Reviews & Rants - Blogging about books, authors, and generally 

Reading progress update: I've read 87 out of 329 pages.

Rule Britannia (Virago Modern Classics Book 120) - Daphne du Maurier, Ella Westland

The radio was already blaring as she went into the kitchen. ‘Several youths and young men,’ the announcer was saying, ‘have already been picked up on suspicion of having taken part in last night’s disorderly scenes after the fireworks display on Poldrea beach. Colonel Cheeseman has stated that he is assuming full responsibility for dealing with the incident. Anyone who is believed to have taken part will be held in custody until they can give proof of their innocence. The parents or relatives of any missing persons should apply to Colonel Cheeseman personally or in writing, and information will be given to them.’

This book is DARK. Guilty until proven innocent is just one of the scary developments. What is worst of all is that this not exactly pursued by force but mostly by sweet-talk and  euphemisms. It takes a lot to see through the lies and double-talk - it is very Orwellian and very realistic.


To me, this book is scarier than any of Atwood's that I have read.


Oh, and of course, it looks like tomorrow will be fuelled by caffeine because I am hooked to find out how the rebellion led by an 80-year-old former actress and her family of "Lost Boys" will fare. 

I guess there is another message in there about not writing off people who seem unlikely.

Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 329 pages.

Rule Britannia (Virago Modern Classics Book 120) - Daphne du Maurier, Ella Westland

Long quote ahead.


This section was written in a way that sounds very realistic. It's the sort of press conference or speech that could well fit into the current state of politics which make it utterly frightening.

However, I love how Du Maurier balances it against comedic elements. 


In this scene, the family is being visited by a colonel of the occupying American forces. The youngest of the family, 3-year-old Ben, has yet to learn to speak.

"They grouped themselves around the television, and as they waited for the picture to appear the colonel murmured sotto voce to his hostess, ‘If he says what I think he’s going to say, this is a very great day for our two countries.’

Right on cue, as if in answer to Colonel Cheeseman, came the voice of the Prime Minister in full spate, bang in the middle of a sentence.

‘… we had no alternative, and we ask for no alternative; for the union that has been offered to us, and that we have gladly and gratefully accepted, is one which will bring new strength, new determination and new hope for the future, not only for our two peoples but for the whole of the free world.’

His face and shoulders appeared on the screen as his voice dropped to a more solemn note.

‘You will ask yourselves why we have kept silent up to now, why, in fact, we did not take you into our confidence days, even weeks, ago. My friends, we have been living through troublous times. The breakdown of our partnership within the European community and our withdrawal from it, due to no failure on our part, brought great economic difficulties, as I feared would be the case and as I warned you at the time, and our political autonomy and military supremacy were also endangered. ‘Now, thanks to our old allies and new partners, we are threatened no longer. The great combination of the United States and the United Kingdom, to be known henceforth as USUK, need fear no one. What we have to give is theirs, what they have to give is ours. We are a great and common people. I am proud to tell you that Her Majesty the Queen is at this moment on her way to Washington, to stay at the White House with the President of the United States, not only as his guest but as co-President of USUK. The President, in his turn, will enjoy a short period of office in Buckingham Palace.

‘Once again, you may ask, why were the people of this great nation not informed that these momentous changes were to take place? Because’ – and his voice dropped lower still – ‘it was essential, for the success of our enterprise, that no word of the project should become public knowledge until the union had come into being. Every loyal citizen will welcome this partnership as one of the greatest advances in our long and glorious history. But within the last few months a small minority – prompted by powerful groups in other countries with opposing interests to our own – have succeeded in causing grave disruption to our economic stability and to the peaceful rhythm of our daily lives. The damage caused has been out of all proportion to the insignificant numbers of those involved, and their cunning is such that few people outside their ranks have understood the perils to which their actions were exposing our nation. We could not run the risk of allowing this small body of malcontents to jeopardise the success of our great project. This is why you have woken up this morning to find our new allies already gathered on this island. I would ask you, wherever you meet with either our own armed services or those of the United States, acting singly or together, to give them your full co-operation. More than this, give them your friendship too. Citizens of USUK – long live the President of the United States, long live the Queen, long live our great and glorious people and the heritage we share.’

The Prime Minister’s voice rose to a higher note, he threw back his head and squared his shoulders, and as his image faded the picture of the two flags, the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, took its place, accompanied by the strains of the joint national anthems. The silence in the library was profound. The two American officers were standing to attention, or rather endeavouring to do so, for both held between their hands, like an offertory at church, the plates on which lay the uneaten slices of Mad’s cake.

Emma did not know whether to laugh or cry, and she looked to her grandmother for a lead. For the first time, however, this was not forthcoming. Mad’s expression was inscrutable. She continued staring at the television long after the picture had dimmed and the music had died away. The tension was broken by the sounds of children’s excited laughter coming from the hall.

