April Round Up

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For once I am early on a monthly round up, it is the last day of April and looking back it has been a pretty good month. The Easter holidays meant that not only did I get a chance to relax, but I also had the opportunity to read lots which was lovely. As well as going back home for the Easter weekend I went on a mini weekend trip to London, which was amazing, and seems so long ago now. We went to London Zoo, which bf had slight reservations about, but four hours later I think he was convinced about how fantastic the zoo is. The best animals by far were the armadillos, they are like giant billybakers (woodlice). I definitely want to go back soon, or at least go to another zoo.

Back to the reading. April was certainly a much better reading month, I read three books, which doesn't sound like many, but one of them was HUGE!

Howards End by EM Forester – this was my read for The Classics Club Spin and also counts towards my Reading the Twentieth Century Challenge

World Without End by Ken Follett – this counts towards my TBR Pile 2014

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie – this counts towards my Reading the Twentieth Century Challenge

Overall April was a good month, especially for reading, so I hope this continues into May. >

The Murder on the Links

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The Murder on the Links is the second Agatha Christie novel to feature her infamous detective, Hercule Poirot. Having solved The Mysterious Affair at Styles Poirot has been summoned to France in the form of a mysterious plea from a man who is in fear for his life, but refuses to say what it is he is so scared about. However when Poirot – with Captain Hastings in tow – arrives in France he finds the dead body of his client and a perplexing mystery that has more twists and turns than a hedge maze. Poirot is beginning to pick up clues, clues that the French detective dismisses as ridiculous, but before he can make any dramatic revelation, another body turns up to throw a spanner in the works.

As always with Christie novels, this is going to be a review centred on how much I love Agatha Christie and how I can always rely on her novels to cheer me up and provide a cosy, comforting read. I broke from the norm slightly with this book and although I didn’t manage to guess the murderer, I did a good job at theories about why the man was killed in the first place. Actually as I look back on that last centre, I guess it isn’t really breaking from the norm, as is usually guess something, but never come to the real conclusion, which in guess is the beauty of Christie’s writing in the first place.

The Murder on the Links did open my eyes a little to the character of Hastings. It is told from Hastings’ perspective, as is the first novel, and having read both of them fairly close together, they have changed my perception of Hastings. From the TV programme, I have this image of Hastings as bumbling English gentleman sidekick to Poirot, I certainly never had him down as a flighty lothario. In the first two novels Hastings falls in love and proposes to two different women, one of whom makes him lie to Poirot – horror upon horror! I find it interesting how TV adaptations can influence your perception of literary characters and I certainly wouldn’t have thought this of Hastings from the times I have seen him in the programme, but then again maybe I’m too involved in the crime to pay that much attention to his love life. And again as I type this I am thinking that maybe I did have an inkling of his romantic liaisons, it is just reading that has brought this to the forefront of my mind.

Overall an enjoyable read, just as I expected. I am curious as to why The Murder on the Links is one of the novels said to be inspired by Christie’s time in Devon, but I’m sure I can solve my own mystery when I go on another holiday there in the summer.

Challenges

Reading the Twentieth Century>

World Without End

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World Without End is a beast of a book and as I have been lugging it around for the past fortnight I think I am justified in saying this. Set in Britain of the 1300s it begins with four very different children who witness two murders in the forest and follows them throughout theirs lives, detailing their loves, losses and the various trails and tribulations set to challenge them. The reader discovers how they cope with prosperous times and hard times, with war and with the merciless devastation of the plague. It is a large novel, with over 1000 pages, but it is gripping and compelling throughout.

