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Best of Book Around The Corner’s reads for 2015

December 29, 2015 24 comments

Mafalda_merciBefore starting with the Best Of List for 2015, I’d like to thank all the readers and commenters of Book Around The Corner. It was a pleasure to share this reading year with you. I’m grateful for the time you spend on this blog and chatting with me on Twitter.

Now, the list.

Best of all because it has it all

If your TBR is as high as the Eiffel Tower and you have to choose only one from my list, please pick Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin. It’s beautiful, thoughtful, breathtaking, heartbreaking and oh, so human.

Best Beach and Public Transport

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino. That’s Japanese crime fiction. Your trip will seem shorter in this book’s company. If you’re on the beach, Watch out, you might be so far away that you might forget to reapply sunscreen.

Best Sugar Without Cellulite

This category is for books that can be used as sugar substitutes. Feeling a little blue? Instead of eating ice cream in the carton, try The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy. No need to work out to burn extra calories and it has the desired effect.

Best mille-feuilles book.

No this category has nothing to do with French pastries. It has everything to do with multi-layered book and the 2015 winner is I Married a Communist by Philip Roth. I had to write three billets about it.

Best Translation Tragedy

A Translation Tragedy is a brilliant book I read in French and that is not available in English. My pick for 2015 is Pain, Education, Liberté by Petros Markaris. (Bread, Education, Freedom) It’s crime fiction, set in Athens and it gives you a unique view of the reasons of the Greek crisis. There’s also Je dénonce l’humanité by Frigyes Karinthy (I denounce humanity). Short pieces by a Hungarian writer who had the funniest sense of humour.

Best Literary UFO

B is For Beer by Tim Robbins. Or beer explained to children. Not that there was much competition in this category this year.

Best Damn-the-#TBR20-challenge-I-can’t-buy-another-one-right-away

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson and Still Life by Louise Penny. For the characters, the plot, the atmosphere, the style and the entertainment. It could also be the I-want-to-go-there-at-ounce category because they describe the places so well that you want to see them yourself.

Best I’m-fed-up-with-WWII-but-this-one-is-a-must-read.

Fatelessness by Imre Kertész. Concentration camps seen with the eyes of a Hungarian teenager who sounds like the author. Books like this remind us why we should never forget what the Nazis did.

Best evocative novel.

Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion. More than literature. I was reading and hearing Jim Morrison sing and thinking of Edward Hopper. And more than anything, I was in California with Maria.

Best punch-in-the-face book

Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien. I still have to write the billet about this compelling story.

Best I’m-soooo-British book

Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford. The wits of the Roaring Twenties in the upper classes.

That’s all folks. See you in 2016 for my next reading adventures.

Mafalda_monde

 

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Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

December 29, 2015 10 comments

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. (2014)

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz is our Book Club choice for December and I’m not going to waste a lot of time reviewing it. That’s how irritated I am with this book I abandoned at page 67.

First, there’s this ridiculous font of characters that reminded me of a giggling teenage girl who puts little hearts on her is. Look!

Moriarty_police

Then there’s the flatness of the style and the easy literary devices: addressing to the reader to go back in time and introduce the plot or describe the characters or make useless detours to add fake life to the prose. I started to roll my eyes from the first page after I recovered from the silly font. The narrator is American, a detective from the famous Pinkerton Agency.

As I sit at my Remington Number Two improved model typewriter (an American invention, of course) et begin this great labour, I know that I am likely to fall short of the standards of accuracy and entertainment that he maintained to the end.

Well, that inspires me. The first part of the sentence seems labored, as an American would spell it and autobiographical for the actual writer. He fell short of fiction greatness and accuracy is an accounting standard, which might be crucial if the point of the book is to earn money. You think I go a bit too far? You need another round of it:

My appearance? Well, it’s never easy for any man to describe himself but I will be honest and say that I could not call myself handsome. My hair was black, my eyes an indifferent shade of brown. I was slender and though only in my forties, I was already too put-upon by the challenges life had thrown my way. I was unmarried and sometimes I worried that it showed in my wardrobe, which was perhaps a little too well worn.

See? Am I mistaken when I say he doesn’t sound like a New Yorker? And compared to Craig Johnson, Horowitz writes like a toddler.

