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



Reading progress update: I've read 243 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith


7 pages to go and it is still wide open how this is going to end for Sydney.

Reading progress update: I've read 224 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

Good grief, Alicia is such an idiot.

Reading progress update: I've read 188 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

Well, Highsmith is messing with me: I kind of want to root for Sydney, but I really also don't.

Reading progress update: I've read 164 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

I'm really enjoying this.


However, this is such an odd story. We - the readers - know that part of the story that is being spun is false, so for the last I don't know how many chapters, I just wanted to shake Sydney and tell him to get a grip.



Reading progress update: I've read 111 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

Alicia felt vaguely hurt. Edward wasn’t in the spirit of the thing at all. ‘You’d think there was something illegal about what we’re doing.’

Edward gave a laugh. ‘Darling, there is. And it’s worse with the police in it.’

‘If I do what you suggested, I won’t be able to see you or be with you for months and months.’

That was true. Edward was silenced for a moment, torn.

Alicia went into the kitchen to attend to the dinner.


Hah! Well, at least it sounds like Sydney and Alicia deserve each other. This story also has a hint of Double Indemnity in it. 

This is delicious. 

I have no idea where this is going.

Reading progress update: I've read 93 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

This is an unusual story. I think the rural English setting does something to tone down the intensity of the underlying dysfunctional relationship. 

Sydney is a total psycho, tho.


And I definitely do not trust the sense of calm in this story. Not one bit.

There is something brewing, and my guess is that it is about to be unleashed.



Reading progress update: I've read 13 out of 251 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

‘What kind of fiction does he write?’

‘Oh – not things with plots. At least not just now. His first two novels had more of a plot, but the thing he’s working on now hasn’t. It’s called The Planners, and it’s about a group of people who decide to plan the experiences they want in life and live accordingly. It sounds as if it’d have a plot, but it hasn’t.’

Alicia smiled.

‘He can’t sell it yet, either, though it’s been finished for a year. His television ideas have plots, of course, absolutely crammed, but so far no luck with them.’

‘Ah, well. The arts take time. Don’t let him get discouraged.’

LoL. This really made me laugh.

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 252 pages.

A Suspension of Mercy - Patricia Highsmith

HOORAY, THE WEEKEND! ... made even better by the start of a planned buddy read with Lillelara of Patricia Highsmith's A Suspension of Mercy.

"The land around Sydney and Alicia Bartleby’s two-storey cottage was flat, like most Suffolk country. A road, two-laned and paved, went by the house at a distance of twenty yards. To one side of the front walk, which was of slightly askew flagstones, five young elms gave some privacy, and on the other side a tall, bushy hedge provided a better screen for thirty feet. For this reason, Sydney had never trimmed it. The front lawn was as untended as the hedge. The grass grew in tufts, and where it didn’t, fairy rings had eaten circles exposing green-brown earth. The Bartlebys took better care of the ground behind the house, and they had besides a vegetable and flower garden an ornamental pond some five feet across that Sydney had made with a cemented pile of interesting stones in its centre, but they had never succeeded in keeping goldfish alive in it, and two frogs they had put there had decided to go somewhere else."

I'm intrigued. What could possibly lurk behind the hedge that keeps even wildlife from thriving?


Friday Night Food

Because winter has returned. The rolls I made last night are still lovely and just perfect with soup, tho. They have been quite the revelation - 3 ingredients and 15 minutes of baking. 

I mentioned this to a colleague this morning and he shared some of his favourite 3-ingredient rolls with me. I foresee more home-baked rolls in my future.

Oh, and I am really enjoying Girl, Woman, Other.

Reading progress update: I've read 58 out of 455 pages.

Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo

With new books arriving, I didn't want to leave any of the ones from my last book haul on my tbr shelf, so I finally overcame my hesitation to start such a hyped-up book and fell into Girl, Woman, Other last night. So far, this is absolutely gorgeous. 


Be warned, tho, Evaristo values style more than using capital letters or punctuation. 

Here are the first few paragraphs of the book for illustration:


is walking along the promenade of the waterway that bisects her city, a few early morning barges cruise slowly by

   to her left is the nautical-themed footbridge with its deck-like walkway and sailing mast pylons

   to her right is the bend in the river as it heads east past Waterloo Bridge towards the dome of St Paul’s

   she feels the sun begin to rise, the air still breezy before the city clogs up with heat and fumes

   a violinist plays something suitably uplifting further along the promenade

Amma’s play, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, opens at the National tonight


she thinks back to when she started out in theatre

when she and her running mate, Dominique, developed a reputation for heckling shows that offended their political sensibilities

   their powerfully trained actors’ voices projected from the back of the stalls before they made a quick getaway

   they believed in protest that was public, disruptive and downright annoying to those at the other end of it

   she remembers pouring a pint of beer over the head of a director whose play featured semi-naked black women running around on stage behaving like idiots

   before doing a runner into the backstreets of Hammersmith howling"


Bookish Post...

