Archive for October, 2010

Through the Wall (book #84)

20 October 2010

Patricia Wentworth, 1952.

This is one of the most rocking Miss Silvers. She appears fairly early on – page 56 in my edition (a typo-ridden Coronet, 1982). Miss Silver’s niece Ethel and her great-niece Josephine actually appear, in a great domestic scene. There is some good dry humour:

[Miss Silver] did not care for the book they had given her at the library, and she thought [she – typo] would change it. She would prefer a novel in which the characters had at least heard of the ten commandments …

Ethel is “one of those who prefer to read about people whose circumstances as nearly as possible resemble their own”. Miss Silver chooses a library book for her, “hastily looking at the end to make sure that no harrowing incident cut short any of the infant lives, and finding the entire family very happily grouped round a Christmas tree on the last page” – very Pink Sugar. One does wonder how the intelligent Miss Silver puts up with the apparently rather dull Ethel.

And we get a glimpse of Miss Silver’s underwear:

Miss Larkin [police searcher], being passionately addicted to crochet, became quite warm in her admiration of the edging which decorated Miss Silver’s high-necked spencer and serviceable flannelette knickers, which had three rows on each leg, each row being a little wider than the last. On being informed that the design was original she was emboldened to ask for the pattern, which Miss Silver promised to write down for her.

She’s also good in this book on people* who don’t care about clothes, including probably Miss Silver herself, though clearly she does care enough to add embellishments to her knickers.

*by which I mean women, as obviously men aren’t interested in clothes.

And Randall March’s opinion of Miss Silver is more nuanced than usual: “His feelings for her were those of affection, gratitude, and the deepest respect, with an occasional tinge of impatience”. The author is also faintly critical: “Miss Silver was, perhaps, inclined to describe quite small things as providential. The fact that during this time of waiting she had been able to finish off the second stocking of the pair she was makig for Derek Burkett did undoubtedly present itself in this light”.

We also get Miss Silver’s positive reaction to a sermon, an apparently powerful one that tells us that “‘every single one of us every single day of our lives thinks, and says, and does the things which are the seed from which murder springs'”.

There’s some interesting stuff on love and need too. Marion tells Richard, who is in love with her, that she’s dull: “‘You would soon come to the end of it. Then it would bore you'”. He says that “‘most of the things that really matter … are fundamentally simple. … You don’t get tired of what you need'”.

Also, didn’t know that – as this implies – “I couldn’t agree more” has sometimes been thought not good use of language. When March says it Miss Silver thinks “He had not learned this phrase in her schoolroom, but she let it pass”. Not sure what the issue is about it.

And there is a Scottish cat called Mactavish, whose “orange coat recalled the best Dundee marmalade,” and who makes “a meticulous toilet”. What more could one ask for?

The Attenbury Emeralds (book #83)

17 October 2010

Jill Paton Walsh, 2010.

Well, more Lord Peter and Harriet has always to be a good thing, and this didn’t seem to me to have as many failings as Thrones, Dominations. But really, Lord Peter talking about his mh problems as “throwing a wobbly”? Apart from the fact that him discussing them explicitly, particularly with Bunter there as well as Harriet, seems unlikely …

WordWizard gives some dictionary cites. Looks as if the phrase “a wobbler” can be dated to at least 1942 (the book is set in 1950 or 1951, as Peter is 60 and the Festival of Britain is mentioned), but citations for “throw a wobbler” or “throw a wobbly” are later (1970s). The phrase “throw a wobbly” was among those added to Collins in 1986 (Guardian). I realise that JPW can’t have used slang without thought and that the original Lord Peter uses contemporary slang. But this particular phrase really stands out as unlikely, especially as she doesn’t show him using 1950s slang in general, and as the Guardian link says, this particular phrase reads as later.

I also completely failed to understand the plot – the reason for swapping the emeralds, and the motive for the murders – this doesn’t worry me unduly, as I read for story rather than plot, but it does leave me with a faint nagging feeling.

And Harriet’s happiness in her conservative role at the end is a long way from her days as Bohemian party-goer.

I’m looking forward to nineveh_uk’s review. So far she has said only “Where does one start beyond “someone is wrong in these pages”?” and That a dis-emeralded Rajah has turned up on page 18 probably says all you need to know about its quality. … I keep having to stop to say “WTF?TRY(%HDFNW(HGOAT!”.