I’m busy reading a fiction chunkster (no, not the Ellmann!), and several non-fiction titles, so full reviews will have to wait. Instead, here’s more of my notes from 2007 on some books I enjoyed back then…
In the place of fallen leaves by Tim Pears
Slow to get into, but growing more rewarding with each chapter, this novel is the story of one long, hot summer in 1984 set in an isolated Devon village. Seen through the eyes of Alison who is 11ish, the youngest of her farming family, we discover all the eccentric inhabitants of her village, and how the unbearable heat and drought affects them all over this Indian summer. The prose, like the season it depicts, is languid and sultry and Pears describes the minutiae of this heatwave in detail without overdoing it generally, although the eventual rain does bring relief to all! (9/10)
[Ed: – Pears’s debut novel was published in 1993. Buy at Amazon UK.]
The testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Fantastic read … the life story of a Scottish minister who in mid-life falls in a gorge rescuing a dog, is thought to have perished, but is found alive three days later claiming to have been looked after by the devil. Raises interesting questions about mid-life crises, faith and belief, perceived madness and near-death experiences all mixed up with the claustrophobic nature of small town politics and nosiness. (8/10)
[Ed – Published in 2006. Buy at Amazon UK]
The Summer of Katya by Trevanian
Set the year before the Great War, a young doctor arrives at a clinic in a Basque spa town. He meets the Treville family from Paris and falls in love with Katya. But the family has secrets … Originally published in 1983, this is a beautifully written psychological drama from an author better known for his high-quality thrillers. The drama unfolds at leisure, but you always feel something is going to happen! (9/10)
[Ed: Trevanian was the pen-name of an American film scholar, Rodney Whitaker – he managed to keep his real name a secret until 1998! Buy at Amazon UK]
She Done Him Wrong by Mae West
As the foreword by Kathy Lette tells you, Mae West was an accomplished writer and astute businesswoman, so after that it’s no surprise to wholeheartedly enjoy this novel. Diamond Lil is a classic ‘tart with a heart’ gangster’s moll with expensive tastes. When she finds out about her nightclub owner man’s secret sex trade sending young, destitute women to South America, and falls in love with a punter everything has to change. Great lusty fun, full of action and no padding, an easy and fantastic read. (9/10)
[Ed: This was the novelisation of West’s 1928 play She Done Him Wrong, originally published as Diamond Lil in 1933. Buy from Amazon UK]
Fireworks by Elizabeth Winthrop
Poor Hollis: he’s still grieving after his 2yr old son was killed in a car accident, his wife has left him for the summer, and to top that he’s suffering from writer’s block. Summer is not going well … A sympathetic portrait of a man on the brink of the destroying himself with self-pity and the bottle and how he pulls himself together. Hollis for all his faults is a likeable feller and despite having a habit of putting his foot in it, you want him to succeed. An enjoyable debut. (7.5/10)
[Ed: Published in 2006. Buy from Amazon UK]
9 thoughts on “Some good reads from pre-blog days, and what I thought about them then… #8”
I loved The Testament of Gideon Mack as well! I didn’t get on as well with Robertson’s earlier novels, but I should re-read this.
I’ve not read anything since by him, but if I come across something…
A few years ago, a friend lent me The Summer of Katya. I went into knowing nothing about it, or of the author. You’re right that there is always the feeling that something is going to happen, without it being a high-tension thriller. It was excellent!
I wish I could remember more about it! As a thriller lover I had read The Eiger Function and Shibumi, so was intrigued. He carried it off with this novel (I think!) 🙂
I keep meaning to try Tim Pears — I have a copy of this one! Perhaps I’ll save it for next summer for an appropriate setting.
I remember it as very good indeed. Haven’t read anything else by him though!
What a good idea. I’ve toyed for a while with the idea of doing snapshots like this on books I haven’t got around to reviewing in full.
Go for it Karen. I’m lucky with all these pre-blog reads, because I wrote short paras on my master spreadsheet even back then.
I did manage to jot down a few notes after I read each book – just a case of finding where I put them