Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….Breton went steadily forward along the road. That was easy work, but when he turned off and began to thread his way up the fell-side by what was obviously no more than a sheep-track, Spargo’s troubles began. It seemed to him that he was walking as in a nightmare; all that he saw was magnified and heightened; the darkening sky above; the faint outlines of the towering hills; the gaunt spectres of fir and pine; the figure of Breton forging stolidly and surely ahead. Now the ground was soft and spongy under his feet; now it was stony and rugged; more than once he caught an ankle in the wire-like heather and tripped, bruising his knees. And in the end he resigned himself to keeping his eye on Breton, outlined against the sky, and following doggedly in his footsteps.

* * * * *

….Next, there is the image of a garden: not the Bibighar garden but the garden of the MacGregor House: intense sunlight, deep and complex shadows. The range of green is extraordinary, palest lime, bitter emerald, mid-tones, neutral tints. The textures of the leaves are many and varied, they communicate themselves through sight to imaginary touch, exciting the finger-tips: leaves coming into the tenderest flesh, superbly in their prime, crisping to an old age; all this at the same season because here there is no autumn. In the shadows there are dark blue veils, the indigo dreams of plants fallen asleep, and odours of sweet and necessary decay, numerous places layered with the cast-off fruit of other years softened into compost, feeding the living roots that lie under the garden massively, in hungry immobility.
….From the house there is the sound of a young girl singing. She sings a raga, the song of the young bride saying goodbye to her parents, before setting out on the journey to her new home far away.

* * * * *

….“Well, gentlemen, everybody in the world now knows what I found that night. The man who called himself Doctor Charles – we never found another name for him – was lying on his face on the floor. He had been shot clean between the eyes. The door was locked on the inside and the key was on the mat. There was also a bolt on the door which was thrust firmly home. On a table near the body were two roughly drawn maps, without lettering, and I remember getting a thick ear from my superior when I suggested that one of them traced exactly the itinerary of the Ripper murders of eighty-eight. But the most extraordinary thing was that there was no revolver either in the room or anywhere in the house. There was a thorough police search – and I need not tell you what that means. To all intents and purposes the man died in a box sealed from the inside, and the gun he was shot with might well have been a phantom. There was never a trace of it found anywhere.”

From Room to Let by Margery Allingham

* * * * *

….Seated at a small table surrounded by graven idols, the windows closed to the boiling air, he drank sassafras beer and agreed with his host about the weather and dismissed his apologies for making him endure it to come all this way. That said, D’Ortega swiftly got to business. Disaster had struck. Jacob had heard about it, but listened politely with a touch of compassion to the version this here client/debtor recounted. D’Ortega’s ship had been anchored a nautical mile from shore for a month waiting for a vessel, due any day, to replenish what he had lost. A third of his cargo had died of ship fever. Fined five thousand pounds of tobacco by the Lord Proprietarys’ magistrate for throwing their bodies too close to the bay; forced to scoop up the corpses – those they could find (they used pikes and nets, D’Ortega said, a purchase which itself cost two pounds, six) – and ordered to burn or bury them. He’d had to pile them in two drays (six shillings), cart them out to low land where saltweed and alligators would finish the work.

* * * * *

….“How do I know?” said Mrs. Oliver crossly. “How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man? I must have been mad! Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland? Why a vegetarian? Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got? These things just happen. You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life. And people even write and say how fond you must be of him. Fond of him? If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.”

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

36 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

    • It’s been a good week this week, so I’d recommend them all! 😉 But if I had to choose, I think it’d be Bodies From the Library – I’m about halfway through and so far it’s a great collection of vintage crime short stories.

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

  1. Oh, I’ve always loved that bit from Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, FictionFan! It’s just priceless. The Allingham story looks good, too. And I’ll be interested in what you think of the Morrison. I have to admit I’ve not read that one, but I’ve wanted to. That’s the thing, isn’t it: there are too many books on the ‘I want to read that/I should read that’ list. And that’s not to mention the ‘Oooh…shiny’ books… *sigh*

    • I love that bit too! I can just imagine that that’s how she felt about poor Poirot – especially making him a Belgian! The Allingham story in the anthology is actually from a radio play script she wrote for the BBC, and is excellent. So far this anthology is shaping up to be great. The Morrison is wonderful – not quite up to Beloved standards perhaps but then, what is? But it’s restored my faith after the slight disappointment I felt over Song of Solomon. Haha – five books arrived in the post today… help!! 😉

  2. It’s years since I’ve read the Jewel in the Crown. I remember liking it, though not enough to read the others in the series.
    I’d forgotten how funny Mrs. Oliver is. I think that extract was a not too subtle attempt by Christie to inform her readers she was becoming tired of writing Poirot mysteries.

