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The Body in The Cellar this post really belonged to the month of March. But like I keep saying March was a brilliant glittering vacation and lot of unexpected readings, so this kind of went in the back burner! But Dorothy Sayers is Dorothy Sayers and her talent cannot lie hidden for long and I was soon hooked till I reached the finishing line! Busman’s Honeymoon (Lord Peter Wimsy #13 by Dorothy Sayers was my  third Reading England Book for the year, focusing on Hertfordshire and my first ever Dorothy Sayers! Yes! I know! I know! I have spent all my adult years without reading a Dorothy Sayers mystery and you have no idea on which planet I was living in and all that! But what can I say? I just never got around to it! Anyhow lets get on with the book!

Busman’s Honeymoon begins with the wedding of Lord Peter Wimsy to his long standing inamorata Miss Harriet Vane and departing for his honeymoon accompanied by his faithful valet Bunter to a farmhouse in Hertfordshire, a long cherished place of Harriets. However on arriving to the farmhouse, they find the scene quite chaotic, the owner, Noakes, from whom the farmhouse had been bought, is missing and no one, including his niece are even aware that the farmhouse had been sold. As the Wimsy’s try an settle in, they discover creditors looking for Noakes for money that he has not returned and other less savory sides to his character like his borrowing and never returning sums of money from his niece and the gardener and his miser like behavior towards everyone including the upkeep of the farmhouse! Soon all these discoveries are held in suspension, when the body of Noakes is found in the cellar and an investigation is launched to find the killer! The Wimsy’s are unwillingly drawn into the search for the criminal, all the while realizing that the murdered man was a blackmailer, miser and a crook himself and there is more than one person with reasons for hating the former owner of the farmhouse!

Dorothy Sayers in the very introduction of the book says that this is not a murder mystery but a romance, where a murder just happens! Well, it is true, it is a romance, but it also a mystery and it a well knit plot that caters to readers of both genre’s without the mush or the gore, respectively.  Her character’s drawn from a small village hamlet are created to perfection, with a scholarly kindly Vicar, a Superintend of Police trying to do what is best and the gossiping servant. Without playing to the cliche’s Ms. Sayer’s puts together an ensemble that is as brilliant as its life like! The plot is exciting with new twists and turns at every page and an absolutely ingenuous solution in the end!But more than the usual play of great characters and a wonderful plot line, there are some unique factors to this novel, that made it a outstanding read! The book is filled with literary allusions, from Shakespeare to Marlowe to Arnold, all of the greats of English Literature come into play and a marvelously knitted into the dialogues of the book. There are so many authors and poets I recognized and then so many I did not. This literary guessing game, added a whole new layer to the book! Even the title of the book is a colloquial assertion to a bus driver’s holiday – it refers to a  busman, to go off on a holiday, would take an excursion by bus, thereby engaging in a similar activity to his work. I quote directly from my trusty source Wikipedia. We do not rush into the mystery, but are treated to a long prologue of how the marriage happened, how did the relatives react and how the press was decoyed! Similarly, we do not rush out of the book after the culprit is caught, but rather, we are exposed to a human and moving experience of how Wimsey deals with the post investigative time, with allusions to his World War I trauma. The ending especially makes the book sensitive and absolutely unlike any other detective novel series!

In the end, I loved the book and have bought a couple of more Dorothy Sayer’s already. If you are looking for a hard boiled crime whodunit, this may not be the book for you. But if you are looking for a crime fiction, which looks at many other things and has relationships, and literature and fun, this IS the book for you!

The Girls from Shepard’s Bush

This should have been posted a week ago, but I was busy playing catch up with life after a brilliant vacation and things kind of got out of control! Anyway, moving on in an effort to gain control, let me start by saying what I keep repeating often, that my blogging – universe friends really do take me on reading adventures, that I could not have fathomed let alone, explore, if it was not for their ideas, encouragement and reviews. Ali and Jane are such people; they keep finding these lost gems that I never knew existed and  suddenly I am in the world of a marvelous author, albeit now almost lost – a considerable tragedy, considering how brilliant they are! Naturally, when Ali decided to host Mary Hocking Week, I just had to join the party. I had never read Mary Hocking, but both Jane and Ali had high words of praise, and some of her books were set in genre very close to my heart – the family sagas in the pre-world war II world. How could I possibly pass up such an opportunity???

Thus I started my tryst with Mary Hocking’s Good Daughters, Volume 1 of her Farley Family Series.

