The ABC Murders – Agatha Christie

If anybody read my previous Christie review of And The There Were None, then you know that this one will also be absolutely glowing!

As expected, The ABC Murders was not only gripping but intensely clever. Christie’s mind was a cave full to the brim with dastardly plots, I tell you. I think what I’ve found, though, is that she didn’t come up with many ways of killing people…just how to hide that you did it at all! Which, to be honest, is much more entertaining than some kind of extravagant method of murder – in my opinion anyway. So, this mysterious “ABC” has written a letter to the famous H. Poirot to inform him of a murder which is about to take place in Andover on a specific date. At first it is written off as a silly prank but then, on the selected date in the selected place, a Mrs. Alice A- (I would check the name but I lent the book to a friend) is murdered in her own shop! Suddenly, the letter doesn’t seem so silly. The only issue then is that they have no way of knowing where the next strike will be…Bath, Buxton, Belfast, Brighton…nobody knows but Mr. ABC himself. They will only know where to look once the next letter arrives.

As ever, this book is wonderfully written. Some of the more old-fashioned turns of phrase throw me a bit and I have to read them like two or three times but that’s okay, it’s not exactly a problem. It’s just a little difficult when all the words are basically backwards in comparison to how they would be written nowadays. It’s very Latin! Like, sometimes the adjective will come after the noun, and not just when Poirot is speaking! That would make much more sense.

If you like crime novels then Christie, the Queen of Crime, is the lady for you. Next on my reading list (whilst I’m on holiday in France) are The Orient Express, The Mystery of the Blue Train and, if I’m a really speedy book-worm, The Clocks. 

I may have to join an AAA meeting for Agatha Addicts Anonymous or something…it’s a true addiction, I just can’t get enough of them! As you’re reading this I’m probably in a French swimming pool or cafe where I will be reading more than my brain can take. Then, I’ll come home and get my A Level results and I’ll probably cry and get hammered and lose all possible reading ability…so, I better get reading while I still can and so should you! Oh, and prepare for lots of photies of France.

Happy reading and happy holidays, wherever you may be,

Carenza x

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The Rabbit Back Literature Society – Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

Hello! Okay, so a while ago I wrote a kind of half review of a book I was in the midst of reading and in a more recent blog I realised I hadn’t done a full review so here we go…

And once again, I shall refer to the author as PJ because, sorry, but his name is excessive with umlauts.

Gorgeous cover!!

First of all, I absolutely loved this book. It’s so lovely and snowy and wac Gorgeous cover!!ky and magical. Ella, the infertile protagonist with lovely lips is a literature teacher who notices something crazy go down in a copy of Crime and Punishment. Following a hunch, she visits the Rabbit Back Library (her mothership) to investigate. What she finds isn’t pretty. The liquorice-obsessed librarian (a member of The Rabbit Back Literature Society) is burning books! Sacrilege!!

The founder of the Literature Society, the mysterious Laura White, gains even more mystery as the books goes on and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure much was cleared up…I guess that’s part of the fun?

Anyway, Ella goes on this amazing, whirlwind adventure which is heartstoppingly gripping until the very end. Of course, being written by a Finnish author, it is somewhat bizarre in some (perhaps a lot) of scenes but I’m afraid you just have to get over it in some literature, it just has to be accepted.

I will say that the translation has slip up moments but they’re easy to pass by and ignore, especially if you’re used to reading translated texts. However, I must say that I was extremely impressed with the amount of beautiful poeticism in the narrative that wasn’t harmed due to the translation, it’s written so well! PJ really is a hidden, Finnish gem.

One more thing I will say (yes, this review is rather short, sorry about that) is that this book deals with some interesting social issues. Ella’s father, from the onset, is rather aloof and just likes to sit in the garden and have some very quiet, alone time. Clearly, he has some form of dementia that has caused his personality to fade away. We then get to see how Ella and her mother cope with this man – who is practically a stranger by this point – whilst mourning the father/husband they once knew. There is also another character who has basically decided to eat himself to death (slowly) because he finds life, and people, rather unbearable. And I can tell you, we see a little more of his person than I’d care to imagine but, once again, PJ did not spare any details.

So, if you’re looking to escape into some mystical land of ice and snow whilst being taken away by the hush-hush nature of The Rabbit Back Literature Society then I would very much recommend this book! It’s a book for book lovers, which I hope ‘all’ you who read this are!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

“I had written this book because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. […] In fact, it had to have an epilogue in order to explain it. […] The person who was really pleased with it was myself, for I knew better than any critic how difficult it had been.”

– Agatha Christie, from An Autobiography

Well, I am also tremendously pleased with this book! Other than a few Nancy Drews when I was much younger, I’ve never really read a crime novel. This has always seemed odd to me as I am obsessed with crime shows, Poirot especially. I’d always wanted to read Christie’s work but never knew where to start. So, the other day in Waterstone’s I was browsing through the Christie section when this very enthusiastic man came up to me and kept singing all the praises he could muster for And Then There Were None. I think he worked there…I hope he worked there…

He was right, of course. This was an amazing introduction to her ingenious writing as it offered a rather scary insight into the mind of crime novelists ..twisted people they are! Warped!