I was still willing to suffer through the banal prose for a good piece of entertainment. But then it got worse when the British inspector from Scotland Yard came into the story. The deciphering of the secret code included in a letter made me groan of frustration. Like we say in French, I threw the sponge away. (I gave up) I’m too old to read a mix of Da Vinci Code and The Famous Five. I’m too busy to waste good reading time on such a book.

So, bye bye Moriarty! Hello Petros Markaris! I’m taking the French leave and going to Athens for Liquidation à la grecque.

If you want to read an gentler review of Moriarty, go to Caroline’s review.

 

The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy

December 26, 2015 13 comments

The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy (1888) Not available in French. (Sorry)

The cinema was invented in Lyon by the Lumière brothers. But what made their fortune was actually photography. They were inventors who registered more than 170 patents and in 1881, they created the instantaneous photograph plaque called the Plaques Étiquettes-Bleues. Before this invention, people had to stay still for about five minutes before the photography was taken and the photographer needed to be a specialist capable of handling a complicated process. With the Plaques Étiquettes-Bleues, photography became simple and accessible to amateurs. You only had to slip the Plaque in the camera and you were ready to take a picture. This invention was so revolutionary that it spread within two years after it was marketed and it resulted in the creation of many photography studios.

Levy_Romance2In other words, without the Lumière brothers, The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy wouldn’t be the same. Now imagine what would become of the Bennett sisters if they lived in 1888 and their father died while they were still unmarried. Amy Levy seems to explore this idea.

Fanny, Gertrude, Lucy and Phyllis Lorimer belong to small nobility and are single when their father dies. They discover that they have no fortune left and their family think that the only solution for them is to split, two going to live with friends of the family, the Devonshires,  and the two others being shipped to the part of the family established in India. But Gertrude, the brain of the four, comes with another idea. She has consulted a friend of their father’s and she determined to open a photography studio in London and earn their keep through their trade. Now you see my point about the Lumière brothers.

Lucy supports Gertrude immediately. Phyllis, the youngest one, has no objection but Fanny isn’t so easily convinced.

“Oh, Gertrude, need it come to that—to open a shop?” cried Fanny, aghast. “Fanny, you are behind the age,” said Lucy, hastily. “Don’t you know that it is quite distinguished to keep a shop? That poets sell wall-papers, and first-class honour men sell lamps? That Girton students make bonnets, and are thought none the worse of for doing so?”

Despite the opposition of their aunt, Mrs Spratt, and Fanny’s wariness, the project comes through. Their friends Constance and Fred Devonshire support them as they acquire a former photography studio and start their business.

A few days afterwards the Lorimers found themselves the holders of a lease, terminable at one, three, or seven years, for a studio and upper part of the house, known as 20B, Upper Baker Street.

(I noted that leases are one, three or seven years while in France, it’s three, six or nine years)

The four sisters are very different. Fanny is the old fashioned one, the less able to change her ways and be helpful. She can’t help in the studio, she can’t take care of the house and soon her sisters accept that poor Fanny is more a liability than an asset.

As Lucy had said, Frances Lorimer was behind the age. She was an anachronism, belonging by rights to the period when young ladies played the harp, wore ringlets, and went into hysterics.

Gertrude is the leader. She puts aside her literary ambitions to run the business, take the pictures, go to other studios or private homes to take photos and earn money. She’s not always comfortable with what she’s doing, like going to a man’s house without a chaperone but she knows she can’t be picky. Lucy is her real partner, sharing the workload, the worries about the bills and the customers. Phyllis is the youngest sister. She’s a pretty girl, a bit immature and rather selfish.

So basically, the business in on Gertrude and Lucy’s shoulders. Through their friend Constance, they get acquainted with a young man living across their street. Mr Jermyn hires them to photograph his work, introduces to his friends and acquaintances and soon becomes a familiar fixture of their new life.

They began to get glimpses of a world more varied and interesting than their own, of that world of cultivated, middle-class London, which approached more nearly, perhaps, than any other to Gertrude’s ideal society of picked individuals.

Business picks up, leading to choices and a new way-of-life. What will become of Fanny, Gertrude, Lucy and Phyllis?

You can imagine a bit of their fate if I tell you that in Austen’s world, Gertrude would be Lizzy, that Lucy reminded me of Jane, that Phyllis acted like Kitty and that Fanny would be Mary. Constance sounds like Charlotte.

