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1001 Books Roundup: December 2019

This months winners and losers…

The Black Dahlia – BOTM #1 – What Goodreads says: On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia—driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl’s twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches—into a region of total madness. I cannot disagree with anything that GR has said.

My thoughts: Before reading this book and then hitting wiki I thought the Black Dahlia was just a book and a film I was not aware it actually referred to a real murder.

I finished the book and then disappeared down the internet rabbit hole reading about the murder what I can say is that the book uses a lot of the information from the original investigation putting a fictional spin on it until we get down to the murderer in the book – if you ask me the whole murderer/family relationship was ridiculous I think the whole thing would have worked much more effectively leaving the murder unsolved as it was in the real world.

I liked the way the nature of post war Hollywood was explored including the obsession with beauty and sex and the book didn’t shy away from shining a light on corruption at all levels including in the police force.

3 Stars if you like your fiction gritty, tough and violent grab this and enjoy.

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut – TBR Takedown. What GR saysIn Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s  most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.” Yes there are some hilariously funny moments, yes this is satire and yes a lot of it went over my head.

My Thoughts – for me this was a tale of 2 books one was a hilariously funny look at the life of human beings from the viewpoint of a remote observer the other was a hot mess of fictional creations intersecting with the real world with violent results.

“This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which way dying fast.”

“There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation that Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks.”

“It had given him a life not worth living, but I had also given him an iron will to live. This was a common combination on planet Earth.”

“The slaves were simply turned loose without any property. they were easily recognizable. They were black.”

“I guess God made women, so men could relax and be treated like little babies from time to time.”

“They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often:”

“At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.”

“There were enough flowers in Trout’s room for a Catholic gangster’s funeral.”

3 Stars – I enjoyed the ride if not the destination.

Dawn’s Left Hand – Pilgrimage 10 – Yearly. The journey with Miriam continues. In this addition Miriam (possibly) loses her virginity to a married man, because hell she is now 28 so what if she doesn’t really love it’s time to learn first hand what all this sex business is about. She also meets a French woman who confesses to being in love with her, in a departure from her normal behaviour instead of criticising this previously unknown behaviour Miriam is more circumspect instead of outright rejection she doubts that she is the right person for this relationship because she doesn’t really love anyone.

“Why did not English teachers have a sabbatical year, go abroad and lose themselves in strangeness and come back renewed? Why not everyone?

“It was not shock or sadness that kept her silent. Immense, horrible relief in being certain that now the burden of Eleanor would never again return upon her hands. And great wonder, that Eleanor had done her dying. Somewhere, in some unknown room, she had accomplished that tremendous deed. Alone.”

“But is was the visible pageant of marriage that rose before her eyes; so suitably, she felt now, a floral pageant,”

“Glad to escape from her, and her universe where women were judged by their looks and men by their incomes.”

“He cherished Saxon English for its sanguine force and rich earthiness, but did not know how continuously vivid was German, with its unaltered, ancient pictoriality, every other word describing an action or an object so as to bring it before the eyes; even the terminology of philosophy being directly descriptive.”

“Art, sex and religion; one and the same.”

Her disapproval of English people is both Irish and French.”

3 Stars – as usual not a lot happens and what happens is so subtle you blink and you miss it but as this late stage there is no point giving up.

Deep River by Shusaku Endo – BOTM #2 What Goodreads saysIn this moving novel, a group of Japanese tourists, each of whom is wrestling with his or her own demons, travels to the River Ganges on a pilgrimage of grace. ”  There is nothing here that I can disagree with.

My thoughts: For me this book was an interesting exploration of religious beliefs and how they are more alike than different when you break it down and look into it. We start by exploring Christianity and the idea of sacrificing yourself for a higher good before moving on to look at Buddhism and the ideas of reincarnation eventually we end up in India with Hinduism and the caste system which while there is a strict hierarchy kept in life in death everyone is equal and the River Ganges accepts all souls with no questions asked.

The Japanese tourists on the pilgrimage all have different reasons for going to India and while some personal quests are successful others (on the surface are not) everyone in the group is changed by the experience.

I liked the way the back stories of everyone on the trip are slowly revealed and how they all have subtle connections to each other. India is also beautifully bought to love in all her beauty and all her ugliness.

3 Stars – an interesting philosophical read and only 216 pages! Get in there.

Clear Horizon – Pilgrimage 11 – Yearly. Action points in this instalment: Miriam has a miscarriage, Miriam breaks of all her personal relationships including Hypo and Amabel and finally Miriam plans to leave it all behind and escape to a new beginning. Miriam also finally realises that men don’t know everything and that women aren’t that bad. (She probably still despises Americans although they are not mentioned)

Favourite Quotes:

“You’ve reformed him’ I said ‘someone will reap the benefit’. And she smiled and for a moment seemed to be looking wistfully along his future.”

