Day 1129: Consider the Lilies

Cover for Consider the LiliesWhile I was looking for a cover image for Money to Burn, I noticed that someone has been republishing Elizabeth Cadell’s novels (with horrible covers) and that there were several I’d never heard of. I went ahead and ordered three. This is the first one.

I have long read Cadell’s novels when I wanted something very light and funny. In general, they are mild romances with good dialogue, a touch of mystery, and a plethora of eccentric characters. Often they take place in a family setting.

A writer who produced more than 50 books from the 1940’s through the 1980’s, Cadell did not always produce work that was uniformly good. Unfortunately, Consider the Lilies, which she published as Harriet Ainsworth, is not one of her best. This novel is a murder mystery, which is unusual for Cadell.

Caroline is visiting her sister Kathryn and family for Easter when the vicar’s sister, Miss Burnley, asks Kathryn to do her a favor by asking Mrs. Lauder to donate some lilies for the Easter service. Mrs. Lauder has loads of lilies, but she has never been known to donate any or to give anything else, for that matter. Kathryn, however, is the only person from the village that Mrs. Lauder will receive, so Kathryn goes, taking Caroline with her. Mrs. Lauder, a wheelchair-bound invalid who is nasty to all, refuses.

Guy and Kathryn Heywood receive a surprising visit from Miss Parry, Mrs. Lauder’s companion. She asks Guy to read a letter that she believes threatens Mrs. Lauder and wants advice for what to do about it. Guy suggests she do nothing, since the letter was not addressed to her, but to Mrs. Lauder, and is ambiguous.

Later, Miss Parry reports that the letter was stolen from her purse, and not too long after that, Mrs. Lauder is found dead. Her wheelchair appears to have slipped off the veranda and she fell out of it. But Inspector Avery Freeland seems to think the death is suspicious.

This novel is not a murder mystery in the sense that we follow the investigation very closely. Rather, it is about how the murder affects the Heywoods, who live next door. They are on hand to witness a few strange incidents, and they are shocked to find that two people in their household may know something. The novel is also not a proper mystery, because there is no way anyone could guess the culprit, who appears so slightly in the novel as to be almost unnoticeable.

Further, Cadell’s trademark character development is lacking. We have very little sense of any of the characters, even the main ones. so, this book was a disappointment. This is the third book I read for the R.I.P. challenge.

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Day 1126: The Unquiet Grave

Cover for The Unquiet GraveI have long admired several of Sharyn McCrumb’s “ballad series” mysteries, novels based upon old Appalachian ballads, some of which have a chilling supernatural element. I thought that The Unquiet Grave might be one of these, but instead it is more closely related to her The Ballad of Tom Dooley, which I thought had severe flaws.

The Unquiet Grave, like The Ballad of Tom Dooley, is about a true crime, in which Edward Shue was accused of murdering his wife, Zona, in 1897. The story of this incident, narrated by Zona’s mother, Mary Jane Heaster, alternates with the narrative by attorney James P. D. Gardner, the resident in 1930 of a mental asylum. How these stories are connected isn’t explained until about halfway through the novel.

It is when Gardner starts telling his doctor about the case that the story began to lose me. For almost immediately, he maunders off into long stories about his boss at the time of the trial, Shue’s defending attorney, Dr. Rucker. I am sure that McCrumb’s intention, both in this novel and in Tom Dooley, is to tell colorful stories about the region, but the fault in both of these novels is that she gets readers interested in one story only to invoke the wandering memories of some old man, going off in twenty different directions.

link to NetgalleyI did not have the patience for this, so I gave Gardner’s section about 20 pages of time to get back on the subject. When he didn’t, having read more than half the book, I quit reading. I sympathize with what McCrumb is trying to do, trying to invoke the story-telling of an old man who knows a lot of local history, but she lost me twice using this same technique. I think she needs to find a better angle into these true stories of West Virginia.

This is the second book I read for the R.I.P. challenge.

