Mini reviews of my recent vacation reads:
Laurie R King, A Monstrous Regiment of Women
King’s mysteries featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are far more thoughtful than most of the mystery schlock out there. Mary not only solves crimes (not the most interesting part of the novel – I’ve read two Mary Russell novels now and the mystery aspect is neither terribly exciting nor very innovative), but she also ponders feminism, religion, mysticism, and the nature of love, all in a very engaging setting. The characters are well-drawn, flaws and all. I suspect that King has been influenced heavily by Dorothy Sayers, whose Gaudy Night lurks in the background of this novel.
Cornelia Funke, Inkheart
A light-hearted read, somewhat like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and the Harry Potter books, but not as engaging as either series. Funke published this in German, and I read the English translation, which may have marred the experience. A young girl discovers that her father can read characters (and creatures) out of books, just by the sheer power of his voice. She also learns about the consequences of this gift, or should I say curse. Fine, but nothing special, aside from Funke’s enchantment with books and promotion of bibliophily. I must admit that the author’s name drew me in! I immediately thought of Tobias Funke on Arrested Development. Plus I wanted something light to read in a busy airport.
Elizabeth Von Arnim, The Enchanted April
As I read this book, I realized that it seemed awfully familiar – I saw a movie adaptation a few years ago. This is also a light read. Four British women come to Italy to escape their family and friends; they rent a villa for the month of April, and it changes their lives. Despite being fluff in many ways, this novel has a great strength. Von Arnim effortlessly shifts and slides into the different character’s consciousnesses. Von Arnim’s not afraid to voice the selfish and irrational thoughts that people harbor, and it seems quite genuine.
More on Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Anya Seton’s Katherine soon.