Towards Zero

So, I wasn’t going to post for a while because I’m hacking away at The Luminaries, but two things happened.   First, I slipped an Agatha Christie in there – Towards Zero which features Inspector Battle rather than Poirot or Marple.   A good one, not one of the greatest, but a good, solid mystery with a conclusion I didn’t guess although I had worked out some of the clues, I just didn’t add them up properly.   One aspect of the plot seemed very familiar, but I can’t remember where else I read that so I don’t know if she’s repeating herself or someone else thought up the same thing.

The second was a challenge posed by Roof Beam Reader.   Ulysses Readalong – definitely a book that can use some company, but I’ve just read the Moonstone and am reading The Luminaries.   I had thought to read some short, modern works to get my count up a bit, not another giant tome.   Plus he’s only giving us 3 weeks.   3 weeks!   Not even a month!   40 pages a day of Ulysses doable?  Nope.   But startable.   And maybe once started, I will go on and finish.  I’ve had a copy forever.   And I might even know where it is.   I guess I have some time to think about it as we’re not supposed to start until the 15th.   Which is good, because I might be able to finish The Luminaries by then.


#readWilkie – The Moonstone Read-a-long

And I finished!   If you have any leaning at all for Victorian lit, The Moonstone is one of the great ones.   Collins has various narrators each telling his or her part of the story of the Moonstone – a yellow diamond stolen from India.   The first narrator Betteredge is a hoot – a somewhat sexist, but lovable and charming narrator he has an entertaining read on events.   Even the interfering and awful Miss Clack is hilarious in her own way.   Probably my least favorite characters were the young lovers – both rather too full of noble and lofty sentiment while liable to fly off the handle at the drop of a hat.  

My ebook said it was 240 pages and was taking forever to make any progress, so I checked the print editions the shortest of which was 450 pages.   So much for ‘real page count.’   But do not let that stop you.   Collins was a master of his craft and keeps the story moving at a lively pace.

I’m afraid I won’t be posting again for a while.  I’m going back to The Luminaries and hoping not to have forgotten too much.   Approaching the halfway point on that one, but it’s almost twice as long as Moonstone, so it’s going to take a while.   So far, its extremely gripping with more questions piling up as each gets answered.   Catton is quite good at differentiating her characters, though when there are so many it’s always something of a challenge to keep their stories straight.  

And here is Cuff among the roses:


The Moonstone Read-a-Long #readWILKIE

So, I’ve been meaning to read Wilkie Collins forever.  Even started The Moonstone once.   And November does seem like a perfect time.   I’m hoping that reading along will encourage me to keep going.   I wanted to buy this beautiful copy, but it’s hard to justify when the ebook is free.



This readalong is nice and casual.   One check-in, mid-month.  You can sign up here, if you like.

I’ve read Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons while working on The Luminaries, which I’m liking a lot so far.

I also decided I’ll make a page for 19th century books.   I’m not going to set any kind of time limit on it.   Just fill them in as I go and maybe when I’ve got a substantial number I’ll make a real effort at it.   It may be difficult to find things for the early years, I don’t know.   But I think it will be interesting if I keep at it.

Lonesome Road

An early Miss Silver mystery, Lonesome Road is the story of Miss Rachel Treherne who’s beset by greedy relatives – one of whom wants to hurry her to the grave.  A romantic tale, rather old-fashioned with its women characters being more the fainting type than the spunky type, but I do enjoy Miss Silver’s explanation at the end.   There’s at least one ‘I should have thought of that’ moments and the reasoning is sound.

It may be a while before I post again as I’ve started both The Luminaries and Buddenbrooks.   I couldn’t talk myself out of either one and they’re a combined 1500 pages or so.   Maybe I’ll slip in a mystery or finish up something I started a while ago just so it’s not a full year without a post.  

And there’s this temptress suggesting that November is the perfect time to read The Moonstone.   She could be right.

