explores fragment of Philip Bowman’s life, as a naval officer in World War II, attending Harvard University and going on to be an editor of a small publishing house. While this doesn’t cover Bowman’s life in the way a memoir would, we get little snippets of his life and what is important to him.

James Salter has been often dubbed as a writer’s writer, a title he wished to shed when writing All That Is, but does he pull that off? For me, this title means that he is a writer than other writers and serious readers love, but that the casual reader often won’t enjoy. The reasoning is that the beauty in Salter’s books is in the proses and not the plot. He feels like an old fashion writer; he writes proses so  elegant that it is often intimidating. He doesn’t try to write the perfect sentence that will blow the reader away every time; he does not want to lavish the reader, but you’ll still find a style that I think is graceful from page to page.

Something that I think goes against what is often taught to writers is that Salter is really good at ‘telling not showing’. He knows what he is doing and he executes this method in a precise way that just works for him. There are times when his similes and metaphors do come across as weird but for the most part everything flows and I found myself being swept away in the cleverness of his writing.

When exploring Philip Bowman’s life, we really get a sense of him as a person and the people he meets along the way. Some people we only meet for a few paragraphs but the style of Salter is enough to give the reader a good sense of who they are in such a short amount of time. This is a real talent and I really loved the little snap shots of people along the way. He manages to explore the little details and while we don’t know everything, he has painted a magnificent portrait of Bowman’s life.

As if it was a refrain to the novel we are often taken to a cocktail party and often we read about Philip Bowman making a move on a woman (often a married one) and inviting them to lunch. This often leads to sex and I think we are constantly reading about these conquests because they are important to Bowman. While this does feel a little repetitive at times, I think it is interesting to show the behavioural pattern of Bowman and his tried and true method of picking up woman.

I want to talk about the sex within All That Is (and Salter novels in general), while there isn’t as much as there was in A Sport and a Pastime (which I consider an erotic novel) there was still a lot in this one. The sex scenes in his novels might be considered crude and offensive to some, but they do play an important part, in All That Is we explore the passion and regrets of Philip Bowman’s life, a man that likes sex and though he can be a bit of a dick at times when trying to get laid, it felt honest and real. Salter doesn’t play around with euphemisms when he writes sex scenes, they are non-ludicrous and sometimes over descriptive. The thing I like about his sex scenes is that he doesn’t always try to be erotic, sometimes they are awkward or unintentionally funny, this just makes it feel more real; sometimes there is passion and it’s erotic, sometimes things go wrong. Often better than the sex itself is the events that follow, they may just be lying in bed making small talk, but it is here we get some real unseen insights into these characters.

I think I’m becoming a fan of James Salter, while I would recommend A Sport and a Pastime over this novel, there is a real joy in reading proses like this. James Salter does give a huge nod to the book industry and his love of books, but for me this was about life, love, passion and regret. Exploring the life of Philip Bowman was an interesting endeavour; sure, he is fictional but the book says a lot about life in general. Salter is not for everyone but if you like beautiful language and not afraid of some graphic depictions of sex then he is an author worth checking out.


Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia by José Manuel Prieto

Posted February 20, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia by José Manuel PrietoTitle: Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia (Goodreads)
Author: José Manuel Prieto
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: Grove Press, 2013
Pages: 224
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia tells the story of Cuban immigrant Thelonious Monk (not his real name) living in post-Soviet Russia. Monk loves women, many of them, particularly beautiful women. In St Petersburg he meets a young woman named Linda Evangelista (also not her real name) and after brief affair and some correspondence the two strangers become an inseparable pair. He takes her to Yalta where he starts work on a new novel about her, his notes for this novel comprise of this Encyclopaedia.

This is a really tricky novel to talk about, let alone try to understand but I will try to do my best. The novel explores these two misfits as they try to explore through a world that is changing. They are caught between old traditions and modern consumerism. I suspect that Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia is semi-autobiographical as José Manuel Prieto spent twenty years in Russian. Not knowing much of José’s life only leaves me to speculate, but I have to wonder if he is Thelonious, then who is Linda (real name Anastasia Stárseva according to an entry in the ‘L’). She comes across as a really interesting and mysterious character, a modernist who in a past like was an unorthodox poet and bourgeois muse.