While I enjoyed following the adventures of the Lorimer sisters and their shop, I missed the sharp analysis of the condition of women provided by Gissing in The Odd Women. Gissing’s novel was published in 1893, only five years after The Romance of a Shop. Levy’s book is unconventional. It pictures women who refuse to become nannies, teachers or governesses. They reject the idea to depend on family and be at the mercy of relatives who would have them at their beck and call because they put a roof above their heads. They take their life into their own hands and start a business. It lacks propriety in their world and sometimes, the daily business hurts their ingrained good manners. But Gertrude doesn’t mope or whine. She takes action. And she does the exact opposite of what is expected of her sex.

The shop part of the book was interesting to follow and I would have liked to read more details about the operations. I’m always interested in how business was made in the 19thC. The romance part was a bit too much for my tastes but it was still an agreeable read. It is as if the writer didn’t dare going as far as having female characters who chose a career and gave up the dream of being a wife. In Levy’s world, getting married is still the most enviable option for a woman. Opening a shop is a necessity but not a choice. In Gissing’s world, he hints that women should have the choice not to marry and have a fulfilling career for themselves.

Thanks to Guy for giving me this novel and you can read his excellent review here for Part 1 and here for Part 2

Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas

December 24, 2015 16 comments

Hello everyone,

Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël.

Noel_AustraliaI know that not everybody celebrates Christmas but if you do, I hope you’re among dear friends and family. We have an Australian guest with us this year and look! our Christmas bear cub made new friends! I would have liked to have a white Christmas but it’s really warm here at the moment.

Although we’re not religious, it is still an important day to us, full of family traditions and I can’t help thinking of all the families who have lost someone in the terrorist attacks in Paris. Let’s hope there won’t be more of them next year.

We’ll see if Santa Claus brings me new books (how original, I know, I know) but I already gave myself a literary present: I’ve completed by #TBR20 challenge and I’m free to get new books! Yay! My first purchase will be The Hands by Stephen Orr. I may write a billet about the #TBR20 experience and how I see this going on in the future.

Again I wish you the best for Christmas Eve and Christmas and I’ll come back soon with a glowing review of Leaving Las Vegas and with my thoughts about The Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy.

Emma

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The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman

December 23, 2015 10 comments

The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman (2006) French title: Le chagrin entre les fils. Translated by Pierre Bondil.

Hillerman_chagrin_filsTo be honest, I still have three books to review by the end of 2015 and out of the three, Hillerman’s book is the least appealing. This explains why my billet will be a short one.

Tony Hillerman (1925-2008) is an American writer of detective novels whose main characters are policemen from the Navajo Tribal Police Department, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. His books are set in the Four Corners area, between Arizona and Utah.

In The Shape Shifter, Joe Leaphorn is now retired while Jim Chee has just gotten married and is back from his honeymoon. Leaphorn is a little bored, so when an old friend calls him about a Navajo blanket that had reappeared when everybody thought it had been destroyed in an arson, he jumps on the occasion to investigate further. Only it will be on his free time and without police backup.

It had been a long time since my last Tony Hillerman. His books are usually a pleasure to read because of the investigation but also because of all the information he gives about the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo cultures. This element is present in this opus as well. The blanket relates the Long Walk of the Navajo in 1864 when they were deported from Arizona to New Mexico.

Hillerman gives details about The Long Walk and its impact on the Navajo psyche. However, I failed to understand how it was serving the plot. It was interesting to read about but I thought it never quite meshed with the plot. It felt more like a pretext than a real plot enhancer.

I also thought that the plot was a little weak and it sounded to me that the writer was as tired as his character. It didn’t help that I wasn’t in awe with the translation; I don’t like recent books with notes explaining what a pick-up is. And let’s talk about the French title. It’s not the translation of the original title, which I understand because it’s hard to translate. However, the French title, Le chagrin entre les fils, is unfortunate because the word fils, when you read it, can be understood as threads or as sons. Until I heard about the blanket after I started to read the book, I was convinced the title meant the grief between the sons and not the grief between the threads. The title makes sense as the blanket was made to keep a trail of this painful Long Walk and to express grief in an artistic form. But how can you guess that when you’re in the bookshop?

