Karen of Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings and Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book are once again delving into books from the past with a 1951 Club reading week starting next week. This follows on from their 1924, 1938 and 1947 clubs.
Looking through my stack of books I found three that were published in 1951:
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: This is fourth – and last – of Greene’s novels that have an overtly Roman Catholic dimension. Set in Clapham during the blitz (before the war, Greene owned a house in Clapham), it’s a story of adultery. It comes with a strong theme about guilt and jealousy. It’s one of my favourite Greene novels.
A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor: I can thank many bloggers for introducing me to Elizabeth Taylor. My first experience of her work – A Wreath of Roses – didn’t inspire me but I was persuaded to give her another chance so I ended up buying a number of her titles secondhand. A Game of Hide and Seek is one of them. It’s her fifth novel and, like The End of the Affair, features a triangular relationship. Taylor’s themes may be slightly less grand than Greene’s but she is no less insightful in depiction of human behaviour.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey: A rather unusual historical crime story in which a Detective Inspector with Scotland Yard lies in a hospital bed and reviews evidence that makes King Richard III murderer. Did he really order the deaths of the Princes in the Tower or is that a myth along with his withered arm and hunchback?
Three good options here I think. Since I’ve already read The End of the Affair I’ll likely go for the titles that will be less familiar. The Tey novel beckons to me most right now and will be a perfect pairing with the final episode in the Hollow Crown BBC series. It will be interesting to compare Shakespeare’s version of Richard III with the one in Tey’s novel.
Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a tad quiet for the past 2 weeks. No reason other than the combination of organising my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary celebration and a busy time at work which diverted my attention.
I planned to take advantage of a week’s holiday in the Yorkshire countryside to help catch up on my backlog of books. But there was one thing we’d overlooked when we planned the holiday – checking if the idyllic cottage by the river had an internet connection. It didn’t, as I discovered early on our first morning when I sat in the pretty little garden accompanied by nothing more than a few butterflies and bees. I knew it was no use looking for a connection in the nearby market square since only the night before we’d been lauding the fact this village was mercifully free of the ubiquitous ‘chain’ coffee houses/take aways. So that had me scuppered. I managed to write some reviews but of course couldn’t post them at the time.
I did get plenty of time to read instead however.
First up was Graham Greene‘s The Heart of the Matter which I read as part of the ‘Greene for Gran’ readalong organised by Savidge Reads as a tribute to his book-loving gran. I first read this about 30+ years ago since Greene was on my university course syllabus but since I had to read at least 4 of his titles in one week, I could barely remember them. What a joy to re-discover this book. I’ll post my review in a few days but for now all I can say is that if you haven’t read it, you’re missing something special. It’s tremendous.
My other two books couldn’t be more different from Grahame Greene in style or subject. The Roar of the Lion is a detailed evaluation of the true impact of Winston Churchill’s wartime speeches on people at home and abroad. It’s by Richard Toye, a Professor of History from my alma mater Exeter University but although it’s been well researched isn’t one of those turgid academic type books. Instead its a highly readable account of how Churchill wrote those famous speeches and how their reception wasn’t as universally positive as we might imagine.
And finally, a book in a genre that I don’t normally read. But Pierre Lemaitre’s novel Alex was so highly rated by Savidge Reads that I decided to give it a go. Lemaitre is a French author who’s won multiple literary awards but this is the first of his novels to be translated into English. It’s a thriller that really is hard to put down. Alex is the victim of a kidnapping very early in the novel. Her abductor forces her into a wooden cage suspended from the roof of a disused factory and then entices the rats to take a close interest in her. Not the kind of thing that makes comfortable bedtime reading I warn you. But just when you think you can’t take any more of this, Lemaitre throws a twist in the plot (the first of several). And that’s all I’m going to reveal about plot right now…… At the rate I’m reading it, I will be finished tonight. Then it’s back to my more familiar stamping ground of the classics, world literature and the Booker prize winners.