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Day 1124: The Ivy Tree

Cover for The Ivy TreeThe Ivy Tree is the first book I’m reading for R.I.P.

Mary Grey is a Canadian who has recently moved to Northumberland when she encounters Connor Winslow on the Roman Wall. Connor mistakes her for his long-lost cousin Annabelle and seems so angry to see her that Mary is frightened. She has some difficulty convincing him of his mistake.

Later, Connor’s half-sister Lisa locates Mary at her workplace in Newcastle. Connor and Lisa want Mary to impersonate Annabelle to help insure that Con will inherit the family farm, Whitescar, from his great-uncle Matthew, who is in poor health. If Mary as Annabelle inherits the farm, she will give it to Con in exchange for a small income that will save her from poverty.

Mary agrees to the job because it doesn’t seem as if it will hurt anyone. The only other interested party, Annabelle’s cousin Julie, views the farm simply as a holiday home. But the impersonation may turn out to be more difficult than anticiapted, for Annabelle had her secrets. And Mary has some, too.

I have long been a huge fan of Mary Stewart. Recently, I turned a friend on to her, and our discussions made me eager for a Stewart fix. The Ivy Tree is one of her best, particularly because, on reread, when you understand a secret of the plot, almost every scene in the novel turns out to have a double meaning.

Stewart is known for her convincing characters and her gorgeous descriptions of the setting. This novel is lush with descriptions of the plants and rural geography of Northumbria. It has a great plot and is truly suspenseful. If you have never read anything by Mary Stewart, I can’t recommend her highly enough, particularly those of her novels written before the 1980’s and her Merlin series.

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R.I.P.

logo for RIPI haven’t ever participated in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril before, but I saw a post about it on Helen’s She Reads Novels page, so I took a look at my future posts. The object of the challenge is for people to read books in the following genres during September and October:

  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Gothic
  • Horror
  • Supernatural

It looks like I have plenty of mysteries on my schedule, and I may be able to come up with something in the other genres as well, so I think it will be fun to participate. You can look at the pages of the hosts, Estella’s Revenge and My Capricious Life for more information if you are planning to participate.

I think I’ll be participating at the Peril the First level, which means I must read four books from these genres in the next two months. If you’re familiar with my blog, you know that will not be a problem for me. I will be reading at least four of the following novels:

  • The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart (suspense)
  • The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb (mystery)
  • Consider the Lilies and Death Among Friends by Elizabeth Cadell (suspense)
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (mystery)
  • The Victorian Chaise Lounge by Marghanita Laski (gothic and supernatural)
  • My Darling Detective by Howard Norman (mystery)

First Classics Club List Complete!

I have not posted all of the reviews yet, but with Henry VI, Part III, I just finished all of the books on my first Classics Club list. I completed my list almost two years ahead of my posted deadline of February 12, 2019!

That means that I am ready to post my second Classics Club list! I will continue to show my first list in my Classics Club page until all my reviews are posted, and then I will copy it off to a subsidiary page and post my new list.

My first list was an experiment, as I had never belonged to a blogging club before, so many of my selections were old favorites that I hadn’t read in a long time. I think a brief summary of my reading for this first list is called for.

Top Five Books from My First List

Least Favorite Books from My First List

My New List!

I can’t seem to bring myself to make a list of 100 books at a time for the Classics Club. I think it is more satisfying for me to finish shorter lists faster than to finish a long list more slowly. This list is different from my previous one in that I have only previously read about half a dozen of the books on this list. I am posting this list on June 30, 2017, and I plan to finish it by June 29, 2021.

I made this list some time ago, so I see that I have already finished one of the books, The Lark, by E. Nesbitt.

