Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A good book or two

I have two days left at work, and then my vacation starts. Though I read a lot all year round, I usually read a little more during the summer. So here are a few books that I like and that I think you may find interesting, as they are written and/or about the 1920’s-40’s. You may notice, when reading this post, that I LOVE to talk about books.

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine (1986) is about a middle age woman, Faith, who thinks back to her youth during the forties when she was sent to live with her two aunts in the countryside. The outset of the whole book is that one of the aunts, Vera, was committed and hanged for murder. The rest of the book is how Faith’s memories slowly reveal the events that have led up to the murder as well as what has happened to the main characters since. You also get a lot on how life in England during the war could be- for example Vera is once described to wearing a dress made of two worn out old ones.

I like almost all of Barbara Vines books (she’s really Ruth Rendell, but funnily enough I don’t like any book written under her real name) as I’m a bit of a sucker for mysteries set in the past. All the books are similar in the sense that the protagonist either remembers, or researches, something that happened earlier, be it a few years or a hundred and fifty. They are quite slow-paced, which I enjoy. Another favourite is Asta’s Book (for some reason Anna’s Book in USA) where the mystery is twofold; a murder of two woman and the disappearance of a small child in the early 20th century and the question who the aunt of the book’s protagonist really was. There is a connection, but not the one that seems obvious.

Another mystery-in-the-past is I have read recently is Roots of Evil by Sarah Rayne. In 1952 two men are murdered by a movie star, Lucretia von Wolff who then commits suicide. She was a very mysterious person, for example she may, or may not, have had a child during the war called Alarune- and was she really a German spy? The book takes place in several time periods. Present day where Lucretia’s grand-daughter find that persons who are interested in her grand-mother has a tendency to die very suddenly. Early 1930’s where a young English maid finds herself lost in Vienna and an unknown time, where a small child is terribly abused by its father.

I like Rayne's books but as with Vine her books are a bit similar in the outset. There is three or four time periods throughout the books which may be a bit confusing, though I quite like it. She also falls back to insanity a bit too often, which sometimes robs the motives of any logic. At times it feels a bit like the easy way out. Barbara Vine is a much better author with a better sense of psychology, but even so I enjoy Sarah Rayne too. Another one of hers that I really like is Ghost Song where the mystery evolve around a London theatre which has been closed since 1914 and has a part of the cellar walled off for no good reason at all. Or perhaps for a very good reason…

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