Winter is a good time to catch up on one’s reading. Well, almost anytime is good for said exercise, but winter is especially good. Here are some of my recent gooduns.
I have mentioned Louise Penny previously. Her books are set in the mythical hamlet of Three Pines in eastern townships of the province of Quebec very near the Vermont border. Her detective hero is Inspector Gamache, but the residents of Three Pines are also vital characters in her novels. There are multiple themes and layers in Penny’s novels; in the case of her most recent, A Trick of the Light, in addition to the usual mystery, we also deal with the art world, substance abuse and jealousy among other themes.
I think many who might not identify themselves as mystery readers would appreciate Penny’s works which have gained much recognition, including making it to #4 on the New York Times bestseller lists as well as #5 in the Chicago Tribune and #6 in the Washington Post. The following review from Kirkus puts her rather in exalted company: “Penny, elevating herself to the pantheon that houses P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters, demonstrates an exquisite touch with characterization, plotting and artistic sensitivity.”
Since I have my own story, I am interested in the journey that causes others to lose their faith or religion, so when I spotted William Lobdell’s Losing My Religion at the library I couldn’t resist taking it home with me. For an autobiographical non-fiction I found it to be quite the page-turner, which I pretty well read in one evening.
Lobdell, as he must, chronicles his dissolute early years followed by his subsequent conversion and fairly impressive years of Christian commitment. As a Christian journalist, he eventually landed his dream job as religion writer for the L.A. Times.
Eventually his job led him to covering sex scandals in the Catholic Church. For quite awhile, he was able to think that these were isolated incidents of human failing and they didn’t seem to affect his faith, but he was eventually unable to reconcile the actions of both the perpetrators and the Church itself in covering up their sins whilst showing no thought or compassion for the victims. Lest you think the book is a tirade against Catholicism, let me hasten to assure you that Protestantism with its shoddy and disreputable faith healers also takes its fair share of knocks.
Although, from my description this book may sound like an invective against religion, it really is not. Lobdell is simply telling his story of how and why he lost his faith. Everyone has their own story, whether in the gaining, keeping or losing of faith, and I find it interesting to have followed Lobdell’s particular journey. I speculate that few among the faithful would find it to be offensive, and I also speculate that it might be interesting and informative for almost all. (Read a much more thorough review here if you are interested to learn more.)
At 91 years of age, P.D. James has authored a remarkable sequel to Jane Austin’s, Pride and Prejudice, written 200 years ago. As a Jane Austen fan, this is a project that James has long been interested in undertaking. While my only attempt at reading Austen has been the rather unfortunate (in my opinion) Northanger Abbey, I have seen and quite enjoyed the Pride and Prejudice television serial. As a result, I was quite looking forward to reading how James would manage to cobble a murder mystery in Austen’s world. In point of fact, she did it very well.
Death Comes to Pemberley takes place six years after Pride and Prejudice ends. Both former Bennet girls, Jane and Elizabeth, are happy in their marriages, and all is well until a murder on the Pemberley estate rather upsets the peace and tranquility. Unlike the typical mystery, there is no sleuthing to unravel the mystery. Rather, we glimpse the both times and the process by which it plays out. In the end, the truth comes to light but not through miraculous detection.
In my admittedly rather worthless opinion, James is quite true to the times, and I almost felt that Austen could have written the book. While I understand that she would not have written in this genre, I did feel as though the style was reflective of that bygone era. It’s a fine piece of writing that should, I think, appeal to both Austen and James readers.
Of course, I was keen to borrow my daughter’s DVDs of the 1995 series and thoroughly enjoyed watching the television portrayal of the novel. The series starred Colin Firth who just last year won an Oscar for his role in The King’s Speech. In point of fact, it seems to have been his role as Mr. Darcy that vaulted him into prominence.
At present I find myself reading and enjoying the original Pride and Prejudice novel. I remain unsure whether this would be the case were it not for the television series and/or Death Comes to Pemberley; nevertheless, enjoying it I am.
Now, for better or for worse, you know some of what AC has been doing with his time whilst avoiding blogging. 🙂