Books read in September and October
Hey guys, so we’re doing things a little differently today. You may remember that I took an unexpected blog hiatus when my almost-five-year-old laptop’s hard drive failed. Last when I posted my laptop was still in for repairs and I didn’t know how much data I was going to lose. The good news is that I didn’t lose a single file. The technician firmly impressed on me how lucky I had been and how close I’d come to losing nearly everything I created in four years. Especially since I didn’t have any full backups.
Now my laptop has a shiny new hard drive and I am aware of how easily a digital lifestyle could end if one piece of hardware fails.
So what does all of this have to do with doing things a little differently today? The first difference is the most obvious – I’m doing two months’ books in one as I wasn’t able to post September’s review in its proper slot. The second difference you’ll see below.
Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
Lords and Ladies is the 14th Discworld novel and, in my opinion, one of the strongest of Pratchett’s early work (written in the early 90s).
It features lots and lots of elves, and these are not the modern idea of elves. They are not even Tolkien’s brutal elves who have the power to destroy a whole world. These elves are straight out of the old folktales and wouldn’t look out-of-place in the Mabinogion.
Pratchett’s elves could and would destroy a whole world just for fun. They like fear and laugh in the face of people’s pain. They get inside your mind. They taunt and play with you like a cat plays with a cornered mouse. With an enemy so seemingly without weakness how do you even face them?
Yeah, it’s really good.
And here comes the second difference. I’m not going to do individual reviews for the whole bunch of murder mysteries I read. Hey, a girl has to do something with the eleven very long evenings that passed while her laptop was in for repairs. So I attacked my mother’s Agatha Christie collection. I read nine books in 11 days and seven of those were Agatha Christie murder mysteries.
In this interest of full information, those books were the boarding school story Cat Among the Pigeons, the classic The Moving Finger, the collection of short stories The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, the spy-story N or M?, the other classic A Murder is Announced, the crime syndicate plot At Bertram’s Hotel, and one of my personal favourites 4.50 from Paddington.
This overdose of Christie made me notice something rather interesting – the world painted by these novels is strangely familiar.
Most of these books are set during World War II, and one or two of them are even set during the war. Of course, that was seventy years ago and the world has changed so much since then that it is almost unrecognisable.
And yet, the most surprising thing to me is how much it has remained the same. The things that Christie’s characters talk and complain about are shockingly familiar.
There is, of course, the constant complaints about the rising costs of everything, including medical care. Inflation is a massive pain and people could not make ends meet. Sound familiar? Obviously it does, but it also sounded familiar to the people of 70 years ago.
Then there are the complaints about national health care schemes. They cost a lot of money and not everyone wants to pay up for other people’s doctor visits. Not much has changed, huh?
I couldn’t make this list without mentioning the disparaging way that Christie’s older characters talk about young people, calling them lazy, worthless and directionless, usually while sighing and asking what the world is coming to. Well, I’ve been called all those names before by… guess who? People who were young during and after WWII. All of that sighing and despair seem not to have led to much.
But, lastly, the plot device that filled me with the most dark amusement was the issue of refugees. Hardly a chapter went by in some of these books with some English person bitterly complaining about all of the refugees entering their country. There are discussions about whether these refugees are criminals (of course they are the prime suspects in every one of the murders that take place, almost always unjustly). There are discussions about how these refugees are sponging off English government funds and there are discussions about how there is no space to accommodate said “jumped up, ungrateful” refugees.
How this amused me because, of course, all of the refugees in England 70 years ago were Germans who fled from the Nazi regime in their own country. Oh, how the wheel has turned. What can I say… I like finding my humour in dark situations.
I felt rather like I was doing an intense study of the world as it has been. People haven’t changed all that much.
PS. Of course, the third different thing about this post is that it is a week early. This is because NaNoWriMo starts next week and I will be doing my usual writing update posts for November, like I have done every year since I started this blog. If I finish any other books during the last few days of October they will just have to go into November’s “read-in” post.