Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood - Book 74, 2009

Title: Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
Short stories
Rating: 9/10
Comments: Both a collection of short stories and a complete novel in itself, Moral Disorder is a collection of vinaigrettes from the life of Nell, a Canadian woman who, like Atwood, was born in the 1930s. The stories are mixed up in time - the first is set when she is an elderly woman,the last when she is the middle-age carer of her own mother suffering dementia, and in between we get a peek into her love life, houses and relationship she has with her much younger sister.

Compelling, funny and poignant, Margaret Atwood's light touch conceals a much deeper commentary on the universal experiences of many women.

Castle Dor by Sir Arthur Qulller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier - Book 73, 2009

Title: Castle Dor by Sir Arthur Qulller-Couch and Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Historical romance
Rating: 7.5/10
Comments: Begun by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and completed by Daphne du Maurier, Castle Dor is a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, set in 19th century Cornwell. Linnet, the young wife of a much older wealthy tavern owner has a chance encounter with a mistreated sailor Amyot and the pair throw caution to the wind, drawn together as if by a mystical force from a former time.

While it is impossible to identify the exact point where du Maurier took over the writing, there is no doubt that the second half is far more readable and faster moving than the first and made me wish she had written the entire book. An interesting twist on an old legend.

Monday, 23 November 2009

I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier - Book 72, 2009

Title: I'll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: coming-of-age novel
Rating: 7/10
Comments: Daphne du Maurier's second novel is written in the voice of Dick, the only son of a famous but cold father, who at the age of 21 is determined to kill himself until caught by Jake, a slightly older man who has just come out of prison for killing a former friend. The pair immediately bond and form an unlikely friendship and begin the ultimate road trip, finding passage as sailors on a boat to Scandinavia and travelling across the Swedish mountains on horseback.

While the book is very well-written, Dick is ultimately a self-absorbed and unlikable character with no real redeeming qualities. It is difficult to understand why Jake, who has the maturity and wisdom that come with the passing years, puts up with him. When Dick moves onto Paris and begins a self-absorbed love affair with a talented musical student, he demonstrates all the selfishness and faults of Jake's former friend.

While I'll Never Be Young Again is a fantastic example of the technical skill and quality of Daphne du Maurier's writing even at a very young age (she was only 23 when she penned this book), I found the storyline and main character too unlikable to fully enjoy this book.

The King's General by Daphne du Maurier - Book 71, 2009

Title: The King's General by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Historical romance
Rating: 8/10
Comments: Passionate, proud, arrogant, selfish and cruel, Richard Greville, a brilliant soldier, is his own worst enemy. His story, narrated by his one-time fiancé Honor Harris - a spirited and intelligent woman who is crippled in a freak accident the day before their planned wedding, takes place during the time of the English Civil War (1642-1646). Honor remains devoted to Richard despite clearly seeing his many faults - but refuses to marry him, while Richard maintains his passion for her mind and body, brushing aside the reality of her damaged legs with all the brusqueness and self-absorption he demonstrates towards anything he doesn't see as relevent. Richard creates havoc with - but also pays a heavy price for - his arrogance and lack of empathy for others. The King's General is not just a a work of historical fiction but brutally and accurately portrays the heavy cost on individuals and families of a senseless war. It was inspired by the history of the house where Daphne du Maurier was living at the time of writing.