January Round Up, No 645 – 643

Well, I started this year with good bloggish intentions – lots of reading, lots of posting, lots of keeping up to date with all my favourite blogs.

Then this happened…

ankle

Torn ligaments in my ankle meant three weeks of rest, which in theory sounds lovely, but in practice is a bit of a head melter. Everyone reminded me to relax, to catch up on lots of reading. Which I did. I read loads, but I don’t know if it was the pain or the painkillers, but I just couldn’t concentrate to blog or keep up to date with other blogs.

So, I’m starting 2016 off with yet another round up post of my reading for January. I really hope to get back on track this month, reading Mrs Dalloway for Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong and getting organised for Reading Ireland Month which kicks off in a few weeks.

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No 645 Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith

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In the 6 years since Tom Ripley murdered Dickie Greenleaf and inherited his money, things have gone well for Highsmith’s amoral antihero. He lives in a beautiful French villa with his wealthy wife and indulges in his love of art, languages and gardening. Although, of course, there are still a few little less that legal sidelines, including an elaborate art forgery scheme which is threatening to collapse and expose Tom’s involvement. So Ripley must once again do whatever it takes to preserve the tangle of lies he has emmersed himself in, even if it means resorting to murder.

Much of the joy of this book is the fact that Ripley is such a wonderful character. Crime novels usually hang on a fictional detective who solves the crimes of others, but in this case, Highsmith has created a series of books where we focus on the criminal. Yet Tom is the most unlikely of criminals. He murders with little thought, but only when he feels a situation demands it. He appears sociopathic, yet can be sensitive to the plight of others. He never regrets the crimes he commits, but neither does he yearn to carry out more.

The plot itself is relatively implausible and often plays out like some French farce without the laughs. Often Tom’s problems arise from his own actions, inviting Murchison to his home; impersonating Derwatt himself; entertaining Dickie Greenleaf’s nephew, but Highsmith excels in exploring the elaborate consequences that can arise from the smallest of decisions. Knowing that there are four more books in the series does take the tension out of the book to some extent, but the pleasure comes from how Tom will get away with it this time, rather than if he will.

Read on: iBooks

Number Read: 102

Number Remaining: 644

No 644 In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

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These eight interlinked short stories all centre on the estate of the wealthy Harouni family in Pakistan, exploring the lives of servants, landowners, mistresses, peasants and socialites. The opening story ‘Nawabdin Electrician’ is the story of Harouni’s handyman, willing to take a bullet for the motorcycle that helps him do his job. ‘Saleema’ focuses on a young servant girl who gets by solely on her relationships with older co-workers and ‘Our Lady of Paris’ takes us out of Pakistan altogether to explore the life of Harouni’s son as he struggles to marry life in Pakistan with life in America. By focusing on one family, Mueenuddin explores the clash of ancient and modern life in a country where the old caste systems are co-existing with modern day capitalism. Whether the stories feature the trials and pains of the poorest in society, or the ease and boredom of the wealthy, the prose is illuminating focusing on love, loss and change and is sympathetic to all the characters without becoming sentimental.

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Read on: iBooks

Number Read: 103

Number Remaining: 643

No 643 The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

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I really wanted to like The Uncoupling, which has a great premise that is never completely fulfilled. The small town of Stellar Plains welcomes a new edgy drama teacher to Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Eyebrows are raised when she decides on Lysistrata as the school play, until the female sex strike of Aristophane’s comedy becomes a reality as one by one the women of the town are overcome by a spell which stops them wanting their husbands, lovers or boyfriends, none more so that devoted couple Dory and Robby and their daughter Willa. The novel starts well, with a certain playfulness and topical witty observations on middle class, middle-aged life. However as the spell hits each female character in turn, the novel gets a little bogged down in back story and detail. The tension dissipates and the twist of an ending falls a little flat.

There are some interesting insights about the transient nature of desire within the confines of a relationship but I was unsure of what Wolitzer was trying to say. Dory and Robby had a good, happy relationship to start with, so what should they learn from their enforced celibacy? Should all relationships be long distance in order to retain a spark? And what of the political connotations of the Lysistrata? A plot line about using the sex strike for modern day political demonstration peters out and life more or less returns to normal for all involved. There are some nice ideas in The Uncoupling, but for me, it just fell a bit short of it’s promise.

Read on: iBooks

Number Read: 104

Number Remaining: 642

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I also read The Girl on the Train while I was convalescing thanks to a friend who lent me her copy and it was nice to catch up on one of those buzz books that everyone else has read! The Girl on the Train was much more fun and much more readable than a book which has universally horrible characters, a perpetrator you can spot from half way through and an utterly ridiculous ending. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait for the film (although Emily Blunt is way to pretty to play Rachel!).

Can’t wait to catch up on all your lovely blogs and find out what you’ve been reading!

The 746

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Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

37 Comments Leave a comment

    • Thanks Barb, The Girl on the Train is a fun read. I read it in one day – couldn’t put it down! I think I have The Interestings in the 746. I wouldn’t be put off reading Wolitzer again, this one just didn’t really work for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. After enjoying the film version of The Talented Mr Ripley, I’ve always wanted to read the book series (books tending to me better than the films). This post has been another reminder!

    I hope your ankle is better soon and you can get up and about. The idea of rest always sounds great, but can become a boring trial.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The premise for The Uncoupling is intriguing – it’s too bad it turned out to be wishy-washy. I’ll be interested to hear what you think about The Interestings once you read it, and how it compares to this one. The only Wolitzer I’ve read is The Ten Year Nap, which I thought was okay.
    I hope you’re turning the corner with your ankle!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oof! Wishing you all the best with your recovery, Cathy. I can only imagine how distracting the pain must be. Highsmith is hard to beat, isn’t she? Talented remains my favourite of her Ripley novels, but the others are very good, too. Glad you enjoyed this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Cathy, I was thinking of your whereabouts. Sorry about the injury. I hope you feel better soon. 🙂 Despite the pain and meds, you seem to have had a great month book-wise.

    And, I haven’t read ‘The Girl on the Train’ yet. Now that you have enjoyed too, I will give it a chance soon. 🙂

    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good reviews, and interesting insights into why The Uncoupling didn’t work. I think maybe sometimes novelty premises sound intriguing, but it must be difficult to keep the outcomes away from the formulaic.
    Hope the pain subsides soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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