Despite the reservations I have on this volume of the series, I still highly recommend Tony Hillerman as a writer to explore. Just pick his earlier books and if you have any interest at all in Native American culture, this is an enjoyable way to learn things. For example, in The Shape Shifter, he explains that in the Navajo culture, being called rich is not desirable at all, it’s almost an insult. What a clash with the culture of the white America. Hillerman was an honorary citizen of the Navajo reservation, so you can trust his explanations. He also has a fantastic sense of place. He has a way to describe nature in the Four Corners area that makes you want to pay a visit. Reading it after a trip there is even better because you have your own images of the places he describes.

Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clézio

December 16, 2015 14 comments

Wandering Star by J.M.G Le Clézio (1992) Original French title: Etoile errante.

LeClézio_Etoile_erranteWandering Star is part of my #TBR20 project because it had been sitting on the shelf for a while and because I always need a little kick to start books about war and their consequences.

Wandering Star starts in 1943. Esther is 13. She’s Jewish and living as a refugee in a little village in the mountains near Nice, France. The Italians have the power on this territory and a whole Jewish community is settled in this village. Esther is in hiding and calls herself Hélène. Her father is with the Resistance and men pass through their house. The Germans arrive and the Jews flee to Italy through the mountains. Esther’s father disappears. After the war, Esther and her mother take the boat to settle in a newly founded country, Israel.

During her first months in Israel in 1948, Esther briefly sees Nejma, a Palestinian on her way to the Nur Shams refugee camp. Then, Le Clézio switches of point of view and Nejma tells us her story.

Wandering Star is the story of two young women, one uprooted by the Holocaust and the other by the foundation of the state of Israel.

The first part is rather bucolic –a little too much for my taste. Despite the war lurking above Esther’s life, she’s still a teenager, running around with other adolescents, experiencing her first attraction to boys. Being in this village is the first time she is uprooted. They used to live in Nice, by the sea and now they’re in the mountains. Esther will never stop being uprooted as her life takes her from France to Italy, to France and Israel. Her whole life will be influenced by war, in Europe first and in Israel later.

Esther’s journey to Israel and her first months there are full of dangers and uncertainty. Nejma’s circumstances are not better as Le Clézio depicts her life in Nur Shams. Life is dreadful there. People starve, die from various diseases in total indifference. I didn’t know this camp still existed. It was created in the 1930s by the British as a detention camp. According to Wikipedia, in 2007, 6479 people lived in Nur Sham. That’s the size of a small town. Some people have probably spent their whole life in what should be a transitory place. How do you grow up, live your life, feel grounded when you live in a place designed as a place of transit?

The reader switches from Esther to Nejma, follows their destiny. Le Clézio isn’t judging anything or anyone. This is not a political novel in the strict sense. He’s not picking a side, just showing the results of political choices and ideologies on the life of common people. There’s no gradation in misery; he’s not trying to say that Esther’s misfortunes are sadder or worse than Nejma’s or the other way round. He remains factual but not clinical. His writing has a lyrical side that emphasizes the horror of the situations he describes. It’s like a beautiful soundtrack on war images. It’s at odds with the hardship he’s showing us with his pen.

As in LullabyLe Clézio has a real sense of place and describes marvelously the nature of the Mediterranean region. The sun, the light, the sea, the wind. The characters make one with nature, they are influenced by the elements. The sun is either a caress or a burn. The wind whips them or tempers the heat of the sun. Nature has a permanence which is in contradiction with the uprooted lives of his characters.

I finished Wandering Star with a knot in my stomach because it puts the life and the feelings of refugees at human size. And when this come down from the generalities shown on TV to a more personal encounter, be it with a fictional character, it’s always a punch in the face. Granted, this is not fun to read but it’s Worth it. For the Nejmas who still suffer in Nur Shams, for the memory of the Jews who lost their country and their families in the Holocaust and for Le Clézio’s luminous prose.

Harmless by Julienne Van Loon

December 5, 2015 22 comments

Harmless by Julienne Van Loon (2013)

Van_Loon_HarmlessHarmless is the second Australian book I’ve read with the sole purpose of discovering Perth before our guest from this city arrives. (See here for the first book). I’m afraid I still don’t know much about Perth, so now I’ll wait for her arrival next week. That said, I’m still glad I’ve read Harmless by Julienne Van Loon.

