Friday, January 29, 2010

What Ya Readin': Mrs Tim of the Regiment

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson was one of my Christmas books. I had been very excited to hear it had been republished, as early last year I read another D.E. Stevenson book - Miss Buncle's Book which I loved. Besides which, for an officer's wife a book about being an officer's wife held lots of appeal.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mrs Tim of the Regiment and am hoping the Bloomsbury will republish some others in the series. Though aspects of army life have changed since the 1930s, when the book was published, I was overwhelmed by the timelessness of many of the issues Mrs Tim encounters - my copy of the book is well tagged with post-it notes. And, there are some great lines about army life.....

'One of our dear C.O.'s most popular ideas,' adds the Child, 'Never knew a man to have so many popular ideas'. (p. 22)

'After some preliminary conversation Nora says that she particularly wanted to see me today, because.......she wonders if I can help her with a crossword......-'A word of nine letters meaning "Living in the abode of another",' she says firmly. Suggest 'Officer's wife', but Nora says that is too many letters, and the third must be Q.' (p. 12)

'It is only that you have nothing in common,' I interrupt him breathlessly. 'Guthrie, so listen to me, and believe that I know what I'm talking about - it wouldn't be quite so bad if you could marry and settle down in a home with friends round you, and each have your own interests and amusements, but Service people can't do that. They've got to be pals, making each other do for everything, finding their home, and their friends, and their interests all in each other'. (p. 242)

Actually the book is very similar in tone to the Provincial Lady books, possibly because both are diary form written around the same period. There are some very amusing lines.....

'Am bitterly aware that Tim is one of those men who do not understand clothes or women, but reflect afterwards that perhaps this is just as well in some ways. Men who understand women being sometimes too understanding of women other than their wives.' (p. 29)

'Major M, asks what on earth I am writing, and is informed by Tim that it is my strange custom (since 1st Januray) to record any daily doings in the enormous tome which he now beholds. Tim also volunteers information that the book is kept securely locked and that he doesn't 'think it will last long'. Realise that it is my perseverence he doubts (not the book's durability) and throw a sofa cushion at his head.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What Ya Readin': The Snack Thief

I recently finished my fifth Andrea Camilleri novel. I started reading the series about four years ago but it initially failed to capture my interest. I noticed that Yvonne had a similar experience with his novels and so, with that in mind, gave them another go last year. I was won over. However, I am not reading the novels in any particular order, just as they come to hand.

In 'The Snack Thief' Inspect Montalbano is investigating the murder of an old man in a lift shaft. On the same day as the murder occured a Tunisian man working on an Italian fishing trawler was machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast. Montalbano suspects there is a link between the two killings. His investigation soon leads him to the elderly man's cleaner - a beautiful Tunisian named Karima - who, with her son, has gone missing. Karima, it seems, also has links to Tunisian terrorists.

Her son, the 'snack thief' of the title, is found by Inspector Montalbano when he starts stealing other school children's mid-morning snacks. At this stage, Inspector Montalbano realises that Karima may have met with foul play and her son is also likely to be in danger. He takes the son into his own custody but soon discovers that there are very high powers indeed involved in the murders.

In essence 'The Snack Thief' is about international terrorism, and the lengths a government will go to to protect their citizens. What intrigued me about this book was that the inside cover reveals that it was first published in its original Italian in 1996. I was only 12 at that time, but it does not strike me that the mid 1990s was a period when issues of international terrorism featured large in literature.

As always, Camilleri is witty in his writing. I loved these lines...

'What's wrong?' Signora Antonietta asked in alarm.
There is no Sicilian woman alive, of any class, aristocrat or peasant, who, after her fiftieth birthday, isn't always expecting the worst. What kind of worst? Any, so long as it's the worst. Signora Antonietta conformed to the rule. (p. 40)


Thinking he'd had a light lunch, he felt obliged to eat everything. (p. 55)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What Ya Readin': Detecting in Scotland

Well five days into 2010 and I have started to make an indent on my pile of Christmas book. They were exactly what I wanted, though it helps that I ordered the ones my husband gifted me to ensure that they were:)

I decided to commence the year catching up on what had happened in Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie series. I had the two latest novels outstanding. They lived up to my expectations and, as usual with AMS novels, I felt like I was leaving a good friend when I reached their closing pages.

In the 'Comfort of Saturdays' Isabel is drawn into the case of a Doctor who appears to have been mistakenly accused of falsifying a report on the safety of an experimental drug. Meanwhile, in her private life she is having issues with Jamie's friendship with the American composer, Nick Smart; who is arrogant and very rude to Isabel from the outset.

In 'The Lost Art of Gratitude' Isabel is convinced by an associate of an earlier case - Minty Auchterlonie (from vague memory she featured in the first of the Isabel Dalhousie series) to investigate threats she has been receiving, supposedly from the father of her young son. Isabel's niece Cat has a new love interest, inappropriate as usual, a tight-rope walker called Bruno.

Isabel and Jamie's son, Charlie, is growing up. He has his first kilt, goes to his first birthday party (though whether the invitee could be called his friend is debatable as in their first encounter Roderick is described by Isabel as 'an alpha baby trying to take her son's boot from him by brute force') and says his first word 'olives'. Their are also romantic developments afoot for Isabel and Jamie as they consider formalising their relationship.

What I like about Alexander McCall Smith's novels is his gentle but witty and thought provoking prose. From the Lost Art of Gratitude (p. 49)

'Jamie himself had referred to what he called her Pre-Raphaelite beauty; 'Holman Hunt might have painted you,' he had said. She had protested that she found this most unlikely, but she had been flattered, and had filed the remark away in her memory, to be taken out and reflected upon, as such compliments should be, when one was feeling one's worst, on a bad-hair day.'