“But to Sissie she would have seemed the enemy. An artful, fast young lady beside whom, men being what they are, a decent girl stands no chance.”

“Sissie’s puzzled sulkiness with life for failing to fulfil its promises does not dim her cheery sanity”

“Amabel downstairs at dinner, ignoring every one but me, both of us using the social occasion to heighten our sense of being together”

“Fortunately, like most men, he had no ear for artificiality of tone.”

“Amabel knows immoral moments…They draw her. And she knows how surely life clears a space for them a few seconds.”

“His picture of what they had run away from would be as ill-realized as his vision of their destination.”

“even the different social classes are secret societies”

“But these people were gathered to fee sad and she tried in vain to experience sadness.”

“You’ve seen the growth of dentistry from a form of crude torture to a highly elaborate and scientific and almost painless process.”

3 Stars – I am still waiting for the major events to leap out and bite me in the butt but no they are still as hidden as a blackbird in a coal cellar.

Dimple Hill – Pilgrimage 12 – Yearly. I enjoyed this section I appreciated the slower pace of the life the descriptions of trees and gardening and the time out that Miriam allowed herself to just be without having to prove anything.

I liked the descriptions of Quaker life.

Favourite quotes:

“But to prowl there would be to step back into last week, the other side of eternity. To go anywhere, yet, way from this corner where strength had begun to return, would be to leave that strength behind.”

“Tranquil, unquestioning ‘church people’, finding within the strongholds of their orthodoxy both comfort and peace.”

“The worlds from which one after another she had retreated, gathered round her redeemed from bondage to time and place, each, now, offering a brimming cup her unsteady hands had been unable to hold, each showing as a most desirable dwelling-place.”

“Her stretch of freedom, seeming almost endless when in London she had contemplated and refused to endanger it by clamping down upon it any time- enclosing, time-shortening pattern, expanded now to infinity.”

“Yet the delight of this reading is profane, dependent upon a kind of culture alien to these people. Read downstairs in their company the text would lose much of its savour.”

“Women, Hypo said, were the great garden-lovers, and indeed they inhabited gardens, while most men, until old age, only visited them.”

“Isn’t it the same in private life? If the woman of the house wants anything done, she may mention it, to the average man, again and again without result, until she endures the unpleasantness of making herself unpleasant by using a sharp tone, or by being sarcastic. In politics, even that is useless.”

“Rachel Mary called her attention to a dragon-fly, ‘the devil’s darning needle,’ shuttling from point to point above the sunlit stream. Irradiating the universe.”

“You have built your whole life into the lives of your brothers’, said Miriam meditatively, taking in, bit by bit, what daily through the years this must have meant, ‘and they are not even aware of it.”

“A poet, and a mystic. Also a man. And fair-haired. That is important. The fair-haired people invented scepticism. Philosophical scepticism.”

3 Stars – the slower nothing happens pace actually fits with this instalment only 1 volume left to go keep on truckin’

March Moonlight – Pilgrimage 13 – Yearly. The final volume of this epic story. Epic in terms of length not so much in terms of action. This section was actually pieced together after Dorothy Richardson’s death so we will never know how she actually wanted to finish her Pilgrimage. Like the other sections not a lot happens but perhaps that is the point, maybe the idea is to show that every life has valued and is worthy of note.

Favourite Quotes:

“felt in equal measure a desire for close acquaintance and a fear lest the desire be realized.”

“Apart we could forget each other: but our serenity in absence owed its power to the quality of our meetings.”

“And our intermittent silences, rather than tension creating searches for fresh materiall, were fragments of a shared eternity”

“From hell, heaven is inaccessible until one has forgiven oneself. So much, much more difficult than accepting forgiveness.”

“To write is to forsake life.”

“If I were less than I am, I should talk about her until my friends would grow to dread her name.”

“Time is suspended, but moments are ticking themselves away.”

“Look at the churches as they are! Look at the endless damage done to their own cause by these enclosed academies of males”

“For me, he is Rome in flight from Rome.”

“Only when I am with others does my sense of isolation return.”

3 Stars for the whole journey. Overall this actually ended better than it started. For those of you wishing to read this my best advice is to read about Dorothy Richardson first as the book mirrors her life and there are things that will be missed if you don’t know her story.

And that is a wrap my 1001 reading for 2019 is officially over. In 2 days my 1001 reading for 2020 will officially begin…

Thank you for joining me on my journey and I look forward to catching up with you in 2020.

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