Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….A boy rushed past him carrying a rock the size of a soda can, and Shawn wondered where it could’ve come from, this rough chunk of nature in a village trimmed with locked doors and polished glass. Then he noticed three wide-shouldered men surrounding a tree, breaking off branches. They looked almost calm – the fire in their eyes was not wildfire, but a controlled, channelled anger.
….He followed them. He wasn’t alone – the crowd seemed to converge behind them. From the corner of one eye, he saw a flash of movement, a boy jumping to land on a parked car, but he stayed behind the three men with their branches, trailing them with a sense of wonder. Fists flew up all around him, and voices rose in exuberance and fury, their words swarming together until they morphed into chants. “Black power!” “Fight the power!”
….And the men swung their branches, shattering a wall of glass.

~Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

* * * * *

….The statues are disappearing. They are covered in sandbags, or wooden planking. They’ve been carried down to cellars, or camouflaged. Peter’s bronze horse no longer rears above the city, smashing the air. His hooves beat against the sand which packs against him and the planks that mask him.
….The whole city is going into disguise, and its people are going into disguise with it, carrying pickaxes, spades and entrenching tools over their shoulders, smearing their faces with sweat and dirt, clodding their boots with mud. They’ve taken trams and trains out of the city, to work on its defences. They sleep in hay, boil water for tea over twig fires, and bandage their blistered city hands with rags. Students, schoolchildren, women, old men: they’re all here, digging for their lives.

~The Siege by Helen Dunmore – now abandoned, due to a) present tense and b) the author having forgotten to include a plot…

* * * * *

….“…I, for one, felt a curious reluctance to enter that dark foreboding belt of trees. Something stronger than myself seemed to be holding me back and urging me not to enter. I felt more definitely convinced than ever of the evilness of the spot. I think that some of the others experienced the same sensations that I did, though they would have been loath to admit it. The trees were so closely planted that the moonlight could not penetrate. There were a dozen soft sounds all round us, whisperings and sighings. The feeling was eerie in the extreme, and by common consent we all kept close together.
….“Suddenly we came out into the open clearing in the middle of the grove and stood rooted to the spot in amazement, for there, on the threshold of the Idol House, stood a shimmering figure wrapped tightly round in diaphanous gauze and with two crescent horns rising from the dark masses of her hair.
….“‘My God!’ said Richard Haydon, and the sweat sprang out on his brow.”

~The Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

* * * * *

….Dark human shapes could be made out in the distance, flitting indistinctly against the gloomy border of the forest, and near the river two bronze figures, leaning on tall spears, stood in the sunlight under fantastic head-dresses of spotted skins, warlike and still in statuesque repose. And from right to left along the lighted shore moved a wild and gorgeous apparition of a woman.
….She walked with measured steps, draped in striped and fringed cloths, treading the earth proudly, with a slight jingle and flash of barbarous ornaments. She carried her head high; her hair was done in the shape of a helmet; she had brass leggings to the knee, brass wire gauntlets to the elbow, a crimson spot on her tawny cheek, innumerable necklaces of glass beads on her neck; bizarre things, charms, gifts of witch-men, that hung about her, glittered and trembled at every step. She must have had the value of several elephant tusks upon her. She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress. And in the hush that had fallen suddenly upon the whole sorrowful land, the immense wilderness, the colossal body of the fecund and mysterious life seemed to look at her, pensive, as though it had been looking at the image of its own tenebrous and passionate soul.

~Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

* * * * *

(Context: a verra Scottish doctor, McBane, and a very English Major, Boddy, attempt to have a conversation…)

….The Major . . . faced the others with a solemn expression. “There seems no doubt, eh? It is suicide – what?”
….“You’d be a fool to go lookin’ for any other explanation,” said McBane witheringly. “But I wonder why she deed it.”
….North shook his head. “We’ve no line on the motive so far, sir.”
….“Damn all,” added Boddy. “Damn all, McBane.”
….“Wi’ a wumman,” said McBane philosophically, “whatever she does ’tis a waste o’ guid time to look for a motive. A wumman’s motiveless, wi’oot direction – a boot wi’oot a rudder.”
….“Boot?” asked the Major with a puzzled look.
….“Aye – a sheep, mon, a sheep wi’oot a body at the helm.”
….“A sheep?” inquired the Major. “Confound it all, McBane, why a sheep?”
….McBane eyed him with a baleful glint. “I’m theenking your stupeedity is too profound to be genuine. Wull ye quit your havering, mon?”

~Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

45 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. Ah ha, so there’s the abandoned book! I struggled with it too – put me off Dunmore for a long time. And The Heart of Darkness…. I struggled with that even more. Yet this extract shows me strengths I had missed in my own reading, missed because I was so horrified by the subject matter. Maybe I should attempt it again… maybe!