The novel is a fusion of history, philosophy, social-critique and in my opinion autobiographical fiction. Though, like many other postmodern novels, there is a degree of difficulty in reading it; the rewards are great but I can’t help wondering just what I’m actually reading here. It’s a satirical, philosophical, meta-fictional encyclopaedia which is evocative of the era in which it was compiled in. This makes it incredibly complex and that would require more knowledge to understand it better. There are references that range from Bach to Dostoyevsky but also consumerism. I found a lot of nods to Russian literature and a better knowledge of this (especially Checkov) would be a huge asset to this novel.

The characters think of themselves as avatars of consumer culture, navigating the border between art and commerce during the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. This means we get this interesting perpective of a changing Russia. Mixed in are conversations about advertisement copy and art criticism. This is invoking a blending (and changing) from the old traditional high art to a more commercial culture.

I love the way that the novel is broken into mock Encyclopaedia entries; it was an interesting narrative type but surprisingly informative. The book did force me to flip between entries, I often found myself going back and forth but this ended up creating an ever-deepening picture of the world they are living in. Reading Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia runs the risk of looking like an idiot while trying to understand this overly complex novel but the reward is far greater and in the end well worth the effort.

I did take me a while to get through this book and even longer to put together my thoughts from the notes I made (yes, I’m trying to write notes now, does it reflect in my reviews?) but I’m so glad I read this novel. The novel is packed with wit, irony, philosophical thought and the written in a poetic voice. This is a translated book from Spanish and I can’t help but be angry that something can sound so beautiful after being translated out of its original language. If you are not afraid of post modernist novels and are willing to put the time and effort into this book, then reading Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia will be highly rewarding experience.


Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader

Posted February 18, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in on this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Reasons I Love Being A Blogger/Reader. Do I really need reasons? Reading and blogging has been a big part of my life, I don’t want to imagine my life without books. I thought I would talk about five things I love about being a reader and then five reasons being a blogger is great.

Reading

  • Escapism – I don’t need to experience life as a serial killer, warrior, mad scientist, astronaut, rake or anything else. I can just read a book and watch those characters make the mistakes.
  • Books look great – One of the best things about being a reader is all those beautiful books on my shelves (I’m a hoarder collector).
  • Knowledge – The more I read, the more I learn, which leads to the realisation that there is so much more to learn.
  • Book clubs – I love being apart of a book club, nothing like getting together and talking about books.
  • My pretentious levels – I just love being pretentious and trying to read every book on the ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ list is very pretentious.

Blogging

  • Book journal – I love having a book journal, this is the main reason I started blogging and remains the most important part of my blog.
  • Bookish news – As a book blogger you often find out all the bookish news and are aware of all the great books coming out (this is also a curse).
  • Critical reading – As a book blogger, I think my critical reading skills have improved greatly.
  • Writing skills – Nothing improves your writing more than practise.
  • The community – The book blogging community is great, I love connecting with all the other book bloggers. Though where are all the male book bloggers hiding?

My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey

Posted February 16, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

My Life as a Fake by Peter CareyTitle: My Life as a Fake (Goodreads)
Author: Peter Carey
Published: Random House, 2003
Pages: 320
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In 1943 two conservative classicists set out to expose the absurdity of modernist poetry. Both James McAuley and Harold Stewart were classical trained poets, who didn’t think much about modernism; it didn’t rhyme, didn’t make sense and it just didn’t look right, it was fake poetry. If an everyman can abandon technique and rhythm and create poetry, what was the point of high art? They created this everyman, Ern Malley and submitted poetry under this name to the literary magazine Angry Penguins. The Ern Malley hoax has become one of the biggest literary scandals in Australian history. While the hoax crippled modernist poetry within Australia, ultimately this parody backfired on McAuley and Stewart. The poetry, which was written in a day and full of word plays and puns became a sensation in the 1970’s. Their attempt to parody modern poetry and create something fake turned into something real, beyond their control and is now celebrated as fine examples of surrealist poetry.

