Monday, August 31, 2009

September's Selection

By Shiloh:

So I am going to make two suggestions. First is the "recommended" reading that we will be discussing at the end of the month. The second I just really think y'all will like if you have some extra time and I would love to discuss it with anyone who actually reads or listens to it.

For me this was a really hard choice, but I'll explain about my descision. Many of you know that although I read a great variety of literature mainly I read just to relax and enjoy myself, the way most people veg out with a movie. Although I also enjoy watching movies as much as the next person the fact is that I can normally read an average novel cover to cover in the same time I could watch a movie or two. The book I picked for discussion is called "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray. Amazingly enough it is simply a good story. Similar to the way many of us would sit down with ice cream and a chic flick, this is a book version, chic lit., at it's finest. Told through the eyes of a regular woman it is simply a sit, back, relax and listen-while-I-tell-you-my-story kind of book. I hope you all do just that, don't think or over analyze, just read for fun.

If you get the time or inclination the other book I highly recommend is "Born to Run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen" by Christopher MacDougall. It is one of the most entertaining yet informative books I've ever read. Ok so actually I listened to this one which I think actually made it better because whoever was narrating (it may have been the author even) was awesome! The only reason this didn't make the discussion list is because when the writer quotes other athletes (and even professors) he doesn't leave out a word, even the ones not suited for polite society. However with that warning I still encourage anybody to read this book. It is nonfiction but reads more like an adventure novel in a lot of places. I truly found it fascinating. It even kept me awake while driving across Wyoming and Nebraska in the middle of the night and trust me that takes some doing.

Have fun reading, everybody! We'll start discussion Sept. 25th.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Discussion for Peril at End House

I am officially opening discussion for this month's reading selection. If you haven't finished it yet, you may not want to read the rest of this post until you do, lest I spoil anything for you.

I've read enough Agatha Christie that there have been times I have been absolutely convinced I had figured out the mystery before the end. My instincts have been right exactly once. (And that was astonishingly, with the book most people are the most surprised at, "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." Even so, I still remember reading it thinking, "Oh I hope I'm wrong, I hope I'm wrong. This can't really be so." And despite having correctly figured it out, I've still read it more than once because I do consider it one of her absolute best.)

But I digress. This is not a discussion of Roger Ackroyd, it's a discussion of Nick Buckley. And by this book I was indeed surprised. One of the things I love about Christie is that she crowds the stage with so many characters that it's easy to drop hints and clues (and red herrings) without anyone picking up on it. We know from the beginning that Freddie has a secret, as does Jim Lazarus. We suspect the Crofts aren't exactly what they claim to be, we're unsure what to make of George Challenger and Charles Vyse, cousin Maggie seems a superfluous character (until she gets bumped off, of course) and we instinctively distrust the maid, Ellen, her husband and son. About the only person we do trust in the story is Poirot himself and his ever faithful Hastings.

Christie is a master of misdirection. She hides clues in plain sight as some would say. It is both brilliant and frustrating that she packs enough side story and coincidence into a single mystery that we're so easily led astray. As we read, we're constantly filing away information thinking, "That might be important" only to find out, that it was a useless red herring. And yet when all is revealed in the final scene we think, "Wow, it was right in front of me all along! She basically gave it away in the very beginning and I missed it." That was how I felt upon reading the final chapters of this story. Freddie gave us the answer in Chapter 2! And yet we were so caught up in the "red herring" clues (Jim Lazarus and his offering too much for a painting, the Crofts and their fake Austrailian accents) that we missed it completely.

I won't give away the ending just in case some of you haven't finished it. But I will say that my own instincts were not only wrong, by the time of Nick's near fatal cocaine overdose I had given up on trying to figure it out. I was much too confused by everything. I myself felt like Poirot as he pounded his head envisioning himself a failure.

As for the things I did figure out, I knew fairly early that Freddie had a drug problem. Having read enough history and literature from the time I was well acquainted with the fact that cocaine use was legal and in fact fashionable in many social circles. I did not, however, figure out who the dealer was until they revealed that fact. Freddies estranged husband showing up at the last minute seemed too coincidental and actually completely unnecessary to the story if you ask me. Except that it gave our murderer a very convenient (if momentary) scape goat. And after having heard who posted the will, I figured out that it was the Crofts who had taken it, and although I guessed it was so that they could alter the will, I had no idea how that would have tied into the murder, until of course, their true identities were revealed at the end. (And it turned out to having nothing whatsover to do with the murder anyway.)

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as I do most Christie stories. I know that it's hard for many people to get used to her particular writing style, but once you do, you realize how carefully constructed the stories are. Poirot's indiscriminant use of French is always a little maddening, as is his huge ego. But in the end, he sorts it all out, so I guess perhaps his narsicism is slightly justified.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Discussion for August

FYI - Official discussion for "Peril at End House" will begin on August 25th. Happy Reading!