Colin ran into the room, dragging Ben by the hand, his angel face triumphant, his eyes like stars.

‘Ben can talk!’ he cried. ‘Ben can talk! He heard the anthems on the telly and he’s spoken his first word!’

Mad held out her arms to both boys, but for once they disregarded the gesture.

‘I taught him,’ declared Colin. ‘It’s all my doing.’

Emma turned to the two American officers.

‘He’s three years old,’ she explained hurriedly. ‘We were afraid he would never learn to speak, although he understands everything.’

Colonel Cheeseman smiled.

‘I guess this is doubly an historic occasion,’ he said, ‘and I’m proud to be in on it. Come here, little fellow, and let’s hear what you have to say.’

Ben rolled his eyes towards Colin and Colin nodded his head. Ben wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and walked slowly forward to the colonel.

‘Sh …’ he began, ‘sh …’, then paused, as though to summon greater strength.

‘Come on, son, don’t be afraid,’ said Colonel Cheeseman. ‘This is the finest moment in your young life, and maybe in all of ours as well.’

‘Shit!’ said Ben."

Ok, it made me laugh out loud. It is not at all the tone I had expected in a Du Maurier novel.

Halloween Bingo - Card & Books - Planned Reads & Tracking Post


Many thanks to Moonlight Murder for my lovely card for this year's Halloween Bingo.

As with previous years, I will update this post as we go along - with Harriet & Peter covering squares I have read, and The Gang popping up on squares that have been called.

I am also listing the books I plan to read / have read for each square - with () being planned reads, Italics being books in progress, and bold being books I have read:


Row # 1:


Southern Gothic: Sanctuary - William Faulkner

Cozy Mystery: 

Dark Academia: (Gaudy Night? Again. OR The Secret History? Or Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey OR The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen-Leigh)

Diverse Voices: (Beloved - Toni Morrison)

Full Moon:  The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie 


Row # 2:


Genre: Horror: Dracul - J.D. Barker & Dacre Stoker

Amateur Sleuth: The Mystery of the Skeleton Key - Bernard Capes

Halloween: Sincerity and Other Scary Tales - David Blixt

Darkest London: Two for Sorrow - Nicola Upson

Black Cat:  Katzengeschichten - Patricia Highsmith


Row # 3:


Cryptozoologist Dystopian Hellscape (Transfiguration Card #1):  The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham 

Locked Room Mystery: (The Tokyo Zodiac Murders???)

Free Space:  Rule Britannia - Daphne Du Maurier 

Gothic: The Monk - Matthew Lewis

Film at 11: (Bell, Book and Candle? or Trilby?)


Row # 4:


Ghost Stories: The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

International Woman of Mystery: (Highsmith!!!!!!!)

Relics and Curiosities: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

13: (Farjeon? OR Busman's Honeymoon, which is Wimsey #13!)

Truly Terrifying: The Remedy - Thomas Goetz


Row # 5:

Spellbound: Circe - Madeline Miller

Sleepy Hollow: Blood Rubies - Michael McDowell

Creepy Carnivals: Watson's Choice - Gladys Mitchell

Fear The Drowning Deep: (The Fisherman)

Monsters: Frankenstein - Mary Shelley



Unallocated but in progress:  n/a


Transfiguration Cards available: 2 of 3

The Monk

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

I hope to write a proper review of this book later, but for now, all I want to say is that this has been the most fun and diabolical romp through the darkest recesses of Gothic fiction that I have ever come across. 


I'm not sure it is a book I would recommend without reservations because there are large parts where this story just drags on and on, but it is definitely also a book I wish I had read much earlier. 


And for what it is worth, I am very impressed that this story ends with both a bang and a whimper.

Reading progress update: I've read 359 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

I really, really did not expect this:



But of course it makes perfect sense.

Halloween Bingo: Monsters

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, Dan Stevens Frankenstein - Marilyn Butler

I may have accidentally started Frankenstein this morning.


You see, I was getting ready to go to work and I accidentally clicked on the title in Audible when looking for a different book. But the audiobook is read by Dan Stevens, who can literally read anything to me (as proven by his narration of Ken Follett's Fall of Giants - man, I hate that book). I just could not bring myself to stop the narration and go back to the book I was actually looking for...


This will be my third re-read of the book. Last time, I found an audiobook narrated by Kenneth Branagh to have alongside my paperback edition. So I am eager to see how Dan Steven's narration compares.



Halloween Bingo - Halloween

Sincerity and Other Scary Tales - David Blixt

I currently have four called and read squares sitting in a row, and the Halloween square is the only one missing. So, in anticipation of that square being called (which would give me a bingo), I'll turn to David Blixt's collection of short stories.