Peter Carey’s My Life is a Fake explores the idea of fakery while paying homage to the Ern Malley hoax. Knowledge of this hoax is the backbone of this post-modernist novel, so much so that he covers his thoughts on it in the back of the book. Thinking about this novel I get the idea that this is a book that demands the reader to think about the purpose of reading. While this is considered contemporary fiction, it really demands a lot from the read and it wants to address a number of literary issues. Editor for Monthly Review Sarah Wode-Douglass, while traveling to Kuala Lumpur, encounters the perpetrator of the hoax after many years. The novel goes on to explore the literate mystery of forgeries but I won’t go into too much detail, it is quite a ride.

“I still believe in Ern Malley. (…) For me Ern Malley embodies the true sorrow and pathos of our time. One had felt that somewhere in the streets of every city was an Ern Malley (…) a living person, alone, outside literary cliques, outside print, dying, outside humanity but of it. (…) As I imagined him Ern Malley had something of the soft staring brilliance of Franz Kafka; something of Rilke’s anguished solitude; something of Wilfred Owen’s angry fatalism. And I believe he really walked down Princess Street somewhere in Melbourne. (…) I can still close my eyes and conjure up such a person in our streets. A young person. A person without the protection of the world that comes from living in it. A man outside.” Max Harris, editor of Angry Penguins.

While this book is told in a first person narrative, from the perspective of Sarah, as a reader I wrestled with the perspective. The novel explored the life of Sarah, her traveling partner John Slater who she describes as an unapologetically narcissist. Also we learn about Christopher Chubb and his monster, the non-existent Bob McCorkle. My mind wrested with questions like, whose life was I reading about? Whose words am I reading? Whose mythology do I accept? Personally I think these are the questions Carey wants us to ask, also I have to wonder what type of fakery are we talking about in the title?

Now I called the fictional poet Bob McCorkle a monster because this novel is influenced by a lot of literature but the most obvious is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Like McAuley and Stewart’s hoax, Bob McCorkle was a monster in the eyes of its creator and takes on a life of its own. There are also references to Paradise Lost (which can be connected to Frankenstein) and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. An understanding of Greek mythology is helpful as well, especially Orpheus. This is a tricky book to read, and it took me a while to get the hang of it. Once I got into the rhythm of the novel, I think understanding and progress was a lot easier, though I do think a better understanding of literature would be helpful.

My Life as a Fake explores the power of creation, sometimes it just takes a life on its own with no way of stopping it. We must wrestle with the question of whether the man claiming to be Bob McCorkle is a fanatic; someone with an identity delusion, a hoaxer’s hoaxer, an accident, or an illusion called into being by its creator. As My Life as a Fake is an Australian novel, I can’t help but wonder if this is exploring the idea that Australia doesn’t produce Art, rather parodies and fakeries. The misconception that Australian artist must trade in masquerades to get noticed, a slightly old point of view but one that might have been still relevant in the time of the hoax.

I had to read this book for a university course so I also had to think about post-colonialism (a common theme in the subject). I’m not sure how this works as a post-colonial novel but I have to ask, as a colonized nation is this book viewing Australia as Frankenstein’s monster. Whose country are we in? Why does it matter? Are we the bastard spawn of a powerful creator (England)? Are we just fakes in the eyes of Europeans? Did we start off as fakes that took on a life of its own? Not really important questions for the book but interesting enough to share in this review.

Given that Frankenstein heavily influences My Life as a Fake, does this make this a modern gothic novel? They do invoke similar themes, interesting that this novel is meant to be popular fiction and yet it still explores high art in a complex, post modern way. Makes me wonder just how successful this novel was for Peter Carey. For me, while it was a difficult read, I found pleasure in studying this book, makes me want to read all of Carey’s books, maybe I’ll try The True History of the Ned Kelly Gang next.


