Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for November, 2021.
Paper Girls Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughn – The first volume of this new-to-me comic by Brian K. Vaughn (of Saga fame) opens early in the morning on the day after Halloween, in 1988 – so, naturally, I was saving it to read on November 1st. There are aliens, time travel, and a kick@$$ paper-delivery girl gang – good stuff all around. I can’t wait to read the next volume.
Murder by Matchlight, by E.C.R. Lorac – It’s a dark night during the Blitz. Bruce Mallaig, disappointed by his fiancee’s inability to meet him for dinner, strolls through Regents Park in the dark and witnesses the moment before a murder. Chief Inspector Macdonald doesn’t have much to go on – the briefest flare of light during the striking of a match, and an unidentified corpse – but it’s enough. This was my first E.C.R. Lorac (I’d read Crossed Skis, by the same author but written under a different pseudonym, and loved it) and it was a delight. I’ll definitely be working my way through all of the Loracs that the BL Crime Classics imprint has brought out – quite a few of which are already on my shelves, waiting.
Slightly Foxed No. 71: Jocelin’s Folly (Autumn 2021), ed. Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood – A new issue of Slightly Foxed is always a treat, and this one was no different. Rachel Kelly’s beautiful essay about working through grief and depression with the help of poetry was by far the best item in the journal this season, but I also loved Clarissa Burden on Josephine Tey’s Inspector Alan Grant – really, it was all wonderful, as always.
Meet Mr Mulliner, by P.G. Wodehouse – I listened to this standalone collection of linked short stories over Audible, and it was a delight from the first word to the last. I’m not sure I’ve ever departed from Wodehouse’s two famous series – the Jeeves books and the Blandings Castle series – and it was such fun. I particularly enjoyed the two stories featuring Augustine Mulliner, but they were all great. If my family was as fascinating as Mr Mulliner’s family, you can bet I’d take up residence in a pub and spin tales about them too.
Blitz Writing, by Inez Holden – This volume collects two different works: a novella (Night Shift) and a memoir (It Was Different at the Time) by Inez Holden. The gorgeous writing reminded me a bit of Virginia Woolf, although it feels like a disservice to Holden to compare her to anyone (even the greats). The vivid description of a night of bombardment, toward the end of Night Shift, was particularly breathtaking.
The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie – Another Audible listen, and another standalone from an author better known for series – on a snowy December night, a group of acquaintances gathers around a table for a seance. The table reports that another of their acquaintances, Captain Trevelyan, is dead – murdered. Captain Narracott, tasked with ferreting out the criminal, promptly arrests the dead man’s eldest nephew, James Pearson – but Jim’s intrepid fiancee, Emily Trefusis, is convinced that Jim had nothing to do with the crime and is determined to catch the real killer and clear her beloved’s name. It took me a bit to get into this one – unusual for Christie. Everyone involved seemed completely inept and idiotic, Inspector Narracott most of all. It wasn’t until Emily appeared that things got good. (Her first appearance on the page takes place when she walks in on Jim’s arrest. He wails that he didn’t kill his uncle. “Of course you didn’t, darling,” Emily reassures him. “You haven’t got the guts.” And then I thought – thank goodness! Finally, someone with some sense.) Emily is a fabulous character and I only wish that Christie had written more mysteries featuring her as the sleuth.
Framley Parsonage (Chronicles of Barsetshire #4), by Anthony Trollope – I won’t say much here, because I’m going to write up a full review for The Classics Club, but – of course – I loved this installment in the Chronicles of Barsetshire. There’s so much going on – the novel mainly revolves around the social-climbing Vicar of Framley and the distressing scrape he finds himself in, but there’s a major side plot involving a love story between the Vicar’s sister Lucy and the young squire, which is a delight to watch unfold. And our friends Dr Thorne, Frank and Mary Gresham, and the fabulous Miss Dunstable all pop in for a hello, too. Framley Parsonage isn’t my favorite Barset novel so far (Dr Thorne still holds the top spot on the pedestal) but it was, of course, wonderful.
Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto – This poignant, heart-wrenching novella tells the story of Mikage and Yuichi, two lost souls trying to navigate loss and grief – both needing each other, but each unwilling to drag the other into their own despair. Both have lost their entire families and are alone in the world, but for one another; Mikage cooks her way out of grief and into an understanding of her deeper feelings for Yuichi. The translation from the original Japanese text is gorgeous, and I wanted to gather them both up for hugs.
Not bad for a month that included a weeklong trip to Colorado (and no reading at all, other than on the plane). Everything I read this month was wonderful, lucky me – it’s almost impossible to pick a highlight. Still, if I have to (I know I don’t have to) Trollope always takes top spot anytime he appears in a monthly booklist. But there was also P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, so good company. And “Kitchen” was a marvelous, if devastating, read on which to end the month. For December, I have big holiday reading plans, as usual, and another trip – plenty of reading time in the car.