Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mortal Love, Peter Lovesey, and The World's Wife - reviews!

I have been remiss at writing on here.  I plead shopping for birthdays and Christmas.  And another trip to the emergency room last week.  All that aside,  I have so many books I want to write about that I've read this year!  I've debated on writing about each book separately, or choosing a character series, or grouping them.  I still can't decide, so meanwhile, here are 4 that I have wanted to write about for the past couple of weeks, all of which I highly recommend and really enjoyed.

Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand.  Remember when I wrote about this book in November, and I was disappointed in it about halfway through?  I am here to say that this is probably the number one reason I don't often blog about a book while reading it - I am often wrong in my assessment, and I am delighted, completely thrilled to say now, I was wrong.  Ok, the beginning of the book is slow, and feels muddled because we are getting viewpoints and stories set in different times.  It all works so very well at the end.  What the book is about, is art, and faerie, and myth, and how when we get a glimpse of the Otherworld, it can shatter us for our daily reality.  It's about how some people spend the rest of their lives trying to capture that moment, that beauty, over and over again.  It's also about how other people find a way to hang on to their sanity, to let the strangeness of the glimpse of the other realm wash over them, and change them so that daily life is enriched, vibrant, and tinged with melancholy because it's not what was glimpsed.  It's about art, and how art changes our perceptions.  And it's brilliant.  I don't want to say who the myth is who is brought to life, because that is part of the mystery and enchantment of this story.  The myth is so well written and brought to life so beautifully that it works.  The reason myths are so powerful is because somewhere deep within us, we know them, we relate to them - this is what gives the myths their power.  It's an archetype we instinctively, deeply in our minds, know without having words to fully explain how and what we know. Mortal Love is about this deeply held knowledge, and how it inspires longing for whoever glimpses the myth.  I highly recommend this book, especially for anyone who enjoys art and wants a glimpse of what it is like to have to write, to paint, to sing, to create.  Once again, here is Nymeth's excellent review which convinced me to try the book.  Thank you, Nymeth!

This leads me to The World's Wife, by Carol Ann Duffy.  This is a collection of poems that take the myths we all know, Greek and Roman and Norse, and give the woman's point of view - the hidden voice, the other, the silent one.  The wife.  The one we never hear about.  What was it like to be married to Aesop?  to Darwin?  to Midas?  to be Penelope, waiting for Odysseus to return - or maybe not. The poems are filled with the voices of real women.  Penelope isn't waiting for Odysseus, pining away - she is enjoying her solitude, and using her cunning in weaving to keep all the suitors away, so she can be alone.  How clever!  and then she hears Odysseus' footsteps and her precious private life is gone.  Mrs Midas is about what it was like after Midas made his wish to turn everything to gold.  Of course he can't touch her, he can't touch anything. She misses the touch of his skin so much.  One of my favourites is Little Red-Cap, which opens this book of poems.  I love how the wolf lures her by holding - what else?  a book of poems.  Poetry.  And how he has a wall of books, and how in the end she becomes free.  It's a true poem, about how knowledge is always the lure, and with enough wits and courage and hunger to know, you can survive the wolf and the woods.  Brilliant.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book of poetry.  It has given me a new way to look at the fairy tales and myths. It  reimagines the world through the eyes of the women who don't explore (or make) the world but who through loving men, and determining if they stay or go in the marriage, find that determination is just as exciting as anything their more famous husbands have done. 

