Thursday 16 December 2010

All men are mortal (Beauvoir)

I picked up All men are mortal in the Notting Hill Books and Comics Exchange at the start of December - it is one of the newer VMCs which have only ever been published in a "modern" cover. It wasn't a book that I'd ever heard of, nor had I heard of the author, although my companion that day said that she was quite significant. When I looked her up, I realised that she was the author of the book The second sex - not something that I've read, but something which I know of.

All men are mortal was an intriguing read which I enjoyed very much - quite different to some of the Victorian and Edwardian VMCs.

It tells the story of a beautiful actress, Regina, desirous of fame and celebrity. When she encounters the man Fosca, and discovers that he is immortal, never having been able to die since his 13th century birth, she wonders whether she can make herself through her performances live forever by existing in his thoughts. This philosophical conundrum underpins the book. She then makes Fosca fall in love with her, in an attempt to get him to reveal the secret behind his immortality. But as their relationship grows and Fosca recounts his life, she learns that perhaps immortality is not what she anticipates; it has blemished Fosca's relationships and effectively isolated him. Immortality cannot live alongside the mortal. For Fosca, everything is essentially the same and insignificant now, whilst for Regina, even the trivial has meaning. It is a fascinating read which really challenges you to think about the nature of life, but it is also a very good novel.

There is also a film of the book, made in 1994, with Irene Jacob, Marianne Sagebrecht and Stephen Rea.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Please vote for the blog!

I was quite excited to see that my blog has been nominated in the category of "Best Literary Blog" for the Most Wanted Book Blogger awards. I've never been nominated for anything before, so this was quite exciting! I only found out by chance when following a link that a fellow blogger posted to vote for her blog...

Do go over and look at the list as there's a huge number of interesting blogs to have a look at, but if you felt so moved you could also vote for me! As my blog here is such a niche, I think it is unlikely that I will come especially high in the scoring, but would be nice not to come last!

Friday 10 December 2010

I'm not complaining (Adam) 124

I forgot to write about I'm not complaining by Ruth Adam when I read it a couple of week's ago which is a shame as it was a quirky VMC which I really enjoyed reading. It's the story of Madge Brigson, a 30 something school teacher, who works in a school in the deprived town of Bronton, Nottinghamshire, an industrial town which has been hit badly by the depression. I liked her no-nonsense character and committment to the children in her charge, despite her recognition that for many of them, the education is not particularly valuable. The novel also tells the story of some of Madge's colleagues, other single women (for it was still the age when women had to leave work on marriage). It's a great book if you like strong female characters - do seek it out, it's not terribly well known, I was just attracted by the title...

Only published once, in an original green cover.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

The orchid house (Allfrey)

Having had a bit of a drought of VMC acquisitions lately, due to cutting down on expenditure, it was a big treat to go to the Notting Hill books and comics exchange to sell some books, and to spend the credit gained on some new ones! Of course, I cleared them out of the VMCs that I didn't already have (you can see them in the stack of books I came home with on my other blog), and one of the ones that I came home with was The orchid house by Phyllis Shand Allfrey. It's her only VMC, and not one that I had heard of.

In this sub-zero weather here in Oxford, it was wonderful to read a book set on the Isle of Dominica in the West Indies. It tells the stories of three sisters, growing up, through the eyes of their nurse, Lally. We first meet them as children, later as adults, returning to the island after being away.

Whilst I enjoyed reading it, I wasn't sure how well it held together as a book. The stories of the sisters were more disparate than coherent story, and I wasn't quite convinced by the voice of the narrator - she seemed far more well written than you might imagine a servant of that position to be.

What I did like was the sense of place that came through - Allfrey grew up there, and it really showed in her descriptions. I loved reading about coconut milk to cool parched throats, and breadfruit - it was a long way from hot soup in an English winter.

It's just been published once by Virago, with the original green cover - the picture is from the channel 4 dramatisation which sadly doesn't seem to be available, which is a shame as it featured some fairly big names, and I think that this book would translate very well to the screen.