Set in 1933, the book opens with an introduction to the Farley Family residing in Shepard’s Bush, London – Stanley, the father is a well intentioned, albeit a strict Methodist man, who is the principle of a Boy’s school. He is a kind, good man, wanting the best for his family, somewhat out of touch with reality. His wife Judith is a strong, sensible woman who is far more in touch with reality and changes that they need to make in the lives, as their daughters start to become women. The daughters in order of their age are Louise, Alice and Clare, who have hereto led sheltered but good lives but are now on the threshold of womanhood; particularly Louise who is seeking new freedoms and adventures, trying to break free from her father’s Methodist lifestyle and dreams of becoming an actress. Alice, is the middle daughter, a plum girl good in sports and a hidden talent for writing, trying to find her own world as she enters teenage. Clare is the youngest of the Farley girls,. the most earnest and single minded, still a child, trying to understand the world, where her sister’s are disappearing into. As Hitler starts to make threatening noises in Europe, life in Shepard Bush, also changes for the three girls as they make new friends, discover new emotions and realize that there is perhaps no simple answers to life and there is more to things than just appearances. Over the next two years that the novel plots, we see the girls making choices and settling into lives on which they did not intend to set out originally, but were now firmly trodding on and with the Farley parents, forced to accept changes, that they never thought they would need to make!

I loved the characterizations – the Farley parents outshine all others. You love them, you are irritated with them, especially when remembering your own adolescence, and you find solace and warmth in them. Mary Hocking created two perfect characters in Stanley and Judith, imbibing them with many human flaws, and yet making them outstanding parents and friends, who see you through, when they see your through. The daughters are also very well drawn out and though I could not relate to Louise, I could understand the need to breakaway and I saw strong glimpses of my friends and myself in Alice and Claire. The ensemble cast is equally brilliant – as a reader you want to be friends with the next door neighbors Vaseyelin family, the Russian family who escaped the Revolution, Miss Blaze the formidable principle of the school the girls attend, the grandparents and cousin Ben, the orphaned, studious, self made young man. Mary Hocking presents a wonderful picture of a family and their daily lives in the world which was thought to be safe, in the wake of World War I. She brings out the disbelief of the changes that seemed to be propelling the world into another war externally as well changes more at home which the Farley’s need to make in beautiful and balanced contrast. Despite, all this, I do own I kind of felt let down – like a promise that was not kept. There was too much time spent on the sexual awakening of the daughters and while I understand girls at that age are curious about things happening to them, I  do not think that is the only preoccupation – a feeling I distinctly got from the novel, as I heard of the changes and longings of the eldest two daughters, especially Louise.Furthermore, I found the ending a bit cliched and even linear,again in specific reference to Louise – what happened, we expected to happen from early on in the novel. There are things and people I would have liked to explore more and maybe in her Volume 2 and 3, Mary Hocking does do them justice. I will have to read to find more! The language is clear and concise – simple yet definitive prose that draws clear mental pictures for the reader of the kind of home and family and life that the author tried to showcase!

Good Daughters is a great read, with some reservations, but good enough to convince me to reach out for more Mary Hocking’s novels and for sure complete the Farley Saga.

Thank You Ali for hosting the event and introducing me to another wonderful author!

Poetry Month Tag

I am not sure how I get into these scrapes…wait hang on! I do…Thanks to all the “influential” blog-universe friends, I sign on to do stuff,  about which I am completely unsure off. It’s a different matter, that most of the time, I end up LOVING the experience, but to begin with, it is kind of daunting. This time the influential friend is Cleo and she convinced me that one poem a week to celebrate Poetry Month Celebration is easily doable! Well, it does sound easy and I am half way into it as well, but I also have like a zillion books to read and a million blogs to write and trillion projects to execute at work and …ok! Deep Breaths! I am over my hysteria!  To be absolutely honest, I am loving the poems (Thank You Cleo, if it was not for your encouragement, I would not tread alone on those literary waters) I am reading (blogs coming up soon) especially considering I don’t get along with Poetry too well; and it made sense that I participate in the questionnaire as well; I mean what is the sense of doing things halfway anyway??

The Poetry Month celebration has begun at The Edge of the Precipice, and Hamlette has posted questions to answer as part of the April reading event.  Worth giving a shot….

Poetry Month

What are some poems you like?

  • Geetanjali by Rabindranath Tagore
  • Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti
  • Ode to the Nightingale by John Keats
  • Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

What are some poems you dislike?

I really have not come across a poem that merits a “dislike”!  There have been instances, where I have struggled with some of the works, and kind of given them up as a lost cause, but that is more from my inability to really connect with them rather than the work itself. Case to the point – The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser and To the Skylark by Shelly

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?

