Books of the Month – October 2018

It’s not often that I’m so utterly bowled over by a chance buy that I want to tell everybody about it and insist they read it.   And it’s even more exciting when I’ve never heard of the author.

‘Only To Sleep’, by Lawrence Osborne, has written on the front cover of the book ‘A Philip Marlowe thriller’.  In recent times, well known authors have been asked to write a ‘James Bond’ or a ‘Hercule Poirot’ in the vein of the original author.   I’m not against this but I wasn’t sure whether I’d want to read a ‘new’ Raymond Chandler by somebody else.  I love Chandler’s writing and would put him in my favourite writers’ list.  However, here is a revived Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s detective, who is now retired and living in Mexico, when he is approached by two American insurance agents, asking if he’d look into what they think may be a fraudulent claim.

Unputdownable …

The Sunday Times describes this novel as ‘sumptuous and sinister, languorous and tense’. Joseph Knox, author of ‘Sirens’, comments … ‘If you like noir, pour yourself something cool and enjoy one final dark night of the soul’.  Well, I thought, ‘You’re on’ and popped the book into my bag.  Lawrence’s talent for description and dialogue pulls you right in  –  you become completely addicted to the atmosphere it creates. A much recommended read.

So much so that I bought another of his books, ‘Hunters In The Dark’, set in Thailand and Cambodia. This would make a great film.  It engenders the edgy fear of a pit viper lurking in the dark, intent on claiming an unsuspecting victim.

But ‘Only To Sleep’ is a book that wins hands down  –  a glittering diamond of the first water. I’m envious of whoever has this treat still in store.


Dangerous decisions in a foreign country …  high tension on every page

A friend asked me if I’d read the Booker Prize winner – ‘Milkman’ by Anna Burns.  I looked at it but thought I’d only get through it if I had to come up with a review.  If I’m not keen and know I’m not going to really connect with a book, I’ll read the end.  Or random pages.  This book is not for me.

However, thinking of the Booker Prize and wondering if I had ever read a winner, I remembered ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively, whose writing I do like.  ‘Moon Tiger’ won The Booker in 1987. I have also read ‘Oleander, Jacaranda’, a memoir of her childhood days in Egypt (Cairo) and more recently, ‘The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories’  –  fifteen exquisitely written, funny and wickedly observant tales, examining the underside of how human beings really relate to one another. There is much to discover and enjoy beneath the surface. Lots of ‘schadenfreude’, when things don’t go according to plan.  How the underdog sometimes wins. Penelope Lively is delightfully astute in these stories, juicily laced with black humour.

‘Moon Tiger’ tells you that it’s a haunting story of loss and desire.  I have finished it and it haunts me still.  How you live your life, decisions taken that you can’t reverse, memories that you can’t or don’t want to extinguish.  A life lived widely, impulsively, by a beautiful, independent woman.  Brushstrokes of humour throughout, as when young Laszlo brings Claudia a large bunch of daffodils.  “He has picked them, it emerges, in Kensington Gardens.  Amazingly, no one noticed”.

Winner of Booker Prize 1987  –  full of twists and turns, love and loss …

Penelope Lively and Lawrence Osborne are my reads of the month but  I have also added them to my list of favourite writers.




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