A Tale of Two Books

I’ll start with the one that I ultimately didn’t like, Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (2 out of 5 stars).   I’ve read a few reviews of Bowen’s work described in mostly glowing terms by book bloggers. This combined with finding out about her friendship/relationship with Virginia Woolf made me check this one out when I stumbled upon it in the library.   Bowen’s book is a tale of wartime London that the Atlantic Weekly described as “Imagine a Graham Greene thriller project through the sensibility of Virginia Woolf .”  It must have been the Graham Greene in it that caused me to dislike it, because I adore Virginia Woolf.  While I like the atmospheric descriptions of London and the interactions of the supporting characters, I simply couldn’t make myself get into the main story line (I wasn’t thrilled by the thriller so to speak).  My favorite supporting characters were Louie and Connie, and wondered if the lesbian overtones that I was reading into their relationship were intentional on the part of the author.  Stella Rodney is a woman  whose lover Robert “is suspected of selling secrets to the enemy, and that the man who is following him wants Stella herself as the price of his silence.   The book also reminds me a little bit of Javier’s Marias’s Your Face Tomorrow, with it’s theme of secrecy, spying and “how little we can truly know of those around us.”  Both books also contain heavy amounts of internal dialogue in the main character’s head. Your Face Tomorrow is much clever, the language less stilted, and while I adore being in the head of Marias’s main character, I couldn’t get out of Stella’s head quickly enough and sometimes found myself skipping paragraphs to get to the supporting characters and their interactions.

Here’s one line I did like however,

“There came a Sunday set for victorious bell-ringing: throughout the county every steeple was to break silence. When at last it came, the bell’s sound was not as strange or momentous as had been expected: after everything these were still the bells of the former time, climbing, striving, searching round in the air in vain for some still not to be found new note.  All that stood out in the cities were unreverberating lacunae where there were churches gone.”

Next up, Alfred’s Bester’s “The Stars My Destination,”  (4.5 out of 5 stars), a read for this month’s scifi book group at Politics and Prose, and one of my favorite reads of the year.   It’s funny, but it’s sometimes  harder to write about books you like a lot, than about books you disliked.  This was one I read rather quickly…in the course of couple of days, because I wanted to find out what happened next.  From the back cover, “In this pulse-quickening novel, Alfred Bester imagines a future in which people “jaunte” a thousand miles with a single thought, where the rich barricade themselves in labyrinths and protect themselves with radioactive hit men–and where an inarticulate outcast is the most valuable and dangerous man alive.  The Stars My Destination is a classic of technological prophecy and timeless narrative enhancement by an acknowledged master of science fiction. ”   I agree.

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