And Then There Were None is one of those rare books which gives away everything and nothing all at once. You know for a fact that every single person there is going to die, so there’s no surprises. Kinda. However, you have no idea who is going to die or when, but you do know how (well, to a certain extent anyway). Alongside this tale comes a nursery rhyme called Ten Little Soldier Boys (Frank Green, 1869). This rhyme tells the tale of ten boys who, eventually, all die…and the genius behind this entire operation has created their plan to fit in with this rhyme. It is ridiculous, and baffling and utterly incredible. I really don’t know how she came up with it but I can tell you now that I wouldn’t be so keen to come to any mysterious island with her if she were one of my friends.

This used to be called Ten Little Indian Boys but, for political correctness, was changed to something more universal.

Each of the ten people were brought to the island under suspicious, but acceptable, circumstances. It is soon brought to light that each of these ten people is guilty of inadvertently killing somebody. And so it begins…

I don’t think I’ve ever been so desperate to get to the bottom of something in my life. It is absolutely gripping from start to finish. Not only that but, despite the complexities, Christie’s writing is a doddle to read! Her writing is simple, while her story lines are absolutely disorientating.

“There’s no cheating: the reader is just bamboozled in a straightforward way from first to last… The most colossal achievement of a colossal career.” – New Statesman

And do you know what? The solution isn’t even that complicated! I am so impressed that I’ve already ordered The ABC Murders  and a selection of her short stories. I’m even planning to buy more as soon as I get paid next week (I sooooooo hope that someone doesn’t buy them before then).

I don’t think I’ve been as enchanted by an author since I read Wise Children by Angela Carter…that enchantment wares off after several vulgar scenes of licking found in The Bloody Chamber though. I still love her writing, and admire her skill, but I do wish she’d been much less tongue-obsessed.

Anyway, I plan to devour much more of Christie’s work (my Mum has read every single one of her books but gave them all away…thanks Mum…ugh). I read this book so quickly that I’ve actually left myself with a bit of a holiday reading based dilemma. What am I to read next?! My new Christie books don’t come for like another week. They may or may not come before I go on holiday to France.

Any suggestions?

Happy reading,

Carenza x

The book itself used to be called Ten Little Indians, even when my Mum read them about 30 years ago.

An after thought:

Should they have changed the name? I know that, nowadays, we all have to be very careful about what we say, in front of who, under what context and in what manner…but need we be so careful? Perhaps being a white English woman I don’t have the right to determine whether the title should have been changed or not, as I am not the person by whom the offence may be taken. But Christie wrote in a very different time and, perhaps, that should be acknowledged when reading the book.

As a Literature student, the language used in a book is very important when analysing it and, along with the language used, you have to take into consideration the social context. I am not in any way saying that we should all be chanting racial slurs whenever we have the opportunity or the urge to do so but I am concerned that people are so preoccupied with racism, and avoiding it, that suggesting that something is racist can become racist in itself. Let me explain: When I was younger, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep was totally innocent and completely acceptable. However, as I got older I heard that it had to be changed because it was considered racist to use the word “black”. All I could think was that it was outrageous that we would go so far as to say “black”, under any context, is racist. Maybe it’s because “black”, in this case, refers to an animal…I really don’t know! But what I do know is that if it said “white” sheep to begin with there would be no issue, which is why I think this nursery rhyme has been slandered for no reason other than the fact they used the word “black” – it is alliteration! Surely, alliteration is not a crime. As I said, maybe I am not ‘qualified’ to make a judgement here but, then again, maybe I am; if it was called “Ten Little Cowboys” it would not have been changed.

With the recent waves of people claiming that Atticus, in Go Set A Watchman, is suddenly revealed to be a racist I have wondered why people haven’t considered another side of the story: was he not just challenging Jean Louise? Was he not just playing the Devil’s Advocate in order to break the unhealthy worship she held for him? Was he not just pushing her, and us, to our very limits in order to bring himself down to a “human level”? Every one was so quick to pull out the racist card that they didn’t seem to stop and wonder whether it was all an act to manipulate Jean Louise into letting him become less of a God and more of a Dad. Just because he said those awful things doesn’t mean he believes them. I implore every one to at least consider another side of the story.

Who knows? Maybe I’m being naive in thinking that Atticus is still as good a man as we are led to believe in To Kill a Mockingbird but, then again, I think there’s more evidence of that than there is of him being a outright  racist.

“I had to kill you, Scout.”

“I’m proud of you.”

What are your thoughts?

Go Set a Watchman – The Wonderful Harper Lee

Okay, so I’m not amongst the first to review this much anticipated book but I’m here and I’m so excited.

