Shorts August 2022…

A Bunch of Minis…

I’m storming through the books at such an alarming rate at the moment that my reviewing is continually behind. So another little batch of three, all for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge…

Books 13, 14 and 15

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

Read by Joan Hickson

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

When Rex Fortescue is poisoned the list of suspects includes most of his family and several others who either want to inherit his money or who may have been hurt by his dodgy business practices in the past. The suspect list is soon reduced by one, when another member of the family becomes the next victim. But what brings Miss Marple into the investigation is the third murder, of the maid Gladys. Gladys had grown up in the local orphanage and Miss Marple had trained her for domestic service, so she feels a sense of responsibility towards this young woman who has no one else to care about her. And Miss Marple feels that aspects of her death were particularly cruel, showing that the murderer treated her with a kind of mocking contempt. So, like an avenging angel with knitting needles, Miss Marple descends on the household at Yew Tree Lodge to find justice for Gladys…

This is one of my favourites. (I know, I say that about so many of them, but it’s true!) It makes great use of the nursery rhyme referenced in the title, but without allowing the constraints of sticking to the rhyme to make the story feel at all contrived. But what makes it stand out most is Miss Marple’s righteous anger over the murder of Gladys. One of my regular criticisms of Golden Age authors, including Christie, is that domestic servants are often despatched as second or third victims with barely a second’s thought or a moment’s recognition, merely as a convenient way to move the plot forward. So it’s refreshing to see Miss Marple really care about Gladys’ murder, possibly more than Rex Fortescue’s own family care about his. And the mystery itself is good – not perhaps quite as fair-play as some of her books, but the suspect list is full of intriguing characters, most of whom are unsympathetic enough for the reader to happily contemplate their fictional hanging! Read superbly by the wonderful Joan Hickson – a treat!

* * * * *

Cover Her Face by PD James

Read by Daniel Weyman

🙂 🙂 😐

The servant problem has become so acute post-war that the Maxies of Martingale are reduced to taking on a “delinquent” as housemaid – Sally Jupp, a young woman with an illegitimate child. But Sally refuses to be as humble, penitent and grateful as a fallen woman should be, and various members of the household soon have reasons to resent her presence. So when she is found strangled in her room one morning, the field of suspects is wide. Enter Inspector Adam Dalgleish – full-time policeman and part-time poet…

I mentioned when I put this on my reading list that I used to love PD James but had found her last few books a struggle because it had felt to me that her style had dated badly. I hoped by going back to the beginning of her long-running Dalgleish series that my love might be revived, but I fear not. Sadly her class snobbery is too much for me to take now. It’s odd – I can put up with snobbery and other ’isms in the older authors of the Golden Age much better than from post-war authors. I suspect I feel they should have known better, although my own love for this series back in the day suggests I didn’t know better myself at that time! Whatever, I find I now have no tolerance for passages in post-war novels like the following, describing an elderly maid…

Dagleish had met a number of Marthas in his time and had never supposed them to be complicated people. They were concerned with the comfort of the body, the cooking of food, the unending menial tasks which someone must carry out before the life of the mind can have any true validity. Their own undemanding emotional needs found fulfilment in service. They were loyal, hardworking and truthful and made good witnesses because they lacked both the imagination and the practice necessary for successful lying. They could be a nuisance if they decided to shield those who had gained their loyalty but this was an overt danger which could be anticipated. He expected no difficulty with Martha.

I shall remain grateful to PD James for the enjoyment her books once gave me, but sometimes it’s best to leave the past undisturbed.

* * * * *

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

Read by Ian Carmichael

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

I’ve reviewed this one previously, and my dear little cat Tuppence also once told us why it was her favourite book, so I shall merely remind you all that it’s the funniest book ever written. Ian Carmichael is the perfect narrator for it, and I laughed and chuckled and guffawed my way through the audiobook – if you can get hold of his narration, I highly recommend you do so! In lieu of a review, then, have an extract…

….I knew a young fellow once, who was studying to play the bagpipes, and you would be surprised at the amount of opposition he had to contend with. Why, not even from the members of his own family did he receive what you could call active encouragement. His father was dead against the business from the beginning, and spoke quite unfeelingly on the subject.
….My friend used to get up early in the morning to practise, but he had to give that plan up, because of his sister. She was somewhat religiously inclined, and she said it seemed such an awful thing to begin the day like that.
….So he sat up at night instead, and played after the family had gone to bed, but that did not do, as it got the house such a bad name. People, going home late, would stop outside to listen, and then put it about all over the town, the next morning, that a fearful murder had been committed at Mr. Jefferson’s the night before; and would describe how they had heard the victim’s shrieks and the brutal oaths and curses of the murderer, followed by the prayer for mercy, and the last dying gurgle of the corpse.
….So they let him practise in the day-time, in the back-kitchen with all the doors shut; but his more successful passages could generally be heard in the sitting-room, in spite of these precautions, and would affect his mother almost to tears.
….She said it put her in mind of her poor father (he had been swallowed by a shark, poor man, while bathing off the coast of New Guinea – where the connection came in, she could not explain).

* * * * *

Two out of three ain’t bad! 😉

46 thoughts on “Shorts August 2022…

  1. Three Men in a Boat is an absolute delight–I love that book; and nice to see a revisit of A Pocketful of Rye also in your reviews–agree completely on the excellent use of the rhyme there, and also Miss Marple’s reaction at Gladys’ death. PD James I never gotten on with as well as I’d expected.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been fun revisiting some of these old favourites as part of the summer challenge! The Ian Carmichael narration of Three Men in a Boat brought all the freshness back – it’s amazing it still makes me laugh so much considering how often I’ve read it! Shame about PD James but she really is particularly snobby and it makes her books feel horribly dated.

