Bertie, May and Mrs Fish (country memories of wartime) by Xandra Bingley.
I read this because I was decluttering my books again — space is desperately needed. I was curious to see what others said about it online, and found two groups: the enchanted and the disappointed. I fall in the latter category, though the character of the mother (May) came through strongly enough for me to feel that I almost knew her. The narrative style was breathless and occasionally confusing, though I understood that it was representing the flow of consciousness of a child. But about halfway through (when we got to the horses) I started to wonder why I was reading it. I felt at a distance from what was happening, and didn’t quite understand why the book was about the parents (and their generation) rather than the daughter. I cantered through the rest, as I wanted to push on with other books tugging at my sleeve. There was a review from someone saying something like “if you are not profoundly touched by the last chapter, you must be lacking in all feeling,” but I had disengaged long before I got there!
The Taking by Dean Koontz.
A reviewer on Amazon.com says there is an equal amount of love and hate for this book also. Perhaps that’s not so strange, as the people who are most likely to comment are those feeling strongly one way or another. Readers in the middle will just get on with the next thing!
There was no room for this hardback on the ‘Dean Koontz’ shelf, so it was taken up and sifted out. I’ve read books by him that impressed me, but though this particular novel was well-written, with an even tone and a plot that keeps you hanging on, there was so much gory detail that I found myself wondering (yet again) why I read so many DK novels.
One of his strengths is also a weakness: drawing out a moment so that you might start the next chapter and find that the hero or heroine hasn’t moved at all, but is still considering options. But it makes it easy for me to skip through the next however-many paragraphs to avoid gory details. I read enough to know that somebody has been taken down, but I don’t stay around to absorb every juicy squelch and lingering scream.
At their strongest, DK’s novels are full of life and colour, and you can almost see and feel what is being described. Every laugh, sunny morning, song on the radio, lamp glowing softly, family home full of welcome, and affection for a reliable friend or companion. When it comes to sifting, I have a tendency to sift for the positive…
Last night I had the book in bed with me. I got to a point where (after a lot of spooky noises and phenomena) the lights went out, and everybody was on high alert, switching on their torches and looking for things lurking in the shadows. From the corner of my eye I noticed something flapping, and went “aieee!” and sank down into my bed, then realized Mum had pulled the door open just a bit and was flapping a note at me. It was about one of the cats having finally come in for the night. Mum did that before, and I had a similar reaction (probably reading another Dean Koontz novel!) I’m thinking that I might get less of a shock if she just opened the door and walked in, without any of this flapping. I thought it was some kind of malignant moth from another world.
Anyway, two books down, 9,998 to go…