It is always difficult when discussing such an epic tome to know where to begin or what parts in particular to focus on. If I were to write about everything I enjoyed I would be here forever, so I am going to focus on one character: Caris. Caris is one of the children who witnesses the murders and it is clear from the beginning that she doesn’t fit the stereotypically image of a medieval girl/woman. Caris dreams of being a doctor, something that a woman in that era would never achieve, however through sheer hardwork and determination she is able to defy expectations. From a pioneering tradeswoman to a reluctant nun, Caris’ journey throughout the novel particularly struck me for several reasons. Despite being deeply in love with Merthin – another of the four children – she refuses to conform to society and the expectation that she should marry, have children and become her husband’s property. I have had a few discussions recently about the whole idea of what is expected from a woman when she marries and how a traditional church service can sometimes be skewed, given the impression that women are still the inferior sex. I know that there have been changes to the vows and the archaic wedding values don’t hold much stead in modern society, but it is interesting to think about how these changes have come about.

World Without End is set in the fictional city of Kingsbridge, a city that was the focus for Follett’s early novel The Pillars of the Earth, although the latter is set two centuries earlier and focuses on the building of the cathedral. In places some characters from this earlier novel are mentioned but this is often in passing so it certainly isn’t necessary to have read The Pillars of the Earth, although I would recommend it as I read it a few summers ago and it was brilliant. This is a period in history I don’t know a great deal about and as always I love the opportunity to read something that broadens my understanding but does so in an exciting and easy to follow way, although I’m sure there are dedicated medieval historians who might quibble over the accuracy of some historical novels, I don’t care.

Both World Without End and The Pillars of the Earth have been made into TV programmes and I can remember watching World Without End each weekend without fail not long after I had moved in to my current flat. It was well made and I found the more I read, the more I remembered of the programme. Luckily both seem to be available on Lovefilm so I hope to get round to watching both of them soon.

Challenges

TBR Pile 2014>

Classics Club Spin #5 Howards End

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I am a few days late, but I have finished my Classics Club Spin book at last. As you can see from the picture I enjoyed it and Rupert enjoyed nibbling it.

Howards End follows the lives of the cultured and intelligent Schlegal sisters and their encounters with the Wilcoxes, a family obsessed with prosperity and helping themselves, and Leonard Bast, a young man on the brink of poverty and ruin. Throughout the novel we witness how the three families interact and the impact they all have on one another’s lives.

It is weird to think that the world of Howards End is over a hundred years old and that it is a world that has no knowledge of the upcoming First World War and the impact this will have on all classes and all ideas of social mobility. The novel deals with the idea that there will always be rich and poor classes and that regardless of how hard you work or the advice you take there is a thin line between the survival and ruin, and unfortunately it is usually the same people who suffer; those who leave behind their rural roots in the hope of striking it big in the city. It is also strange to remember that women were simply possessions and ornaments for men to parade around and how any women who showed an ounce of intelligence or independence would be viewed as suspicious.

Overall I would say Howards End was a good read, I can’t say it was one of my favourite reads and it didn’t really have me rushing home eager to read it, but I am glad that I did and that it is another book off the list.

Challenges
The Classics Club
Reading the Twentieth Century

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March Round Up

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Once again I find it is the end of the month and I can’t quite believe where the time has gone! The first three months of this year have been crazy; I have really noticed the increase in workload and this is cutting in to my reading time, boo! Thank goodness it is nearly the Easter holidays when hopefully I will be able to get some much needed relaxation time.

As with the previous few months, my reading has been sparse. I have read two books I have not written about on my blog: Pride and Prejudice which I have blogged about before and The Woman in Black, which I have read in stages due to it being a book I have read before and one I was teaching.

The main book I read this month was Pat Barker’s Regeneration, which I loved. It was also the fourth book from my TBR list and the first book I added to my Reading the Twentieth Century list, a new project I am very excited about.

I eventually picked up my Classics Club Spin book, Howards End, last week. I am certainly enjoying this book and am only a little disappointed that I haven’t quite finished it in time for the 2nd April deadline.

March is also the anniversary month of both my joining the blogging world and joking The Classics Club. I have posted a two year anniversary post for The Classics Club and am planning on doing a belated blog one as soon as the Easter holidays are here. Overall a crazy busy month! >