The book opens with old Rattuwat and young Amanda walking in the bush by a scorching heat. Their car broke down and they have an appointment at the local prison where Amanda’s father, Dave, is serving a prison sentence. Amanda is only eight and she thinks she remembers the way to the prison but will she get there on time? Rattuwat is an old man, he’s Thai and has come to Australia to bury his daughter Sua. He barely speaks English and he’s following Amanda reluctantly.

How did Amanda and Rattuwat end up walking together like this? Actually, Sua and Dave were living together and she was taking care of his children while he was locked away. Now Rattuwat is in Australia, his son-in-law is in prison and there’s no one to watch Amanda.

The tone of the novella is set and it’s leaded with tension. Will they make it on time for the appointment at the prison? Will they find their way? In parallel to the day’s events, we see Dave waiting for them in prison, we follow Amanda’s thoughts and discover her short life and Rattuwat’s thoughts unveil Sua’s life in Thailand.

Different continent, different climate but the book the closest to Harmless is Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi. Same bleakness, same unbearable hopelessness. They show characters pinned to the ground by circumstances and too weak or too isolated to stand up and climb out of their hole. The mother in Beside the Sea and Dave here are in a desperate need of a support system and there’s no one. Both novellas are difficult to read because they show children whose fate is inexorable. And the reader wonders: what are the social services doing?

Amanda is the result of a one-night-stand and her mother doesn’t want her. She literally dropped Amanda on Dave’s lap at a party and left. What a start in life for a child! Dave, who never knew about the pregnancy, took the baby home and started to raise her. Dave was a petty criminal and a drug user, he tried to be a good father but kept taking wrong turns. His years with Sua were an oasis in his life. After Sua’s death, there’s no one to take care of Amanda and he’s sick with worry for her and full of regrets for ending up in prison. Will Amanda’s mother accept to take care of her until he’s free?

Rattuwat reflects on Sua’s life and her past in Thailand comes to light. She was a victim of the sex trade and her coming to Australia with an Australian man is not very clean. Rattuwat can’t help thinking he failed her as a father and now she’s gone.

In Harmless, two men assess their parenting skills. Both have regrets because their actions will cause their daughter great harm. We often see books with crappy fathers but they never seem to notice how bad they are. Dave and Rattuwat have this in common, in addition to their love for Sua.

As a reader and as a mother, I was only preoccupied by Amanda’s future. I kept wondering about her chances to have a happy life with such a start and I kept thinking about all the real Amandas in our societies.

Thanks to Lisa for recommending this novella. Her review can be found here.

 

Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford

December 1, 2015 22 comments

Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford (1932) French title: Christmas Pudding.

Mitford_ChristmasIt may seem a bit early to publish a billet about a book entitled Christmas Pudding but I think it’s timely because I understood that now is the right time to prepare Christmas puddings. I don’t know if British people still have some for Christmas but after reading about it several times, I was curious and I had to try to make one once, just like I experimented with eggnog. Preparing our Christmas pudding four weeks in advance had my husband worried. “Are you sure we won’t get food poisoning?” “How do you know it won’t be rotten by Christmas” and “Isn’t it gross to eat something that’s been prepared so long before?” Well isn’t it gross to eat mould in your Roquefort or cheeses that smell like teenage sneakers? Everything is relative.

Back to Nancy Mitford’s delightful Christmas Pudding. We’re in 1932, in England. Paul Fotheringay has the blues. His fiancée Marcella Bracket treats him like dirt and he’s just published his first book, Crazy Capers and the critics are devastating. You think he’s just another depressed starving author? Not really. Paul’s book received glorious reviews from several worthy newspapers, like this one:

It reminded me sometimes of Mr. Wodehouse at his funniest, and sometimes of Mr. Evelyn Waugh at his most cynical, and yet it had striking originality.

mitford_christmas_frenchGreat references, no? The problem is Paul never intended to write something funny. For him, his novel is a poignant tragedy, so he feels totally misunderstood and humiliated. He’s trying to forget his ordeal at the Tate gallery where he meets a friend, Walter Monteath. Together, they decide to drop by Amabelle Fortescue, a common acquaintance and former courtesan. Amabelle tries to console Paul and suggests that he writes a biography, something to be taken seriously. Paul mulls over this idea and decides he’d like to write the biography of an English poetess of the 19th century, Lady Maria Almanack. He writes a letter to her descendant, Lady Bobbin. She refuses to give him access to Lady Maria’s journal.