The last book I want to talk about is really an ongoing mystery series by Peter Lovesey,  featuring Peter Diamond.  Last year I reviewed The Last Detective, here.  Now I want to talk about the next two in the series, Diamond Solitaire and The Summons. In Diamond Solitaire, Diamond is on his own.  He quit the force at the end of The Last Detective, and we see him struggle to find his place in the world.  He tries being a Santa Claus, one year!  And it's being a security guard that leads him to find a silent girl asleep in the department store he is guarding.  He is fired as the security guard since he didn't notice her before, and of course it is not as simple as the girl wandering away from her parents.  This little girl is from Japan, and very special. It is delightful to see how protective and caring Diamond is of this abandoned little girl, and when his suspicions are aroused by the people who claim her, he follows them all the way back to Japan.  A very solid second book in the series.  The Summons opens with Diamond depressed because he has not been able to find any permanent work  It's been two years now since he left the force.  Unexpectedly, a summons arrives: a criminal Diamond helped put away, has escaped, and is holding the daughter of the ACC hostage and has asked specifically for Diamond.  The criminal claims he is innocent of the charges.  This is the book about how Diamond discovers he made a mistake, and that he is a policeman through and through.  How he gets his job back, and what he learns while going back over the case and reinvestigating the original crime, makes for a solid mystery with excellent characters and very good dialogue. It's fast-paced and while I spotted who was involved early on,I didn't know for sure, nor why, and I was thrilled when I was right at the end!  which makes for a feeling of being clever (and a really good mystery writer makes the reader feel clever, I find).  I really like this series.  This has to be one of my favourite discoveries in the past year, and I thank Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for reviewing the 10th book in the series - Skeleton Hill - last year and pointing me to this character. I also find it hard to resist a series that uses the real life author Jane Austen as a sort of ongoing backdrop to the series.  In The Summons, it is one of Jane's supposed houses that she lived in while in Bath, that plays a part in the book. 

If you have reviewed any of these, let me know and I will link to them.

I hope you are ready for Christmas, and enjoying the season.  We are planning a games party for the children on Saturday, as a way to give them something to do and share in the excitement leading up to the holidays.  As it's my daughter's 9th birthday on Christmas Eve, the tension excitement around here is so high in the final weeks to her birthday that this is when we build our gingerbread houses and try to keep them busy.  We don't have any snow yet, so there is no playing outside and making snowmen. I am enjoying the lack of snow, utterly content to not see any this winter, while my knee continues to heal. No snow means no slippery hats, and no boots either!  I could get used to this!

Happy reading moments for you, my Gentle Reader, in the build-up to the big day.


Cath said...

I really must get around to trying the Peter Diamond books. Lord help me, I don't really need another series but have so many on the go now that probably one more won't make any difference. LOL.

Yes, I too am not sorry to see no snow here yet (we've had a few wintery showers) and that from someone who used to love it. Then we got too much last year, got snowed in and when we eventually went out I slipped over on the ice. Amazing how quickly the novelty wears off when that happens! Plus of course we need it clear of snow for next Tues and my daughter's trip to the hospital.

Sorry to hear you had another trip to the hospital. Hope you're ok now! Enjoy your daughter's birthday and have a lovely Christmas, Susan.

Kailana said...

I have Mortal Love on my TBR pile, too. One day I am going to read it... Good reviews!

litlove said...

Just to say I am a huge Peter Diamond fan, having been introduced to him by my father this year. I've read The Secret Hangman and Upon A Dark Night, and both were fantastic. His plotting is outrageously good. I haven't reviewed either book, though, because I tend to review crime fiction in a pack, and I haven't done that for a while!

Nymeth said...

You're most welcome, my friend! I love what you said about myths.

Susan said...

Cath: It really is a good series. They are hard to find, so I've ended up going to the sellers on Amazon and so far have got 6 of them in the same book editions! I'm really pleased.

LOL to the novelty of snow vs falling! Every time we get a smidgeon I start panicking. I didn't realize how bad I was until I realized that after I hurt my knee, I got a ride to and from work for the rest of last winter, so this is the first time I've had to face snow since then.

I'll be thinking of you Cath over the next week and your daughter's operation.

Kailana: thank you! I have like 30 others still to review! lol I'm so far behind.....

litlove: yaay! he seems to be a mystery writer that everyone knows about, but like Cath above, I hadn't tried anything. Now I swear by him....there's something about the character of Diamond that lingers, like the best mystery characters, I find. I'm delighted you are really liking him too.

Nymeth: thank you! since you wrote your awesome review, I was trying to say something that hadn't been said by you, or at least in my own words, so that people would have a better idea just how well this idea is worked out in the books, between you and me! lol