Sunday, January 29, 2012

wrapped up in (British) books

Quite unintentionally, the last two books I finished were both novels by British authors, whose books I have always enjoyed. Could they keep the streak going with these two books? All will soon be revealed.

Tigerlily's Orchids - Ruth Rendell

When Stuart, a vacant and rather vain boy-toy, decides to throw himself a flat-warming party, he invites all the residents of his small London apartment house in the outer suburbs. He is loathe, however, to invite his needy and expensive lady friend, as that would entail also inviting her husband. The party sets off a chain of events that forever impacts the lives of everyone who attends.

Rendell, always a keen observer of human nature, has created in Tigerlily's Orchids a richly-drawn cast of characters. I was taken with how well-rounded these people were, with all the foibles and redeeming qualities of people you would find in any neighbourhood.

Tigerlily's Orchids doesn't follow a standard murder mystery format, in that the murder (and I am not spoiling anything here) happens quite late in the novel. By this point, the series of intertwined sub-plots had branched into twisted threads.

I did feel that the book sort of fell apart briefly toward the end, but the scatteredness was short-lived and the novel concluded most satisfactorily. A fun read, with characters who remain vivid and memorable long after the last page is turned.

Juliet, Naked - Nick Hornby

Duncan is the self-proclaimed world expert on the life and music of Tucker Crowe, an American musician who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared into a reclusive life shortly after releasing his magnum opus. Annie is his long-time girlfriend who tolerates his obsession, until the release of Juliet, Naked, Tucker Crowe's first new release in over twenty years, causes a rift between the two.

Like all of Hornby's books, Juliet, Naked is a fast and fun read. Although I have never personally broken into somebody's house to use the toilet, while stalking the occupant, some of Duncan's musical obsessions did hit rather close to home. Hornby knows his music nerds.

Lovely touches of irreverent humour, an odd cast of characters, and a realistically ambiguous ending makes Juliet, Naked a good mid-winter novel.


Anonymous said...

I like murder mysteries but haven't read but two of Rendell's books. One I thought just so the other was predictable from the first page. Reviews of this one, however, I have noticed are good.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It was enjoyable, vicomtesse. She develops the characters really well. It's not her greatest but you may well enjoy this one.

Anonymous said...

Ruth Rendell and PD James have been some of my favourite mystery reads over the years. It's unbelievable that PD,and Ruth can't be far behind, is still writing at 90! My new fave though is Kate Atkinson, another Brit. Also some Nordic writers like Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen...even better than Stieg Larsson. Great reviews, Barb...thanks!

Wandering Coyote said...

I thought Tigerlily's Orchid kind of fell apart at the end, too, and I didn't think the title had much to do with the story, and that was a bit misleading. But it was a good book.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm pretty sure that you introduced me to both PD James and Ruth Rendell, Berni. I really need to check out some of these Nordic writers now, I think.

True, I thought it was actually a really lame title, WC. I could think of a half dozen better ones, as I am sure could you.