Meanwhile, Amabelle has decided to spend Christmas in the country, in Gloucestershire. She rents a house near Lady Bobbin’s manor and invites her friends Walter and Sally Monteath. She’s also very fond of Boby Bobbin, Lady Bobbin’s son and she’s looking forward to seeing him. Bobby is still in Eton and he’s supposed to come back home for the holidays. He is also acquainted with Paul and they get along quite well.

Lady Bobbin is extremely outdoorsy and loves country life. She’d rather read Horse and Hound than Knit and Sew and she can’t understand that her son doesn’t like spending time in the fields, hunting or riding. In her mind, Bobby needs to spend time with a man who will teach him how to improve his mind and his riding. Lady Bobbin is in dire need of a tutor.

Amabelle and Bobby manage to have her hire Paul as Bobby’s tutor. So now Paul is staying at Lady Bobbin’s for Christmas, under the name of Paul Fisher and under the pretence of tutoring Paul. The bargain is clear: Bobby doesn’t need to study or stay outside and Paul has free access to Lady Maria’s journals. A win-win situation.

The joyful pair will simulate outdoorsy activities while actually spending time at Amabelle’s, gossiping and playing bridge. Throw into the mix Bobby’s sister Philadelphia, Michael Lewes aka Lady Bobbin’s cousin and former admirer of Amabelle’s and a nice local major and you have the most delightful ingredients for a Christmas pudding. I won’t say more about the plot and Christmas among this group of friends.

Mitford’s novel was exactly what I needed between chapters of Wandering Stars by JM G Le Clézio which is beautiful but intense. It brought a healthy dose of fresh humour. I chuckled, I laughed, I giggled, I had a grand time. This novel is to Britishness what baguettes are to Frenchness. They keep calling each other ‘darling’ and it’s like their tongue was speaking with their pinkie in the air.

Nancy Mitford reminded me of Evelyn Waugh, not surprisingly. She’s a ferocious observer of her world and she portrays this group of people with a harshness totally masqueraded as utter politeness. See here, when Sally Monteath says that their still unnamed daughter, whose baptism is scheduled in a couple of weeks, is rather ill and might not live. Her future godfather replies:

‘D’you think she’s likely to live or not?’ said Paul. ‘Because if there’s any doubt perhaps I could use your telephone, Amabelle, to call up the jewellers and see if I’m in time to stop them engraving that mug. It’s such an expensive sort, and I don’t want it spoilt for nothing, I must say.’

Here’s Compton Bobbin, Lady Bobbin’s manoir:

Nevertheless, a large, square and not unhandsome building, it bears testimony, on closer acquaintance, to the fact that it has in the past been inhabited by persons of taste and culture. But these persons have been so long dead, and the evidences of their existence have been so adequately concealed by the generations which succeeded them, that their former presence in the place is something to be supposed rather than immediately perceived.

Isn’t that a blow for Lady Bobbin? And what about Paul, obliged to ride in order to back up his cover story:

Paul, his unreasonable terror of horses now quite overcome by his unreasonable terror of Lady Bobbin, whose cold gimlet eye seemed to be reading his every emotion, decided that here was one of the few occasions in a man’s life on which death would be preferable to dishonour, and advanced towards the mounting block with a slight swagger which he hoped was reminiscent of a French marquis approaching the scaffold.

The pages ooze with wit, jokes and the plot progresses at a nice pace. Nancy Mitford mocks the older generation but shows how hers take pleasure in idleness. She portrays a sort of decadence and the tail of the Roaring Twenties. Paul and Walter wouldn’t imagine working beyond writing books and articles. This group of friends is still idle and partying but there’s a feeling that this will end if they want to settle down. Walter and Sally have a baby, Paul knows he needs to find a job. It is the 1929 economic crisis and champagne is scarcer: Lady Bobbin serves beer to her party.

The most enjoyable remains her biting sense of humour. Mitford belonged to the partying crowd of the Roaring Twenties. She was friend with Evelyn Waugh and one of the Bright Young People. I guess some of her friends and acquaintances found resemblances with real life people when they read her novel.

I owe this wonderful reading time to Barb from Leaves and Pages because I picked Christmas Pudding after reading her review last year. Thanks!

PS: I’m not going to start another cover-induced rant but look at these covers! The British and the French ones are equally insulting to Nancy Mitford’s mind.

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