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  2. Two out of three really isn’t bad, FictionFan. And you’re not the only one who senses the class snobbery in some of James’ books. As celebrated as she was, her work’s not for everyone. At any rate, there’s no-one better than Joan Hickson to narrate a Miss Marple story, is there? I’m glad you enjoyed rendition!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s a pity about PD James because I really did love her books back in the day, but now her snobbishness grates so badly. I’d rather keep the happy memories, I think! Joan Hickson is wonderful – I just wish she’d narrated more of them. I think I’ve only got a couple left to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh dear. 😓 So hard to see that sort of distinction. I loved a lot of P.D. James’s books. But I haven’t read all of them. Sigh.
    Well, at least the other two were very enjoyable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved them too back in the day and I’m really not sure why her snobbishness bothers me so much now – I can usually tolerate it in older books. But I think I’d rather keep the happy memories of reading them long ago than spoil them by re-reading…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A Pocket Full of Rye is one of my favourite Marple novels as well – I love the nursery rhyme element! And I definitely agree that Three Men in a Boat is the funniest book ever written. It sounds as though it worked very well in the audio format.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sometimes she doesn’t really use the nursery rhyme in her books except for the title, but I love the way she works it through the whole story in this one! Ian Carmichael’s narration brought all the freshness back to Three Men in a Boat – it was as much fun as reading it for the first time! Honestly, it’s better than chocolate… 😉

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  5. That’s a shame about the P.D. James. I loved her books when I read them and don’t recall the snobbery. Or, perhaps at that point in my life I just thought all British writers did that! 😂 I do notice it more now than I did before, so I probably shouldn’t revisit her novels, either.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Usually I can tolerate that kind of class snobbery in older books – somehow it annoys me more with her. It may be because she became a “talking head” in her later years and I found myself disagreeing with her stance on nearly everything! Whatever, I think I’d rather keep the happy memories of reading them long ago than spoil them by re-reading them.

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    • I loved them too back in the day and I’m not sure why the snobbery bothers me so much now – usually I can tolerate it in older books. But I think I’d rather keep the happy memories of reading them long ago than spoil them by re-reading them. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t read (or listened to) any of these, but from your review, I think I’d be agreeing with you. I know I’d enjoy the Christie (I always do!), and reading a book that makes you laugh can’t be bad, right?!! As for the James … sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s a pity about the snobbery in the James, but at least I still have happy memories of reading them back in the day, when it obviously couldn’t have annoyed me so much! The Christie is great – one of her best – and Three Men in a Boat is better than medicinal chocolate! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pretty much can’t go wrong with Christie! I took at look at Amazon for a hard copy version of Three Men and a Boat, and it looks like there are scammers out there making unreadable versions. Is that why you listened on audio?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I just saw that Ian Carmichael had narrated it and he seemed like he’d be perfect for it – and he was! I’ve read it so often I nearly know it by heart, so listening to it brought back the freshness, so to speak. I hope you can get hold of a reputable copy. It’s always still in print over here since it’s such a classic, but maybe not in the US. I believe Penguin Classics have issued it in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Three Men is indeed a joy, I’m glad it brought you pleasure (again)! That’s good, I don’t even have to have a second thought about not having read any PD James. I haven’t been able to find an audio version of Joan Hickson narrating A Pocket Full of Rye from my usual sources and have asked the library to purchase a copy – I hope they oblige. I don’t feel inclined to try an alternative narrator. This sounds like a Christie I would particularly appreciate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Three Men really is the antidote to pretty much everything! It’s a pity about PD James but her books really do seem to have dated more badly than some other writers, possibly because her ideas were pretty old-fashioned even when she was young. I hope you can get the Hickson narration. I noticed that it no longer seems to be available on the UK Audible site – it seems to have been removed over “quality issues”. There are one or two short sections where it’s a bit muffled but that’s not unusual on older recordings that have been transferred to digital from other formats, and it certainly wasn’t enough to spoil my pleasure. It would be a pity if they don’t make it available again.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve finally discovered P D James’s neighbour, friend and diametrically opposite on the political spectrum writer Ruth Rendell, so I’ve switched any allegiance I may have had to someone whose stance I would’ve agreed with! As for Jerome, you’ve persuaded me to overcome my prejudice – that passage you quote is delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

    • For some reason I haven’t read much Ruth Rendell and none in recent years. I recently enjoyed my first experience with her other incarnation, Barbara Vine, and have been thinking I must revisit Rendell and get to know her better, so thanks for the nudge! Ha, you can pretty much find a delightful passage on any page of Three Men in a Boat – such fun! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I find non-fiction almost impossible on audio – requires too much concentration! Re-reads of loved books work best for me, since I already know the plot if my mind drifts off for a while… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Good work! I’m zipping through 20Books books and might have to do a review a day to get them all in, thus annoying my readers I’m sure, but none of them seem to go together to review together then leave a gap!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, I’m having to write the reviews immediately on finishing, often the night before they’re posted, to have any hope of completing the challenge on time! Why do we do this to ourselves?? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Hmm that PD James passage is quite dreadful, no wonder you’re getting fed up with those books. That Miss Marple book looks delightful, and I love that she’s a woman with values we can get behind, even to this day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it? It would be bad enough in a book written in the 1920s but I’d have hoped that by the ’50s people were getting a bit less snobbish. I thought it was an interesting accidental contrast, that Miss Marple cared so much about a servant thirty years earlier – PD James was so out of her time.

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