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    • I loved the first Dunmore I read, found the next one mediocre, and thought this one was a bit of a waste of Kindle space! I suspect she’s just not for me. I enjoyed Heart of Darkness, but actually have enjoyed some of his other stuff more – I found Heart of Darkness required an awful lot of concentration and re-reading of passages to make sense of it somehow…

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  2. Hmm…let me guess, FictionFan. You didn’t think much of The Siege, right? I actually fully agree with you about present tense. I just do not like it in books, and only give a pass on very rare occasions. As to the rest of your books, I’ve heard Your House Will Pay is good; I hope you’re enjoying it. I’ll be especially interested in what you think of it.

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    • Haha! I can tolerate present tense if I really must, but combine it with one of these plotless storylines and I’m afraid it brings out all my latent book-aggression! I’m in a bit of a reading slump this week so haven’t got properly into Your House Will Pay yet, but it’s looking good so far…

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  3. Somehow I managed to miss reading Heart of Darkness (maybe “avoid” is a better word choice, ha!), and it still doesn’t grab me. The Christie, however, sounds intriguing — especially the creature with the horns!

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    • Haha! I’ve been avoiding Conrad for years too, but have suddenly discovered I love him after all! Now I’m trying to make up for lost time. The Christie was great – I’m not always a fan of her short stories but these ones were all excellent! 😀

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  4. I started to read The Siege years ago and gave up after a few pages, but since then I’ve enjoyed one or two of her other books so had been thinking about giving it another try. Maybe I won’t bother after reading your thoughts. I love the sound of the John Bude book, though – and the Christie, of course!

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    • I loved the first book of hers I read – Exposure – but I’ve tried a couple since then and been disappointed so I’m guessing her style just doesn’t work for me. The Bude book is great – finally I think I’ve become a fan! And the Christie, of course… 😀

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  5. I love this idea of a reading week in quotes! And I am sure tempted by that Heart of Darkness cover lol omg Can anything be scarier? Is that Oxford Classics series? I never expected that from them 🙂

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    • It’s fun to do and makes me take note of passages that will work, which makes me a more careful reader! Haha – yes, it is an Oxford World Classics. They’ve had some great covers recently – the one for The Island of Doctor Moreau is terrifying too! 😀

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      • Yes, that one is very scary too! On another note, I have been following your reading of British Library Crime Classics for some time and I would like to pick up this series. The issue is there are so many to choose from and I cannot decide on one book to begin. I want to love my first book in the series and I love locked room mysteries or quiet settings. I was wondering whether it will not be too much trouble for you to perhaps recommend a book to start with for me? Many thanks and I will be very grateful 🙂

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        • Coincidentally this one is a really fun and interesting take on the locked room – Death Knows No Calendar by John Bude, which comes as a double volume with Death in White Pyjamas, which I also loved. It Walks by Night by John Dickson Carr is also a locked room mystery, and deliciously dark – almost as much decadent horror as crime. Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert is great – the victim is found in an escape tunnel in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp in WW2, but how did it get there? The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson is fun – the murder is done in a room in the British Parliament building with no way for the murdered to have escaped unseen… yet s/he did! They’ve also issued an anthology of locked room short stories called Miraculous Mysteries, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne is good too, though maybe not quite as good as the Gilbert, Bude or Carr books – I think those three are the ones I would recommend most highly. 😀

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          • Thanks so much for all these great suggestions – these are brilliant and so helpful! It Walks by Night somehow in particular captured my attention, and Death in White Pyjamas I just have to read because of this title! I will put Bude, Carr and Gilbert on my TBR list asap…and Miraculous Mysteries. A million thanks 🙂

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  6. My speach sofftware went berserk trying to read out the Scots, it was almost as funny as the passage itself. Too bad you’ve had to DNF another book, but plotless fiction in the present tense doesn’t sound too promising, so it was probably just as well.

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    • Hahahahaha! That’s going to be my new ambition now – to find books full of strong dialects and quote them! I wonder what your software would make of Yorkshire or Brummie? I’m getting tougher at abandoning books if they’re not doing much for me. I used to struggle on, but it seems such a waste of time when there are so many other books waiting…

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  7. Your House Will Pay is on my TBR so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Every review I read of Dunmore’s work seems either glowing or very disappointed; she has no middle ground!

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    • I liked the first Dunmore I read – Exposure – but have been disappointed with the other two I’ve tried so I’ve decided her style just doesn’t work for me. Plotless books rarely work for me – I need action! I’ve kinda slumped this week so haven’t got properly into Your House Will Pay yet, but it’s looking good so far…

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  8. I’ll be looking for an opportunity to say “Will ye quit your havering, mon?” to the next person who irritates me… I’d love to hear this spoken in the proper accent.
    Helen Dunmore isn’t for me either.

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    • Haha – we still say “Aw, quit havering” whenever anyone’s talking rubbish… 😂 I’m kinda glad several people have felt the same way about Dunmore – I thought she was one of these authors everybody loved! But not me…

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    • I started Your House Will Pay before my reading slump began and was enjoying it, so hopefully I’ll get back to it soon! Oh, I love The Moving Finger! I think it may be my overall favourite – certainly, top three anyway. I love the characters of Jerry and Joanna… 😀

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    • I think she’s one of these authors where her style either works for you or it doesn’t. I always prefer plot-driven books, but I know a lot of people enjoy character and setting more…

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