15th Century

  • Le Morte D’arthur by Thomas Malory (1485)

16th Century

  • The Prince by Machievelli (1532)
  • Edward II by Christopher Marlowe (1592)
  • Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare (1588-1593)

17th Century

  • Oroonoko by Aphra Behn (1688)
  • The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster (1612-13)

18th Century

  • Evelina by Frances Burney (1778)
  • The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett (1771)

19th Century

  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (1814)
  • Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1863)
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (1848)
  • The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins (1879)
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
  • The Viscounte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas (1848)
  • Letters from Egypt by Lucie Duff-Gordon (1865)
  • The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow by Mrs. Oliphant (1890)
  • Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott (1821)
  • The Heir of Redclyff by Charlotte M. Yonge (1853)

20th Century

  • The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1907)
  • My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather (1926)
  • The Old Man’s Birthday by Richmal Crompton (1934)
  • Consequences by E. M. Delafield (1930)
  • Vanishing Cornwall by Daphne du Maurier (1967)
  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920)
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)
  • Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame (1957)
  • The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau (1953)
  • My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (1901)
  • Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn (1907)
  • The Lady and the Unicorn by Rumer Godden (1937)
  • Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)
  • Joanna Godden by Sheila Kay-Smith (1921)
  • The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski (1953)
  • Greenery Street by Denis MacKail (1925)
  • West with the Night by Beryl Markham (1942)
  • Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (1909)
  • The Lark by E. Nesbit (1902)
  • Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien (1936)
  • The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault (1956)
  • The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini (1915)
  • Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi (2016, but written around 1920)
  • Challenge by Vita Sackville-West (1923)
  • Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson (1934)
  • August Folly by Angela Thirkell (1936)
  • I Go by Land, I Go by Sea by P. L. Travers (1941)
  • Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton (1907)
  • Because of the Lockwoods by Dorothy Whipple (1949)
  • The Priory by Dorothy Whipple (1939)
  • The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf (1913)
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)

 

Day 1063: The 1951 Club! Hangsaman

Cover for HangsamanI picked Hangsaman to read for the 1951 Club. Unfortunately, although I have read other books published in 1951, I haven’t done so recently enough to have reviewed them on this blog.

Hangsaman is a very strange book about a young woman and her first months away at college. Although it does a masterful job of exploring her consciousness, that is unusual territory. The first scenes of the novel show her interacting with her parents while she imagines being questioned by a detective about her father’s murder.

And no wonder. Her father is an arrogant and pompous editor, who, under the guise of helping her with her writing, daily subjects her to alternating insults and compliments and tries to enlist her sympathies against her mother. Her mother also tries that, apparently with more reason.

1951 Club logoIn these circumstances, Natalie is delighted to go off to college for a fresh start. But things don’t go well there. The students are cliquish and cruel. The one girl who seems to be seeking her out as a friend turns out to be mentally unstable. And two other girls use her to torment a young university wife whose husband is having an affair with one of them.

Natalie finally makes a very strange friend, and at that point the novel goes off into murky territory, where I didn’t quite understand what was going on. When I read later that the novel was inspired by the actual disappearance of a Bennington student—the girl’s college where Jackson’s husband was employed—I understood it a little better. If you have read Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell, it will ring some bells.

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Classics Club Spin #15

It’s time for another Classics Club spin. We are to choose 20 books from our Classics Club lists, and on Friday, the Classics Club will pick a number. That will determine the book we will read for May 1.

I am getting so close to completing my list that I haven’t had 20 books left to pick for the last several spins. This time I’ll list both Henry VI, Pt. II and III, which will force me to read Pt. II if Pt. III is chosen. Then I’ll be done with old Henry. So, here goes:

  1. The Moonstone
  2. Henry VI, Pt. II
  3. The Idiot
  4. Henry VI, Pt. III
  5. Bleak House
  6. Middlemarch
  7. The Moonstone
  8. Henry VI, Pt. II
  9. The Idiot
  10. Henry VI, Pt. III
  11. Bleak House
  12. Middlemarch
  13. The Moonstone
  14. Henry VI, Pt. II
  15. The Idiot
  16. Henry VI, Pt. III
  17. Bleak House
  18. Middlemarch
  19. The Moonstone
  20. The Idiot