January was a good month for reading, what with half of it spent on vacation with little else to do. The fact that I’m taking yet another history of literature class helped as well.
The year got started with an Arsène Lupin book, this one called The Hollow Needle. It was entertaining enough, although my favourite gentleman thief got very little screen time. He was, more or less, replaced by the clever schoolboy detective Isidore Beautrelet, who turned out amusing enough. While this book was entertaining, I still maintain that Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief remains the best out of the four I have read.
Published for the first time: 1909 (original title L’Aiguille creuse)
Translation: V. Hämeen-Anttila 1909
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch was a reread I could not resist any longer. It is the second part in the Gentleman Bastard sequence, and very close to as brilliant as the first part, The Lies of Locke Lamora. This book is mostly set at sea, on a pirate ship, and the main characters are in trouble, as usual.
Published: Gollancz 2007
My library excursions lead me to the romance shelf, and I picked up yet another Julia Quinn book, this one called Ten Things I Love About You. A newer Quinn, this one was a much pleasanter read than the previous ones. The plot is more even, the characters are pleasant and relatable, and the language has improved. There are some clichés, of course, like the jilted, angry Earl, but those are a given in the genre. I felt Sebastian’s war trauma was not made the most of nor adequately solved, although it is nice to see an author trusting the reader enough to pick up the little pieces of information to see the answer for themselves. His writing career was a definite perk, and made me chuckle on several occasions. Annabel, the heroine, was believable, although I would have wished to see her keep her pragmatic streak up until the very end. There is no angst over her family though, for which I was glad.
Published: Avon Books 2010
After this new romance, I felt the need to get back to Georgette Heyer, whose Frederica was an absolute treat to read. Heyer’s writing is amazingly subtle and refined. The opening of the book was slightly on the heavy side, reminding me of Austen’s Persuasion, but once one gets the hang of who is who the whole things becomes easy to follow. Those looking for the thrill of romance this book might not be the bull’s-eye, for the relationship between Frederica and the Marquis develops little by little – but when it finally gets to full kick towards the end of the book it is as sweet as anyone could wish.
Published for the firts time: 1965
Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment was required reading, and to my great astonishment I enjoyed it. It gauges the mental world of Raskolnikov, as he is about to commit a murder and after the act itself. Although very little actually happens, one keeps reading, just to see whether he goes mad or not. Not a world classic for nothing.
Published for the first time: 1866 (original title Преступление и наказание)
Translation: J. A. Hollo
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is known to many, and I dare say many have also read this novella. As an insectophobe I found it slightly disconcerting – all the description of Gregor’s insect body forced me to have breaks during the reading – but it was also interesting. I admit the finer details of the text are still lost to me, but I hope I will gain better understanding when we discuss the work in class. Worth a read, everyone – and it’s very short, too!
Published for the first time: 1915 (original title Die Verwandlung)
My father read me Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita when I was little, and that is why I chose to read it for class also. I remembered very little. The whole book kept taking me by surprise, and I had a completely new appreciation for its numerous characters and stories that intertwine in the end. Bulgakov is an excellent writer, and has an impeccable sense of humour. If you enjoy a satire, I dare say this will be to your taste. It was to mine.
Published for the first time: 1966-1967 (original title Мастер и Маргарита)
Translation: Ulla-Liisa Heino 1969
I saw Atonement as a movie not too many months ago, so I had a firm grip of the events of Ian McEwan’s novel. I’m almost sure I like the movie better: the book was unevenly balanced, had some rather pointless bits, and it was hard to feel sympathy towards the main character Briony. I also found myself unwilling to read at times, which reflected in the time it took me to read this short-ish book. I doubt I will return to McEwan.
Published: Jonathan Cape 2001
The last read of the month was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. With the movie coming and my friend recommending it, I decided to finally give the series a shot, and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. It was less gory, less intricate, and more about romance than I had expected, but it worked well. The writing flows very effortlessly, there is always something happening, and the reader feels for the characters, all of them. The cliffhanger ending, both in terms of political situation and the rapidly forming love triangle are currently bugging me. Getting the sequel, Catching Fire, from the library will take some time, but I’m hoping someone among my friends owns the books so I could borrow them.
Published: Scholastic 2008
So that was January. I also read Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, but it did not make the list as it contained poems with no plot, and I do not think I am any authority on poetry. (These seemed rather Romantic. More like Coleridge than Wordsworth.)
Currently I’m reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and enjoying her style immensely.