First of all though, a brief history…(for those of you who don’t already know the tale)
This book was written before To Kill a Mockingbird but is set twenty years later. Having read the manuscript, Lee’s publishers decided that the flashbacks in the novel and the focal points on young Jean Louise’s psyche were much more compelling and, therefore, decided that they deserved an entirely separate novel…and aren’t we glad they did? Anyway, after a long time of lying lost amongst a pile of papers, Go Set a Watchman appeared in all its glory as an essential read to be partnered with the American Classic that is To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour and effortless precision – a profoundly affecting work of art.”

This book, unlike its sister novel, is not written strictly from Scout’s perspective. That is to say, it is not written in the first person. However, it is written mainly from the perspective of her surroundings and we get to hear a great deal of what she has to say in her head so it’s close enough for me!

First of all, for those of you who have learned to love Scout for her colour-blind, father-worshipping, I-can-solve-any-problem-with-my-fists-and-a-good-pair-of-dungaress ways, you will not be disappointed. She has grown up to be both adventurous and set in her ways and I think it’s lovely seeing where her life headed.

“[This novel] not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic.”

We begin the novel on a train heading to Maycomb, all the way from New York. (Maybe this is just me but I don’t think it was made abundantly clear as to what Miss Finch was doing living in New York but it’s quite nice to see she escaped Maycomb.) We soon discover that she hasn’t changed much and is still a feisty non-conformatist as she puts on her “Maycomb clothes” just to annoy her corset bound Aunt.

Anyway, the flashbacks on which Mockingbird was based are as lovely as to be expected. There are still scenes of Jem, Scout and Dill embarrassing the neighbours with there shockingly in depth plays and crude acts of childishness, along with little snippets of information about where there lives took them. However, as Jean Louise is now 26 – not just 6 – we also hear of later events in her teens where she deals with her first period and false bosoms.

Do we all remember the Tom Robinson case? Well, even that is alluded to in Lee’s tightly bound Maycomb imaginings. As these novels are set in the South of the US, race is always going to be a big issue. Jean Louise, a “color-blind” young lady, doesn’t see it as an issue but faces bouts of hypocrisy and sickness as she witnesses Maycomb and all that she knew turn to dust. In very few days, Lee sends Scout on a moral rollercoaster and us on an emotional one. If, like me and many others, you developed a rather unhealthy admiration for the characters surrounding Scout then prepare to face the ones surrounding Jean Louise.

“I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me.”

What is most amazing, if think, about these two novels is that the stories are so tightly woven. I know one was based on the other but they were never intended to be published as a pair, which is why I’m surprised that they link so perfectly. Although there aren’t as many direct links between the two as we may have liked, it’s the subtle connections that baffle me most. It’s as though the fictitious world we grew to love remained the same, untouched, and almost so factual that it became as real to Lee as Poirot and Marple did to Christie. All I can say is that authors’ minds are incredible and I wouldn’t mind having one myself. Imagine it: containing entirely different people, towns, even different worlds in your head and being able to create stories with them and make people fall in love with them. I would love to have that ability but I don’t and it can’t be forced…I’ve tried.

If I had one negative thing to say about Go Set a Watchman, it would be this: some of the references to American history and culture are just too obscure for British folk like me. I do not speak for all Brits as I’m sure many of you out there will understand her subtle remarks but, honestly, a lot of them escape me and I don’t feel like looking up every name I don’t recognise to understand a book. Maybe one day it will become clearer as I become older and wiser but, for now, the first half of the book loses me a bit. Even when I tried to look up obscure allusions I wasn’t even sure what to look for. Damn it, Lee. Why do you have to be so politically witty?! I still loved it though.

As can always be expected of Jean Louise Finch, there is a great deal of sarcasm and snobbery from her as she is placed amongst the racially ignorant and several rants about how people are just people and shouldn’t be treated as anything less or anything more. Nowadays, we can all say with confidence that Scout is right and that her point could not be more valid but woah was she radical! It’s clear that Scout is Lee’s advocate and, even though her views are more commonly agreed with now, Jean Louise – together with Lee – is still a breath of fresh air.

Maycomb has become a place dear to many people’s hearts and this book solidifies that feeling for me. It’s nice to have an unexpected “How They Got On” finale. My friend once wrote something along the lines of “does Scout’s life end when we turn the last page?” Well, no. Not now!

Happy reading,
Carenza x

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Off-Topic Discussions #9: What books do you want to see as movies or TV shows?

I might add my own thoughts to this post at some point!

Rabbit Ears Productions Blog

off-topic

Hello everyone! Welcome to another weekly “Off-Topic Discussion!” This week’s off-topic discussion is, “What books do you want to see as a movie or as a TV series?”

Now, there are many books out there that we think deserve to be put into a film or into a TV series because there’s so much potential to spread out the characters’ stories through another medium. Now at times, this can work for the book that is being adapted and other times, it can work against the book that is being adapted, depending on who is working on the films or the TV series.

For me, here are some books that I would love to see get their own TV series or films:

1.  The Fool and the Flying Ship by Eric Metaxas

The Fool and the Flying Ship (1991)

This is one book that I’ve always wanted to see get its own TV series since there are so…

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