Friday, 5 November 2010

Creatures of the night - RIPV round up

Throughout October I have read obsessively for Carl's RIPV Challenge. Something about my mood this year has needed a constant flow of dark, brooding literature - murder and mayhem, ghosts and ghouls. While progressing at an (unnaturally) stately pace through Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, and apart from the books I have reviewed here, on the side I have lapped up Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, Elly Griffiths, Veronica Heley, Catriona MacPherson, Diana Wynne Jones...some of these may still be the subject of posts, because I have enjoyed them immensely, and feel very disinclined to leave off my dark reading yet. It may see me right through the winter.

There have been some discoveries along the way. Two new authors (to me) have been a real revelation: Katherine Langrish and Helen Grant. Langrish's Dark Angels is wonderfully atmospheric and compelling, with a medieval setting and attractive characters, while Grant's The Glass Demon is set in modern Germany. I want to talk more about both of these books at more leisure, as well as reading more by both authors.

I also read, but haven't had time to post on, the fascinating Worlds of Arthur, by Fran and Geoff Doel, in which the authors examine the evidence, historical and literary, for the real King Arthur. He was probably a war lord in what at school we were taught to call the Dark Ages, but which are increasingly being regarded as being the seat of a complex and varied culture - I am intrigued, and rather pleased, to see that even Tintagel (in Cornwall) is emerging as a probable Arthurian site, the setting for a tower and settlement much earlier than the castle ruins which caught the imagination of later generations. Some of the literature on Arthur suffers from an excess of enthusiasm on the part of its authors, but this is not the case here, and it's a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone interested in both early British history and our myths and legends. I borrowed it from the library, but I shall have to buy it now, dammit.

Another book which I'd been meaning to read for a long time is Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I'm not going to say much about it because I haven't finished it yet, but it's clear that we are in the presence of a thoroughly unreliable narrator in Merricat and consequently, the reader is kept constantly on the edge of her seat. The discomfort is partly to blame for my reading it slowly (the other reason is that it's on my Kindle, and at the moment I get tired reading that more quickly than if I'm reading a "real" book).

In all I reviewed nine books during the Challenge, a very satisfying start to the winter. Thanks to Carl, as ever, for the tremendous job he does hosting - 625 books were reviewed over the course of the two months it ran, and my TBR list has burgeoned. (The books I read and reviewed are listed on the sidebar.)

4 comments:

  1. Mmm, Merricat. She's one of my favorite unreliable narrators. Shirley Jackson is just unparalleled at creating that feeling of discomfort with small, creepy details.

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  2. Worlds of Arthur is going onto my wishlist. I'm on a British Myths & Legends kick at the moment - Arthur last week, Welsh Mabinogion this!

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  3. Worlds of Arthur is going onto my wishlist. I'm on a British Myths & Legends kick at the moment - Arthur last week, Welsh Mabinogion this!

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  4. Jenny, it is *very* uncomfortable!

    Annabel, Worlds of Arthur has got those Beardsley illustrations you like, too. Are you by any chance reading the new versions of the Mabinogion stories published by Seren? I'm dying to read them, but have to keep putting breaks on my book acquiring habit.

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