From the Bookshelf

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.

penny-trick-of-lightI 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.”

lobdell-losing-faithSince 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.)

james-death-pemberlyAt 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.

Pride-and-Prejudice-TV-miniseriesOf 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. 🙂

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14 Responses to From the Bookshelf

  1. Lynn Rutherford says:

    Great set of reviews. I’m looking forward to reading some of your selections.

  2. Diana says:

    I think it’s wonderful that you are finding the time to relax and read, more than a bit! My husband reads constantly, goes through books like toilet paper, LOL!!
    As for me, I have to be in the mood. That doesn’t happen too often. Maybe once a year. Unless you count Blogs which I read quite a bit off and find them fascinating!
    Something to ponder, as I write this I am watching Jane Austins “Emma”!
    Love Di ♥

  3. Loved P&P…Sense and Sensibility…Emma…I just love Ms Jane!
    Thanks for the reviews! I’ll have to get the PD James book! That’s right up my alley. I’ll also try out Penny’s book!
    Hope you clean your reading glasses…often!Hahaaa…

  4. Mara says:

    You are reading Pride and Prejudice! You will not be dissapointed I hope. And I will now try and get hold of the sequel to it and hope not to be dissapointed either.

  5. Lorna says:

    I love Louise Penny, and have read all her books to date, the first two in French as well. Your description of her work matches what I would have said if I were articulate.

    As for the P.D. James, I can’t agree with you but maybe that’s because in between reading the original Austen, and the James book, I read, and loved, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And I don’t apologize.

    I’m going to see if I can borrow the e-book on religion from the library—I also have my story and I often read others’ takes on their disillusion or their commitment.

  6. QMM says:

    I have read two of those and will get the Lobdell one. I do not go to church anymore and it has nothing to do with losing faith. My faith in God is strong if not stronger. I have lost the religion part. I do not like hypocrites and that is what I see in most religions. The church we have today is not what I think Jesus had in mine. Got snow here and it is beautiful.

  7. Mary says:

    Reading is something that I really enjoy and I read everyday. Glad you are enjoying a few good books. Right now, I’m reading, “The Help.” Just got into it but I think it’s going to be a great read.

    I see that ND is learning to play the fiddle. I’m sure she will enjoy it. They start kids in school far too early these days. They’re still babies at 4.


  8. AC, nothing beats reading a good book anytime. I enjoyed reading your comments on these books. I will be going to our local library later this week and will check if any re available.

  9. Regenia says:

    This was great! Speaking for myself, I don’t know how one lives without reading. These books sound really interesting. (I will be cautious about WHEN I read “Losing My Religion”. I often enough already find it distressing what we Christians do and how we behave, at least here in the States. I can’t speak for anywhere else.) My book group meets once a month and each of us takes a turn suggesting books for the group to consider. So I appreciate having titles to check out. Thanks.

  10. KGmom says:

    P.D. James is one of my favorite authors, especially her Adam Dalgleish series. I read reviews of the one you recommend–I will have to try it out.
    As for the series “Pride & Prejudice”–you do realize that Colin Firth set many female hearts to racing with his portrayal in that series? Wow. Enough said.

  11. Grenville says:

    Hi AC.
    Thanks for the reviews. The Penny books sound good, and hopefully Beatrice will find some at the Library this week. If you are questioning ‘religion’, you might like Phillip Gully’s “If the Church were Christian.” He is a Quaker Minister who is a prolific writer. He also has a great series about growing up in Harmony Ind., a mythical town much like Garrison Kiellor’s ‘Lake Wobegon’.
    I never thought i would like an electronic reader, but since my tablet can do kindle i have changed my thoughts. I finished a great re-read of the entire Sherlock Holmes series, Alice in Wonderland, and now am re-reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
    It’s amazing how different they seem compared to reading them as a youngster. Stay warm and keep reading. Spring is just around the corner!!!!!!

  12. Ruth says:

    Your recommendations are always good and I will look them up. The Pride and Prejudice miniseries was superb and quite faithful to the book.

  13. Mary G says:

    I was just about to post some thoughts on my post Christmas reading when I read this. I think I still will, but it won’t have the quality this does. Well done”
    I must get the P. D. James – I love Austen. All except ‘Emma’. I think ‘Persuasion’ is my favourite, but the movie is not well done.

  14. Kila says:

    There are few better ways to past the time and stretch the mind. Thank you for your reviews and for sharing these books with us!

    P.S. I would say one can “lose their religion” but still believe in God and/or have a spiritual life. It’s a shame that religion can get in the way.

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