Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….As the column approached the Narva Gates it was suddenly charged by a squadron of cavalry. Some of the marchers scattered but others continued to advance towards the lines of infantry, whose rifles were pointing directly at them. Two warning salvoes were fired into the air, and then at close range a third volley was aimed at the unarmed crowd. People screamed and fell to the ground but the soldiers, now panicking themselves, continued to fire steadily into the mass of people. Forty people were killed and hundreds wounded as they tried to flee. [Father] Gapon was knocked down in the rush. But he got up and, staring in disbelief at the carnage around him, was heard to say over and over again: ‘There is no God any longer. There is no Tsar.’

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….At grey of night, when the sun was gone, and no red in the west remained, neither were stars forthcoming, suddenly a wailing voice rose along the valleys, and a sound in the air, as of people running. It mattered not whether you stood on the moor, or crouched behind rocks away from it, or down among reedy places; all as one the sound would come, now from the heart of the earth beneath, now overhead bearing down on you. And then there was rushing of something by, and melancholy laughter, and the hair of a man would stand on end before he could reason properly.
….God, in His mercy, knows that I am stupid enough for any man, and very slow of impression, nor ever could bring myself to believe that our Father would let the evil one get the upper hand of us. But when I had heard that sound three times, in the lonely gloom of the evening fog, and the cold that followed the lines of air, I was loath to go abroad by night, even so far as the stables, and loved the light of a candle more, and the glow of a fire with company.

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From The Valley of Fear:

….And now, my long-suffering readers, I will ask you to come away with me for a time, far from the Sussex Manor House of Birlstone, and far also from the year of grace in which we made our eventful journey which ended with the strange story of the man who had been known as John Douglas. I wish you to journey back some twenty years in time, and westward some thousands of miles in space, that I may lay before you a singular and terrible narrative – so singular and so terrible that you may find it hard to believe that even as I tell it, even so did it occur.
….Do not think that I intrude one story before another is finished. As you read on you will find that this is not so. And when I have detailed those distant events and you have solved this mystery of the past, we shall meet once more in those rooms on Baker Street, where this, like so many other wonderful happenings, will find its end.

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….They were rich, they were ready, they were ravenous for bear. Nine days into their fourteen-day voyage on the Vanir, the most expensive cruise ship in the Arctic, the passengers’ initial excitement had turned to patience, then frustration, and now, a creeping sense of defeat. As sophisticated travellers they knew money didn’t guarantee polar bear sightings – but they still believed in the natural law that wealth meant entitlement. Ursus maritimus sightings very much included.

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From the Archives…

….What did it mean, sitting in that motel parking lot, waiting to see? What did it mean to know she’d been there, maybe just minutes before, she’d been there, so close you could maybe still feel her, hear the squeak of her tennis shoes on the doormat, smell her baby-soft hair. They’d been there, been there behind one of those clotty red doors, and done such things…and now gone. And now gone.

(Click for full review.)

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So…are you tempted?

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

the end of everythingUncomfortable but engrossing…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Written in the first person, we see the story unfold through the eyes of 13-year-old Lizzie. Evie and Lizzie have been friends for ever in that close, intimate way that only happens in childhood where every secret and emotion is shared. Now, however, Evie has disappeared and Lizzie is trying to make sense of her feelings of loss, her suspicions that Evie may have been hiding something and her relationships with Evie’s family who have been her second family for so long.

Voices pitchy, giddy, raving, we are all chanting that deathly chant that twists, knifelike, in the ear of the appointed victim. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, four o’clock, five o’clock… And it’s Evie, she’s it, lost at choosies, and now it will be her doom. But she’s a good hider, the best I’ve ever seen, and I predict wild surprises…

This book is an examination of that difficult time when childhood and adolescence meet. Lizzie is experiencing her first feelings of sexual desire and is trying to understand and deal with this. Being 13 is a long time ago for me now, but Lizzie took me back to that turmoil of emotions, that clash of innocence and knowingness, that combined sense of anticipation and apprehension of a new phase of life, and it seemed to me that the author had caught this incredibly accurately. Through Lizzie, she talks about the physical changes, the private fantasies, the struggle to understand the motivations of adults and to be accepted by them in a new way, the secrets and stresses within families.

Lizzie is telling her story retrospectively with the vocabulary of an adult but expressing the thoughts and feelings of a child. I know some people found this jarring, but I love Abbott’s use of language. It always strikes me as innovative and original, and in this book took me right inside Lizzie’s head as she tries to deal with these frightening events that are suddenly thrusting her into an adult world.

What did it mean, sitting in that motel parking lot, waiting to see? What did it mean to know she’d been there, maybe just minutes before, she’d been there, so close you could maybe still feel her, hear the squeak of her tennis shoes on the doormat, smell her baby-soft hair. They’d been there, been there behind one of those clotty red doors, and done such things…and now gone. And now gone.

Megan Abbott
Megan Abbott

The book is tautly written and relatively short at around 250 pages. I found it an uncomfortable but engrossing read, covering aspects of pubescent sexuality that we sometimes like to pretend don’t exist. Suspenseful to the end and with a pervading atmosphere of dread, I shared with Lizzie a need not just to know what had happened to Evie, but to understand. This is not a book I will soon forget – I highly recommend it to anyone who was once a 13-year-old girl, though I was glad to see that it has been well received by male reviewers too.

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link