I loved my recent tryst with Christina Rossetti and I have always enjoyed Robert Browning. My most favorite is Rabindranath Tagore. He wrote in my native language – Bengali. What makes him stand out is the wide range of poems that he could wrote that encompass practically all human emotions with all the sensitivity and aestheticism and unmatched grandeur! 

Do you write poetry?

No! Nix! Nada!

Have you ever memorized a poem?

Way back in school …The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge, The Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Tennyson and some other other works by Robert Louis Stevenson. We had a class on Elocution through middle school and my teacher was convinced that learning and reciting a long poem would lead to brilliant oratory skills. I am yet to see the connection!

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?

I like both. I do enjoy rhymes a bit for than free verses, however there are just way too many bad rhymes, so I am kind of cautious, about my preference here!

Do you have any particular poetry movements you’re fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven’t got any idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine!  You can check out this list for more info, if you want to.)

I love the Romanticism and the Fireside Poets! I also love the Oral tradition, that encompass some of our best loved epic poems from Mahabharata to The Illiad to Beowulf! 

My plan is to read one poem per week . In the last two weeks I have already read and I plan to read two- three more….I will update this list as I figure it out.

  • Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • A Light Exists in Spring by Emily Dickinson

Holiday Hangover, April Reading and Therapy…

Hello! Hello! I am back! And while I am overjoyed to be back in the world of cyberspace and virtual interactions, I must say, I soooooo do not look forward to the Monday! But that is a bridge that I will cross and dream of August again! Where was I you ask? (Even if you did not, please humor me…I am suffering from a really bad case of holiday hangovers!) I was away for last one week from the madding crowd, to the magnificent Himalayas, specifically the Dhauladhar Range,  or the White Range and I spent the first half in an artisan village, and the second half in the city of His Holiness Dalai Lama. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on earth and it was one of the best holidays ever! Be rest assured, that  I will share photos and adventures soon!  Yes! Those are the joys of blogging companionship!;)

For now however, April is here and considering the amount of reading I am taking on each month, I have started maintaining a Reading Journal, just so I remember what I have to read and how much I have to read and how many books at a glance are in my TBR, atleast the ones on Kindle! Just so I start getting some more discipline in not only my reading but also my book buying spree. I am not sure if this will work, but I will keep you all posted!

Now, considering I was on holiday during a significant holiday portion of March, I manage to stick to reading plan pretty well, except I did not read the fictions that I had charted out including Up the Country by Emily Eden, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, because I was busy reading about Tibet! Since I was planning to do some serious cultural exploration of the Tibetan lives during my vacation, it made sense to read up some stuff but I may have gone on an overdrive!  But now I know much more beyond the Chinese annexation of 1951 and, for a somber moment, it is not a happy thought that a culture is passing away and hundred of Tibetans are dying with it while the world looks on! I will re-visit this later for sure!

For the April reading, there is an urgent need like I mentioned to discipline and close on everything that I already have and finish the open tasks! I am yet to complete my March Play, The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers and since I did not want to add on more complications, I decided to mix my Drama Reading for April with my Reading England effort, this time covering Warwickshire and am going to read As You Like It by the Great Bard of England, William Shakespeare. Again because I have couple of books stemming from March, I decided to roll in Classic Club Spin#12 and Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event for the month and read Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The April theme for 12 month Reading Challenge is “A classic you’ve seen the movie/miniseries/TV show of” and I read The Murders at Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. I have seen the 1983 made for television film recently and I was not very impressed, but I will read the book with an open mind and then decide on the matter! Finally, Ali is holding a Mary Hocking Reading Event and as both she and Jane have words of high praise about Mary Hocking’s works and since I really really appreciate their insights, which has led me to reading some brilliant works, I will for sure join this one reading event – Good Daughters by Mary Hocking!

My serial readings continue as before – I continue to read The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien with Cleo as part of my Lecito List and have now moved to The Twin Towers. I also hope to finish Metamorphoses by Ovid; I am down to the last two books and I really need to complete it before I move on to what I consider my reading albatross. For the next couple of months I will be reading The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser with Cleo, O, Ruth and many others . I read TFQ in college and did not like it at all. But I am hoping for a better experience this time, but for now I see it as an albatross! On the brighter side of things, I continue with the Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along and I am beginning to really enjoy the work as well the way we are reading it! Finally Cleo again leads me into all these reading temptations and I have surrounded to them (completely my choice and my will)  after a long fight (actually no fight at all!) with them –  I am reading The Histories by Herodotus as well as 1 poetry a week for the National Poetry Month!

I know I need therapy! I wonder if there some kind of recovery program for the book reading obsessed! Do let me know if you find one….until then I am off to read!


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