Complications

Gosh, two months without blogging, at least not on Bookhound, though I've been busy elsewhere. A combination of work and illness meant that I just haven't had time to blog, though (if you've been following my reading list) you can see that I was still reading. So a few rapid fire blogs to catch up...

Damsel in distress by P.G. Wodehouse. First Wodehouse I haven't enjoyed. Thin plot, not particularly funny, and aged very badly. Wodehouse nowhere near his best form, but at least it prompted a film version, any excuse for Fred Astaire...


Casanova's memoirs had been on my TBR list for a long time. The Penguin edition that I read was translated by Stephen Sartarelli, who had also translated the previously reviewed Journey around my room, and edited by Gilberto Pizzamiglio. Pizzamiglio is evidently very keen to portray Casanova as an educated man of his time, widely travelled, literate, and interested in arts and science - all of which is true - however in doing this the edition has been heavily edited with vast swathes cut out, most notably most of the chunks that formerly made the work an erotic classic. Now, although in one way I don't have a problem with this - I suspect the notches on the bedposts would have got a bit monotonous - it does make some of the book almost incomprehensible, as Casanova is run out of town after town for being a bad influence. If you didn't know the story behind it, it would be even more puzzling than it is.

It was also a pity that some of the extensive editing meant that characters that had popped up earlier disappeared without trace, even though there was evidence that they had resurfaced later.

There's plenty to shock in the book, not least the sexualisation of children during the era - and not necessarily by Casanova. Although this is his life, it is very much a mirror of the age, as he reflects on what happens around him.

However, having said all of this, I loved reading this book. I had forgotten what a completely nutty century the eighteenth century was. When else could you have had an awkward dating moment trying to work out whether your potential date is or is not a castrato? Can you ask or would that be plain tactless? From some very dodgy fraudulent deals involving sorcery to a spell in prison, Venice in all its glory, masonic meetings, and a library in Prague, Casanova's life kept me happily ensconced in the eighteenth century.

S.J. Parris's Conspiracy is a mystery set in sixteenth century Paris, with the philosopher, Giordano Bruno, resurrected as the detective. It's a decent enough mystery, but I struggled with the use of Bruno as a central character. Rather like my first reading of Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey mysteries, I find it difficult to reconcile a real person melded into the central detective. With Bruno, this was actually rather worse than Tey. I know where Bruno's story ends - a horrible execution, burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori in Rome with his tongue chained to stop him talking. I know that writing about him so many years after his death can do no harm, and Parris clearly loves Bruno, but for some reason to me, knowing his ending it just felt wrong. The only way I could read it was to think of Bruno as a completely fictional character, but that didn't feel right either.

Dead joker by Anne Holt, latest in my read through the Hanne Wilhelmsen canon. As always a very good detective story. Wilhelmsen's personal life comes more to the fore than usual in this novel, and very sad it is too. The most moving so far of the series.

A view of Wales unknown to Giraldus Cambrensis.
One of my favourite places - Llyn Brianne
Gerald of Wales' Itinerary through Wales, and Description of Wales came as a welcome relief after two rather gloomy reads. I'm originally from South Wales, and know the land very well. It was lovely to follow Gerald on his tours around the country finding much that was surprisingly familiar, and an equal amount that was decidedly odd (thoughtful and / or assassinating weasels being a case in point). It has certainly prompted me to think about following Gerald's route through Wales, perhaps on a holiday next year.

Much to my surprise I hadn't blogged about M.M. Kaye's Death in Cyprus (previously published as Death walked in Cyprus) before, though I have read all of the Death in books, and blogged on many of them. It's a fairly standard "woman in danger" type story. Young Amanda Derrington is en route to Cyprus for a holiday when a woman is murdered in her cabin on board ship. The holiday in Cyprus proves to be less than relaxing as tensions between the British expats living on the island simmer beneath the surface. But just when Amanda thinks that everything is resolved, the focus of the first murder changes, and she discovers that her own life may be in danger. It's a light, frothy, easy read. I did think that it had been inspired by Mary Stewart's Greece set mysteries My brother, Michael and The Moonspinners, but in fact they were written slightly later, so I suspect she may have been inspired by this novel by M.M. Kaye.

More anon...


Comments

Good to see you again, and am glad you are still reading! I felt much the same about the Bruno series.
lyn said…
Casanova's Memoirs sounds wonderful. Naxos are producing the audio book & it looks like a complete edition. Part 1 & 2 (Part 3 to come) are about 90 hours, read by Peter Wickham. Translated by Arthur Machen.
Margaret Jones said…
Thank you both. Glad to know, it wasn't just me, Clothes in Books!

Thanks Lyn - I didn't know that Arthur Machen had done a translation. They were truly fascinating. I do love diaries / autobiography as a way of seeing into other lives, and other centuries.

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