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Simon The Sponge



Joined: 13 Dec 2008
Posts: 160


Location: Gillingham, Kent

PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:51 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

After a bit of a break, finished the Handmaids Tale - a wonderful dystopian novel, the only mild criticism is the final epilogue which takes the form of an a third person view on a historical academic lecture set a couple of hundred years from the period of the Handmaids tales itself.  It's almost as if Margaret Atwood was too frightened to have too bleak an ending without hope.

Anyway on to a bit of Murakami - After Dark...taken me a while to get around to this.  Initial impressions are that the characters in this are the least westernised that I've come across in his work - they feel a little unnatural - maybe it's the translation but Jay Rubin has been translating Murakami for a while...


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Freyda



Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Posts: 425



PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am halfway through "Dusty Answer" by Rosamond Lehmann. My copy is a 1927 4th printing (and falling apart as I read) so it must have been successful on publication. I think it is her first novel, and is lushly romantic in its descriptions of surroundings and adolescent and young adult emotions. It follows lonely Judith Earle's passionate absorption with the set of mysterious cousins who sometimes alight at the house next door throughout her childhood and early adulthood. I have just finished a section where she studies at Cambridge in the early 1920s and falls under the spell of the beguiling Jennifer. And one of the male cousins whom she think she is in love with is involved - though to what extent is unclear (at least to this reader!) - with a jealous male student. All terribly overwrought but also well-observed and beautifully described. The emotions feel more like early teens than those of late teens and twenties to me, but perhaps it's true that people mature earlier these days - or even back in my days.

I know there are other admirers of Rosamond Lehmann on this board. Has anyone read this novel? I'm not sure it was one that was reprinted by Virago - I don't recall ever seeing it.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3362


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The edition looking at me accusingly from the shelves is definitely a Virago one. I suspect it will be the next Lehmann I read.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3362


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should qualify that by saying it's one of the rebranded Viragos with, I suspect, someone in a sweeping dress on the front cover. Not a nice dark green one.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 727



PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2009 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read 'Dusty Answer' a year or two ago. Like you, Freyda, I found it quite difficult to imagine to world inhabited by the characters. The society described and its values were quite alien, much more so than that in RL's later novels. This, for me, made identifying with the characters and their problems quite difficult. I did enjoy it, and the description of life at Girton (was it actually Girton, or did I just fill that in for myself?) seemed highly credible, from other accounts that I have read and heard. I'm not sure whether you have read Rosamund Lehmann before, but if not, I would be inclined to say 'The best is yet to come'!


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Freyda



Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Posts: 425



PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read a number of Lehmann's books - and even one by her sister Beatrix Lehmann when Virago brought it out - but not for many years. I was thinking of those first lovely green-jacketed Virago Modern Classics with (then) unusual and well-selected paintings for covers. I haven't really caught up with recent ones. I have "Invitation to the Waltz" and "A Note In Music" on my bookshelves, though I was sure I had "The Weather In The Streets" but I must have borrowed it from someone. I read them in my twenties and early 30s.

I first read "Dusty Answer" when I was about the same age as its narrator, and totally succumbed to the lush writing and tone.  I agree with you that some of the values are hard to sympathise/ empathise with in this day and age. I think the material ease with which all these young people stride into life - despite their various tragic struggles - struck me far more this time. Later on Lehmann writes much more convincingly and sympathetically about characters who are not so thoughtlessly wealthy (though some remain so, but she contrasts their lives). I don't know anything about her background, and would like to know more. I thought she wrote semi-autobiographically later on, and wondered how much of this early novel was wish-fulfilment.

I have now finished it, and you are right - the best of Lehmann's writing comes later. This book is a mix of writer-like observation and a yearning for tragic outcomes, plus typical girlhood fantasy: Judith turns out, despite her doubts, to be beautiful and brainy, and pleasantly well off, with envious long hair and slender form, able to swim and dive and climb trees and play tennis and dance divinely, and have men and women secretly and not so secretly desiring her. I much prefer the heroine of "Invitation to the Waltz" who, more realistically, is far from such a creature. And all the flawed women who come after her.

Oh, and it might have been Girton, but it is not named. I was surprised to find that the women's college was quite some way outside Cambridge itself. (In those days, anyway.)


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 727



PostPosted: Sat Jul 11, 2009 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, that would be why I thought of Girton! Right on the outermost edge of Cambridge - still. I had a feeling it was not named, but from the description that I remember, I am pretty sure that Girton was very much in her mind.

I have been lucky enough recently to pick up a couple of the old green Viragoes (?) in poor condition, but at bargain prices. One was 'The Solitary Summer', the other, which I have not yet read, is 'I'm Not Complaining' by Ruth Adam. I have never read one of her novels and only know her from her very interesting account of women in the 20th century, 'A Woman's Place', but I am looking forward to reading this new discovery.


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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
Posts: 1605


Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Green Jay wrote:
RN Singer wrote:
I've just started Peter Carey's 'My Life as a Fake.' Can't really say what it's about yet, but the narrator is a woman, and it takes place in 1970 or thereabouts. It appears the action will be in Malaysia.

This is my second Carey. I greatly enjoyed his 'True History of the Kelly Gang' several years ago.


I got hold of a copy of this recently , but it hasn't reached the top of my TBR pile yet. Sad


Well, now it has and I am halfway through. Quite compelling and an easy read, though it has the slightly - and I'm sure very deliberate - old-fashioned device of much of the story being "as told to" the narrator herself. Somehow, I expected Peter Carey to be a bit more of a challenging read (as in not a page-turner). I am enjoying the three main characters and the rather Gothic events.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 727



PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Somehow, I expected Peter Carey to be a bit more of a challenging read (as in not a page-turner).

I agree with you that 'My Life as a Fake' was less challenging than some of the other Peter Carey novels I have read ('Oscar and Lucinda' or 'The True History of the Kelly Gang', for instance). Partly, I think this was a question of the more straightforward language, partly a simple matter of brevity: some of the earlier novels seemed much longer. In some ways, Carey's novel are not my sort of thing: I'm not a fan of magial realism and I am very selective when it comes to historical novels. Despite that, I have not yet read a Carey novel that I have not largely enjoyed, and I think I have read most of them.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 727



PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2009 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Somehow, I expected Peter Carey to be a bit more of a challenging read (as in not a page-turner).quote}

I agree with you that 'My Life as a Fake' was less challenging than some of the other Peter Carey novels I have read ('Oscar and Lucinda' or 'The True History of the Kelly Gang', for instance). Partly, I think this was a question of the more straightforward language, partly a simple matter of brevity: some of the earlier novels seemed much longer. In some ways, Carey's novel are not my sort of thing: I'm not a fan of magial realism and I am very selective when it comes to historical novels. Despite that, I have not yet read a Carey novel that I have not largely enjoyed, and I think I have read most of them.



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