I did consider re-reading Hallowe'en Party by Dame Agatha, but I have had Sincerity on my kindle for a few years now and really want to get rid of at least one book on my virtual TBR.


Halloween Bingo - Poe, the Raven

Rule Britannia (Virago Modern Classics Book 120) - Daphne du Maurier, Ella Westland

While my read of The Remedy is progressing at snail's pace, I will probably finish up The Monk on Friday, so I am looking for another book to follow this with. Or maybe a couple of books to cover the weekend. 


One of them will be Rule Britannia, Daphne du Maurier's last novel (published in 1974) in which she describes a dystopian hellscape in which the UK has left the Common Market and has been "annexed" by the US to form a new territory called USUK (say it out loud, then tell me Daphne had no sense of fun). 


Anyway, current events being what they are, I really want to make a start on this book sooner rather than later.  


Reading progress update: I've read 189 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

The Lady shook her head.

'I tremble for your Sister,' said She; 'I have heard many traits of the Domina of St. Clare's character, from a Friend who was educated in the same Convent with her. She reported her to be haughty, inflexible, superstitious, and revengeful. I have since heard that She is infatuated with the idea of rendering her Convent the most regular in Madrid, and never forgave those whose imprudence threw upon it the slightest stain. Though naturally violent and severe, when her interests require it, She well knows how to assume an appearance of benignity. She leaves no means untried to persuade young Women of rank to become Members of her Community: She is implacable when once incensed, and has too much intrepidity to shrink at taking the most rigorous measures for punishing the Offender. Doubtless, She will consider your Sister's quitting the Convent as a disgrace thrown upon it: She will use every artifice to avoid obeying the mandate of his Holiness, and I shudder to think that Donna Agnes is in the hands of this dangerous Woman.'

While neither Raymond's nor Lorenzo's story is particularly interesting ... and they drag quite a bit ... there are really fascinating scenes and inferences in the story. 


I read the above description of the Prioress as that of a witch, or at least I can see some parallels in the descriptions of witches in other books. All of which go back to a portrayal of a woman in a role of power as a bad thing. 


Now, the Prioress is kind of an evil character in this story so far, but there is also something defensive about her. I am eager to find out how she turns out at the end but there must be a reason why the Prioress professes to have sheltered a nun who a short time after suffered a miscarriage. 

So many questions! 


One thing is for sure, for a story dated 1796, this book is packed with dark surprises. A bit like some of the original Grimms' tales (not the sanitised version).   




Nevermind, I got a bit confuddled but the pregnant nun was...another main character. 

Still, ... I wonder if the Prioress ends up being something other than an evil w/bitch.

Reading progress update: I've read 98 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

Ok, so the story of Matilda has finished in the most bizarre way. There have been quite a few scenes so far that would have shocked the readers in 1796, and that are still so weird. 

And yet, that scene with Matilda at the end of Chapter II ... ewwww. 


When does something become necrophilia exactly? On second thoughts, no I don't really want to ponder this.



(show spoiler)



By comparison, Raymond's story as told in Chapter III has been entirely boring.

Reading progress update: I've read 54 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis



This has just taken on a new level.

Gripping stuff!

Reading progress update: I've read 48 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

Oh, never mind, we now have a "proper" description of the place:

In all Madrid there was no spot more beautiful or better regulated. It was laid out with the most exquisite taste. The choicest flowers adorned it in the height of luxuriance, and though artfully arranged, seemed only planted by the hand of Nature: Fountains, springing from basons of white Marble, cooled the air with perpetual showers; and the Walls were entirely covered by Jessamine, vines, and Honeysuckles. The hour now added to the beauty of the scene. The full Moon, ranging through a blue and cloudless sky, shed upon the trees a trembling lustre, and the waters of the fountains sparkled in the silver beam: A gentle breeze breathed the fragrance of Orange-blossoms along the Alleys; and the Nightingale poured forth her melodious murmur from the shelter of an artificial wilderness. Thither the Abbot bent his steps.

In the bosom of this little Grove stood a rustic Grotto, formed in imitation of an Hermitage. The walls were constructed of roots of trees, and the interstices filled up with Moss and Ivy. Seats of Turf were placed on either side, and a natural Cascade fell from the Rock above. Buried in himself the Monk approached the spot. The universal calm had communicated itself to his bosom, and a voluptuous tranquillity spread languor through his soul.

Reading progress update: I've read 45 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis

'My Son, I conjure you! I entreat you!'

'For pity's sake, enquire no further! I must not ... I dare not... Hark! The Bell rings for Vespers! Father, your benediction, and I leave you!'