So, erm, yes, a book haul may have happened recently...and the first lot of books has arrived over the last few days.

I mean, it's not that I need books because I am running out any time soon (haha), but ... I've been wanting to read more about and by Ellen Wilkinson ever since reading her The Division Bell Mystery

I also needed a paper copy of The Freaks of Mayfair because the audiobook I have of this is horrible and I think E.F. Benson may work better in actual book form here.

Lastly, Based on a True Story is - I think - a contemporary thriller, but I don't actually know much about it (and want to keep it this way). I simply look forward to it because French contemporary thrillers are outwith my usual reading habits. It's an adventure if you like.


There will be a second lot of books at some point. I may have gone a bit wild.

Reading progress update: I've listened 1 out of 1130 minutes.

Paul Temple: The Complete Radio Collection: Volume Two: The Fifties - Francis Durbridge

After spending much of this afternoon and evening reading non-fiction about various crimes against humanity, and given that watching the news at the moment is equally depressing, I'm in need of another bit of comforting distraction: I have turned to Wallace and Sayers over the last week, so just for a change, I'll throw in some Durbridge. 


I came across these fabulous compilations of the old BBC Radio productions. I finished the first installment (The Early Years) last year and enjoyed it very much. These collections come with some additional material - material that is no longer viable to publish/release because the quality has deteriorated or it is incomplete, etc. 

It's probably material that only appeals to fans of the series, rather than new listeners, but I appreciated it. 


This second installment in the collection turns to the 1950s and contains five complete radio dramas:


- 'The Gilbert Case' (1954)

- 'The Lawrence Affair' (1956)

- 'The Spencer Affair' (1957)

- 'The Vandyke Affair' (the 1959 remake), and

- 'The Conrad Case' (1959)


I won't listen to them all back-to-back so this will be a longer-term project, but I love that these radio productions are available again. 

The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein

Reading The Shock Doctrine, I got flashbacks to reading No Logo all those years ago when I was a student. Klein's writing was eye-opening back then, and her case studies and research made even a dry brick of a book a project that I could not set down. 


It is the same experience with this one. The sheer amount of detail and background make Klein's book very addictive because it feels like an attempt at keeping a record of events that will probably be edited out of the footnotes of history.

The Shock Doctrine feels like an attempt of holding people accountable, and it is a very timely and thought-provoking read. It's also entirely infuriating. It's very depressing to be reminded that current events/circumstances are the very basis for the disaster capitalism that Klein describes. 


The only reason that I am not increasing my rating for this book is that I felt it lacked balance, which was most evident for me when Klein wrote about Hugo Chavez, without any mention of criticism. Granted the book was written in 2008, but still I expected more balance even if I agree with the underlying premise Klein is arguing.


Still, this was again a thought-provoking read and, maybe because of the current events we are living through, I loved that the book ended on the message (paraphrasing here): 


What can we do right now to start to bring our community back in spite of the government, not because of it?


The Secrets We Kept

The Secrets We Kept - Lara Prescott

DNF @ 20%.


I am not impressed. 


The women characters are pretty vapid apart from Olga, Pasternak's muse. However, even she is so far only defined by her relationship with Pasternak.

I don't know why, but I'm really noticing how this book would fail the Bechdel test in every scene so far. 


Also, I'm not interested in the writing style. It's aggravatingly a lot like chick-lit and I also have issues with other aspects of the tone.



Next up in the Will's World Project...

The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

My plans of reading the plays in order have been thwarted again, but since the NT at Home will show Coriolanus (the Donmar Warehouse production starring Tom Hiddleston) this week, I'll try to read the play before Thursday. 


This is also one where I do not have the Arkangel audiobook to accompany me (and I don't have a spare credit at the moment). So, this will be "text then play" reading. 


I'm excited about the Hiddleston production, tho. I was really impressed by his portrayal of Prince Hal / Henry V in The Hollow Crown



Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

I need a great book to make up for my last reading experience. I also feel like re-reading the Wimsey stories in order, this time including the short stories, which I've so far neglected or rather saved up for special circumstances. I guess, a pandemic should qualify as "special circumstances".


In any case, a visit to Duke's Denver is on the cards.

Currently reading

Creed or Chaos? Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Or, Why It Really Does Matter What You Believe) by Dorothy L. Sayers
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist by Laura Beers
Progress: 36/532pages
Selected Poems by W.H. Auden, Edward Mendelson
Progress: 64/376pages
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor
Progress: 605/1344pages
Halbschatten by Uwe Timm
Progress: 16/272pages