The End of the Affair

Once again I’ve spent time trying to think up something to say about a book.  This time The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.  I’ve read several Greene books this year and this one felt very autobiographical — about a writer who has an affair, only it’s not the writer whose Catholic.   In fact, at first no one seems to be Catholic.    And then Sarah becomes Catholic seemingly against her will and one wonders if that’s how it was with Greene.   

Different from other Greene I’ve read.  The Third Man and The Ministry of Fear both more interesting, enjoyable reads, but with almost nothing in the way of characters.   The first I read, Stamboul Train, I hadn’t thought so much of when I first read it, but having read 3 more, the characters in that are his strongest and most diverse.   Also, the most sympathetic overall.   Maurice is so full of hate, acting more often from jealousy than any other motivation, it’s difficult to understand what she saw in him.   And she aside from this weird religious pull has little in the way of a character.   They none of them have any friends or interests.   The men work.   She just hangs around attracting people and calling herself a bitch and a fake for no discernible reason.   

Most of Greene’s characters seem like half characters at best.   Why did that seem to happen after Stamboul Train which had a fair number of well-differentiated characters whose motivations you could generally understand even if they weren’t ones you’d share.   And also I thought it pretty early to be writing about a lesbian woman who boards the train in order to try to hold onto her kept girlfriend who’s tired of playing lesbian and wants to be kept by a man now.   

I’m glad I read all these close enough together to compare and contrast them.    Funny how my opinion of Stamboul Train has undergone a huge change after reading the later works.   So often a writer’s later works are better, but while I think Third Man and Ministry of Fear are much stronger plot-wise, nothing beats Stamboul for characters.   And End of the Affair — well, I’m still not sure what to say about that, except Graham Greene was a strange dude.

Lord Jim


It took me over 5 weeks to read Lord Jim.   Not because it’s so long, it was just difficult to apply myself to it.   It had moments of strong interest, but they’d recede like waves.   I think I would have liked it a lot better if the structure had been, well, anything else.   It starts off with a standard narration and then switches to Marlow telling the story to I’m not sure who, but finishes telling them before the story is over and writes the rest in a letter to an unnamed party.  It’s bizarre.   And you very rarely see any action as it’s happening.   Plus he does that annoying thing of telling you how it all turns out and then telling the story.   Thanks.   Wouldn’t want any suspense or anything.   This has been described as a brilliant innovation.   Harumph.    Tedious is what I call it.

Admittedly taking the standard adventure yarn and turning it into a meditation on character and life is a worthwhile endeavor and you need Marlow or someone to reflect on Jim and his place in the world, but switching to the letters at the end seems pointless.   It also bothered me he never named ‘the girl.’  He seems to admire her character, Jim names her Jewel, but she isn’t called that for the rest of the story and she’s given no other name.

I read this for 1900 in the Century of Books, before realizing 1900 was not part of the 20th century, though the challenge includes it on everyone’s page.  it ought to be 1901 – 2000.   Ah, well, it’s been one of those I always thought I should read and now I can cross it off the list.

It should also count for the European challenge shouldn’t it, since he was Polish?  Though he kind of switched to being a Brit in his 20s, does he still count for Poland for the challenge?  Who knew it would be this complicated?

Dewey’s 24 hour Readathon Hour 19

I did finish Aunt Dimity’s Death and I will take another book with me as I crawl into bed, but I don’t expect to get very far with it 🙂

Aunt Dimity’s Death was a highly romantic and completely improbable, but sweet tale.   I’ll probably read the next one.   This one did not read like the beginning of a series, but I guess if a thing is popular enough, one can usually find a way.

Thanks to the cheerleaders who visited me!  And all the good advice from various blogging readathoners.   I enjoyed it and finished two books, which is a record for me.   Never read so much in me life and it wasn’t hard.   If I didn’t need to be somewhere in 10 hours, I might have kept going although probably at an ever slowing rate!  I’ll try to do it again in April, assuming the rest of you do, too!

Phinnea's Book Blog List

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.