As He said this, He threw himself upon his knees and received the blessing which He demanded. Then pressing the Abbot's hand to his lips, He started from the ground and hastily quitted the apartment. Soon after Ambrosio descended to Vespers (which were celebrated in a small chapel belonging to the Abbey), filled with surprise at the singularity of the Youth's behaviour.

Vespers being over, the Monks retired to their respective Cells. The Abbot alone remained in the Chapel to receive the Nuns of St. Clare. He had not been long seated in the confessional chair before the Prioress made her appearance. Each of the Nuns was heard in her turn, while the Others waited with the Domina in the adjoining Vestry. Ambrosio listened to the confessions with attention, made many exhortations, enjoined penance proportioned to each offence, and for some time every thing went on as usual: till at last one of the Nuns, conspicuous from the nobleness of her air and elegance of her figure, carelessly permitted a letter to fall from her bosom. She was retiring, unconscious of her loss. Ambrosio supposed it to have been written by some one of her Relations, and picked it up intending to restore it to her.

'Stay, Daughter,' said He; 'You have let fall....'

At this moment, the paper being already open, his eye involuntarily read the first words. He started back with surprise! The Nun had turned round on hearing his voice: She perceived her letter in his hand, and uttering a shriek of terror, flew hastily to regain it.

'Hold!' said the Friar in a tone of severity; 'Daughter, I must read this letter.'

'Then I am lost!' She exclaimed clasping her hands together wildly.

Oh, brilliant, an early version of the "woman gets caught out because she kept the letter" trope. LoL.


It took a while to get into the writing and archaic use of language ... and getting used to what seems to have been Lewis' favourite word: "entreat". But now that I am used to it, this is a hilariously dramatic way of story-telling. 


Was this one of the books that inspired Austen's mockery in Northanger Abbey? Or was that just The Mysteries of Udolpho

I hope this book had a part in it, tho. 


This is delicious. 


Oh, and the Gothicky atmosphere is dripping off the page, even tho there are very few descriptions of the place. Amazing really. Gothicky fan-fiction would have spent at least a quarter of the book so far on using adjectives to describe the buildings and shadows. 


It really is a pleasure to read this at nighttime. I should really dig out some candles to accompany this reading experience.

Reading progress update: I've read 16 out of 386 pages.

The Monk - Christopher MacLachlan, Matthew Gregory Lewis



I have the Clipper audiobook (unabridged) narrated by Nigel Carrington to enjoy alongside my (fabuous) Penguin Classics edition.


And while Nigel Carrington is an excellent narrator, I question the producers' competence to produce an audiobook, because they have broken what to me should be one of the first rules of creating an audiobook:






Luckily, I caught this in time to hit the "forward" button on the cd. I'm peeved, tho. 


Reading progress update: I've read 191 out of 191 pages.

Watson's Choice - Gladys Mitchell

LoL. Well that was a lot of fun.


Why the thing with the bust, tho? Was the tobacco box too obvious?


And, yes, I am also tickled by the solution and reveal of the murderer...because that sort of stuff amuses me.




Granted, tho, much of my enjoyment was derived from the references to Sherlock Holmes. 


Reading progress update: I've read 183 out of 191 pages.

Watson's Choice - Gladys Mitchell

‘I couldn’t say.’ He stood aside, smiling, and added, ‘Our own bust of Napoleon is in the hall, but this is another little present for Sir Bohun, I imagine, anyway.’

Mrs Bradley handed the parcel back to him with the remark that it was heavy, and preceded him into the room.

Bell placed the package on the table and began to undo the string.

‘Not another of those Sherlock gadgets?’ said Sir Bohun, obviously reluctant to have the parcel opened.

‘It looks like it, Sir Bohun,’ said Bell. ‘This is like all the other labels I’ve seen, and, now I come to look, the postmark’s the same.’

‘Is it? What is the postmark?’ demanded Sir Bohun.

He took the wrapping-paper and studied it carefully. ‘Blest if I can make it out. What do you say it is, Beatrice?’

Mrs Bradley took out her small magnifying glass.

‘Difficult to say,’ she replied, studying the label and then the wrapping-paper.

‘What do you make of it, Mr Bell?’

LoL. What brilliant scenes. All the detectives standing in a circle, with no idea what is going on.


Now, come on, folks, crack that bust open.


Currently reading

Frankenstein by Marilyn Butler
Progress: 39/261pages
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dan Stevens
Progress: 15%
Sincerity and Other Scary Tales by David Blixt
Der Gesang der Wellen by Manuel Vicent
Progress: 79/254pages
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
Progress: 25/298pages
Perseus in the Wind by Freya Stark
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 424/1344pages
Rule Britannia (Virago Modern Classics Book 120) by Daphne du Maurier, Ella Westland
Progress: 114/329pages
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, H.M. Parshley, Deirdre Bair