The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich

Posted February 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Humour, Short Stories / 0 Comments

The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories by Simon RichTitle: The Last Girlfriend on Earth and Other Love Stories (Goodreads)
Author: Simon Rich
Published: Serpent's Tail, 2013
Pages: 224
Genres: Humour, Short Stories
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Last Girlfriend on Earth is a collection of skits (no quite short stories) about love and matters of the heart. Simon Rich was one of the youngest writers to work on Saturday Night Live, which explains the short bizarre stories. For a man only just 30, Rich has had an impressive career already, receiving a two-book contract with Random House prior to graduating from Harvard University. The Last Girlfriend on Earth is his fifth book, but it is the first one I’ve had the opportunity to read.

These skits/stories are a lot of fun, and I was entertained from start to finish. Highlights include, ‘Unprotected’ the story told entirely from the perspective of a condom, ‘Magical Mr. Goat’ tells the story of a girl’s imaginary friend stuck in the ‘friend-zone’, and there is even one about a dog’s missed connections. There are some stories that are just so bizarre that you wonder how he thought them up, like dating Mother Teresa (she is practically a saint of a woman) or finding out that your ex is dating Hitler. There was even one where a guy wins the MacArthur Fellowship ‘Genius award for having a one night stand.

Simon Rich clearly likes to play with stereotypes and inject some absurdity into his stories, yet they all seem to have something familiar about them. The ideas portrays in this book are that of love and even heartbreak; while expressed in a humorous way, I really enjoyed how there was an element to truth behind them. For example, what happens when the invisible man gets dumped? Naturally he would use his abilities to spy on his ex-girlfriends’ date.  How about when Cupid becomes a teenager and rebels? What kind of game of Jeopardy! would it be if Alex Trebek’s ex-wife was a contestant. All the scenarios are unusual but relatable.

I always find it hard to write a review about a collection of short stories. With The Last Girlfriend on Earth, you’ll be definitely be entertained, think of it as an episode of Saturday Night Live on the topic of love. The humour of Simon Rich was razor shape and just twisted, but that is the kind of thing I enjoy. I’m not sure what his other books are like, but I’m curious to find out.


After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson

Posted February 12, 2014 by jus_de_fruit in Crime, Guest Posts / 1 Comment

After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPhersonTitle: After the Armistice Ball (Goodreads)
Author: Catriona McPherson
Series: Dandy Gilver #1
Published: Carroll & Graf, 2005
Pages: 303
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Duffy Family claim their diamonds have been stolen while visiting the Esslemont’s for the Armistice Ball. Mrs. Esslemont asks Dandy Gilver to use her skills of snooping and gossiping to investigate this further. It is Scotland in 1923 and it seems a world vastly different to my own. I think a good book can make you feel included in these unfamiliar places, but for most of the book, I felt like a foreign observer.

I never really enjoyed the protagonist Dandy Gilver. My husband will frequently remind me that you don’t need to like the characters to enjoy a book, and while I partly agree, my distaste towards Dandy definitely impacted on my enjoyment of this book.  The reason I picked up this book is because I love the concept of the ladies of the 1920s solving crimes.  I thoroughly enjoy Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on TV, though I’ve yet to read the books myself. Maybe my expectations were just too high. The only character I truly enjoyed was Dandy’s Lady’s maid who was so full of sass and pretentiousness, that I wish she featured more in this story.

Throughout the book, I always felt like I knew what was going to happen before the characters themselves. I would be expecting some sort of twist, because surely it can’t be that obvious, but pages later, Dandy and friends come to the realization that I had already had. The only time when something didn’t seem obvious was in the final chapter. I can’t even say what it is without some major spoiler alerts. But they make this discovery during the investigation and someone asks about the person connected to it, and Dandy just says “Isn’t it obvious?” and then the person she is with realizes as well. But I’ve never worked that out.  If anyone has read it, please tell me the answer? Did I miss something during the book when I got bored and started skimming?  By the end of the book, I don’t care who stole the diamonds, but I do want to know the answer to this question. I have tried google, and I haven’t found a confirmed answer.

I have read in some reviews that this series gets better as it goes along. Maybe the author needed some time to find her feet as she developed the characters, but I don’t feel the need to be part of this world again and will be giving the rest of the series a miss.