Sunday, March 1, 2020

Reading Summary for February 2020

February was a strange reading month. It took me close to 3 weeks to read Bleak House. I also read a good number of short stories, most of them in the two short story books I have already reviewed. All of the books I read were published before 1990. One of the books from the 1980s featured a nun as the main character and was written by a nun.


Bleak House (1853) by Charles Dickens
This is one of Dickens' longest novels. Some readers consider it his best novel. I have only read A Christmas Carol by this author, so I can make no comparison. I feel ambivalent about the novel. I enjoyed reading much of it, but it was a very difficult read, and seemed too long to me. It was first published in 20 monthly installments. 

Grand Hotel (1929) by Vicki Baum
Translated from the German by Basil Creighton with revisions by Margot Bettauer Dembo
Several disparate people stay in the Grand Hotel in Berlin over several days. For almost all of them, the people they meet and the things they do there effect changes in their lives. This was a remarkable book, thought-provoking and entertaining. 

Crime Fiction

The Saint Valentine's Day Murders (1984) by Ruth Dudley Edwards
This is book 2 in the Robert Amiss series. The first two books in the series feature office settings, and focus on bureaucracy and office politics. See my thoughts here.

Seven Days in May (1962) by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
After Kirk Douglas died earlier this month, we watched Seven Days in May, a film he had starred in. It was directed by John Frankenheimer, and Burt Lancaster also had a major role. We have watched it many times but it had been a while. The book it was based on had been on my shelves since 2014, so I decided it was time to read it. It is a fast-paced thriller about the attempt by military leaders in the US to take over the government and remove the President from power. A very good read.

A Novena For Murder (1984) by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie
This is a very cozy mystery starring a nun as amateur sleuth. Sister Mary Helen has retired at 75 and is sent to Mt. Saint Francis College for Women in San Francisco. Shortly after she arrives the body of a professor at the school is found, following an earthquake. The police blame the wrong person, in Sister Mary Helen's opinion, so it is up to her to find out what happened. I liked the setting and the characters; it was the perfect read for me at the time.
Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens (1982) by Michael Gilbert
This is one of two books of short stories about two middle-aged spies, working for a secret government group in the UK called the Joint Services Standing Intelligence Committee (JSSIC). See my thoughts here.

English Country House Murders (1988) ed. by Thomas Godfrey
A short story anthology edited by Thomas Godfrey. The volume begins with a charming introduction by Godfrey; he also introduces each story. See my thoughts here.


Cath said...

Wow, I'm full of awe that you got through Bleak House in 3 weeks! I'd like to read it but am put off a bit by the length. The BBC did an excellent drama of it about 15 years ago so at least I have some idea what it's about, two of our now famous actors got their start in that, Anna Maxwell Martin and Carey Mulligan. Gillian Anderson was in it too.

I quite fancy A Novena for Murder, it sounds like fun.

TracyK said...

Cath, Unfortunately I did some of my reading of Bleak House over two nights when I could not sleep well (shoulder problems which I hope are resolved now). And as I got towards the end of the book I got very interested in the story and the ultimate fate of the characters, so I was motivated to read more each evening. But there were a few days in the middle where I got bogged down and could only read a chapter a day. It has 67 chapters.

A Novena for Murder was a fun read. It had a serious subplot but the story was not dark or overly serious. And I forgot to mention that it was the first in a series of eleven books.

Judith said...

Hi Tracy,
I'm interested in everything you've read in February. A Novena in Murder sounds really interesting. Did you borrow from the library, or purchase the book?
I've ordered the anthology via inter-library loan. I'll enjoy delving into that, I'm sure, and I should have it by the end of this week.

TracyK said...

Judith, it is embarassing, I bought A Novena for Murder in 2006 online, from a used book seller, and let it sit on the bookshelf all this time. But I was looking for something like that in the middle of reading Bleak House, and there it was.

I hope you like the anthology.

Margot Kinberg said...

I like the nice mix of different sorts of mysteries you have, Tracy. And you've reminded me that I haven't read a Sister Carol Anne O'Marie in a while. That's a good series that I ought to keep up with a bit better...

TracyK said...

Thanks, Margot. I do remember you talking about the Sister Mary Helen series on your blog.

col2910 said...

I think if I was to re-read Dickens I'd fall back on Great Expectations, but I don't think that's very likely to happen. The Gilbert is the one with the most appeal for me.

Rick Robinson said...

Very nice indeed.

The Dickens I've read are Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. Have meant to read Pickwick Papers, but not gotten to it. Bleak House would likely be the last of his I'd read. I'm not familiar with the Sister Carol Anne O'Marie books at all. I don't think I've even heard of them before this post.

I'm glad you liked the two short story books, I agree they are quite good.

TracyK said...

Col, the difference is that you have read Charles Dickens. I don't think I read anything by him for school or at any other time. Until recently. Not sure if I will read more of his books or not.

TracyK said...

Rick, between Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, I would probably try Great Expectations first, because Oliver Twist sounds so sad. And both are at at least reasonable lengths, compared to Bleak House.

I was glad to read the English Country House Murders stories this month because I had not imagined that I would enjoy them so much. Keeps me motivated to read more older short stories.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, I wouldn't say "strange" as much as "fascinating". You read across such a broad canvas. I need to revisit Dickens, especially since I have not read quite a few of his books including BLEAK HOUSE.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Prashant. I think it felt strange to me because there were times I was reading Bleak House, plus short stories, plus a crime fiction book. Usually I don't divide my focus that much when reading.

I was surprised to see how many books Dickens wrote, I suppose I mostly know about the most popular books.

Andrea Charles said...

Wow, highly appreciable to have read it all in the month of february you are a fast reader indeed Tracy! Especially with the big ones like Bleak House and thank you for the reviews, I haven't read Novena for Murder, will start it up as soon as I get my hands on it!

TracyK said...

Novena for Murder is well worth reading, Andrea.

VasanthMusicCoimbatore said...

It is but surprising and very shocking to see you, dear Tracey complete the Bleak House in 3 weeks. I haven’t actually gotten myself to reading it due to its long 67 chapter storyline but hoping to soon. Thank you for also showcasing some of the fiction and crime fiction ones through this blog.

TracyK said...

And now I have to bring myself to review Bleak House, which will be challenging for me.