    • I couldn’t remember if I’d read The Jewel before but now that I’ve started it I know I definitely haven’t. So far it’s going well but I’m not very far into it yet.

      Haha! I love Ariadne Oliver! She’s probably my favourite Christie character and I do wish she’d made more appearances in the books. Yes, I suspect Christie may well have had an overwhelming desire to strangle poor Poirot… 😀

  3. Yes, definitely by the excerpt from Room to Let by Margery Allingham, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, and the one from Toni Morrison’s novel. (May she rest in peace.)

    • The Margery Allingham story is great, and I’m not usually a huge fan of hers, so that’s high praise from me! Christie can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, as you know, so I loved every moment of Mrs McGinty. And A Mercy is excellent – it was pure coincidence that I was reading it just after Toni Morrison died, but it felt right – a good way to honour her work and life…

  4. The Paul Scott excerpt is calling me. I have had it and its brethren too long on my TBR shelves, it is time to dive in!

    • I’ve only just started it, but it’s looking good so far and some of the descriptive prose is wonderful. Ha! I sympathise – some of the books on my TBR have been there so long they’re threatening to sue me for neglect… 😉

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

  5. You knew I’d find the two murders unable to be passed up, right?? I don’t recall reading the Christie, and I know I’ve not come across Bodies in the Library. Looks like an excellent week of reading, FF, and I’m eager to read your reviews.

    • It’s a good bunch for crime and mystery fans this week! Mrs McGinty is right up there with Christie’s best, I think, and so far the Bodies from the Library anthology is proving to be full of goodies, lots from the major golden age authors. There will be a few 5-star reviews soon, I suspect… 😀

  6. I’m often grabbed by covers first, and I love the look (and sound) of those first two. So the second is part of four? Have you read any of the others?

    • The Middle Temple Murder was very enjoyable and will be being recommended. I’ve only just started The Jewel in the Crown so it’s too early to say yet, but it’s going well so far. No, I wasn’t sure if I’d read it before but now that I’ve started I know I definitely haven’t and I haven’t read any of the others. I’ll see how this one goes and then decide if I want to read the rest – this one seems to be the famous one.

    • It’s very short so I’m actually finished it now – excellent! It maybe doesn’t have quite the power and impact of Beloved but it restored my faith after my mild disappointment with Song of Solomon. She packs a lot into a small space, and really has the gift to create unforgettable characters… full review soon!

  7. Seems like you are having a great reading week! In particular, I like the quotes from the first two. Jewel in the Crown might be my first choice, would be interesting to read about that specific time of India’s history.

    • I am! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed/am enjoying every one of these. It’s usually a sign of a great week when I’m inspired to do a Bookish Selfie post. 😀 I’ve only just started The Jewel in the Crown so it’s too early to say, but it’s going well so far – some of the descriptive prose is wonderful…

    • I’m about halfway through it and it’s great so far – lots of excellent stories from some of the major talents of the golden age! Not all locked room, but all vintage crime – good stuff! 😀

  8. I love the Jewel in the Crown and the other three that come after it. In fact reading that paragraph makes me want to re-read it. Brilliant TV series of course in the 80s. Staying On is good as well albeit depressing.

  9. Oh my, I’ll just read along in your shadow, picking up the books as you’ve finished them. They all sound good; you must be having an excellent week! Love that extract from Jewel in the Crown. The Morrison is perfectly timed. I’ve been wanting to read something of hers, particularly now, and something short might be a good way in right now.

    • That was a particularly good week’s reading which is why it inspired me to revive Bookish Selfie. I thought A Mercy was excellent, so if you’re in the mood for Morrison, go for it! I’m still trying to get properly into The Jewel in the Crown, as sometimes happens to me with longer books – but hopefully it’s just about to grip me. The descriptive writing is great!

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