Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Purple Roomby Mauro Casiraghi

The Purple Room The Purple Room by Mauro Casiraghi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


"We left the courtroom in silence. Without saying a word, we each knew what was going through the other’s mind. Every moment of our life together, from the day we first met, until the exact moment when it all ended. It was the inventory of our successes and failures, many of which weren’t the same. I had mine, she had hers. Standing there, on the stone steps of the courthouse, the moment had come to leave each other for good. To go our separate ways. It was then that we felt the elation of failure. A weight had fallen from our shoulders. At long last we could abandon the struggle to love and respect each other until death do us part. We could stop feeling incompetent and guilty. We had been relieved of our duty. We were fleeing from the battlefield like two deserters. It didn’t really matter that I’d been the first to start running. Now we were the same. Alone again, face to face, just like the day we met."


Sergio has survived an accident that almost killed him but he has gaps in his memory. There is one persistent image however that doesn't let him rest: that of a woman standing against a purple wall. Lost and drifting with a sense that he has failed in his relationships, he feels that life will straighten itself out once he meets the woman again.

"The memory that I have of her, in the purple room, will disappear with me. There will be nothing left. What’s been the point of getting this far? I’d like to be able to ask those who are still pushing on, driven by some incomprehensible force. Roberto and Loredana, clinging to each other in the hope of a child. Nino and Sabrina, wrapped in each other’s arms in a hotel room in Majorca. Franco seeking comfort in Petra’s young bosom. Silvia, in love with her insects. Simonetta, with her lovely voice, full of regrets. Luisa and everyone who frequents her dating agency. Marilena. Antonella. Even Jenny and her twenty customers per night. All willing to pay in the hope of finding something that might not even exist. Trying so hard to love and be loved. Only to lose it all, end up alone, cry, suffer. Then start all over again, driven on by the hope that this time it will be better or, maybe, convinced that it will be worse, but determined to plunge right back in, up to their necks. Maybe to end up like me––staggering towards the memory of a state of grace, of a purple room on a sunny afternoon that no one will ever be able to give back to me."

The book with its poignancy reminded me of Arun Joshi's The Last Labyrinth and I liked Sergio's friendship with Roberto and Franco. Would like to read more of this author.

*

Opening Lines: I stopped waging war on the ants after I got out of the hospital. I don’t kill them anymore.

Other books read of the same author: None

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Forgotten Book: The Third Eye by Ethel Lina White (1937)

In 2012, Curtis Evans reviewed Ethel Lina White's 1937 novel The Third Eye, very-very favourably (read his review here). As I had liked all the books that I had read of White till then it immediately went on my wish-list. But it is  only now that Project Gutenberg, Australia has made it available (along with a host of other books by White) that I have been able to read it.





Young, spirited Caroline Watts feels (quite mistakenly) that she is becoming bothersome to her sister Lesley and brother-in-law Professor Freeman and wants to take up a job and move out of their home. Without any  professional degrees, she applies for the job of a sports-teacher at Abbey school. Professor Freemason is not happy about it but the two women (the 'practical sex' as White puts it) convince him that he is worrying about nothing.

However, Caroline too feels the same misgivings when she reaches the school on a dark, drizzling night. On inquiring about the Principal Mrs. Nash, she is told that the lady was with Mrs. Yaxley-Moore, the matron, and wasn't to be disturbed at any cost.:

"That is Mrs. Nash's private suite,.. She is with Miss Yaxley-Moore. So she must not be disturbed."

The peculiar note in her voice corresponded with the man-servant's flickering smile. It created an atmosphere of insinuation which was distasteful to Caroline.

I doesn't help matters when she is told that the previous sports-teacher had died suddenly in the same bed which she has been given:

She slept badly on her first night. Besides being homesick, she was full of nervous fancies which made her shrink from occupying a bed where some one might have died recently. For some time she lay awake, starting at every creaking board before she drifted into a semi-unconscious state in which she could still hear the rustle of the rain while her brain played the strange pranks of dreams.

She thought that she was awake, but was unable to stir, because of a heavy fear of something stirring inside the bed, which paralysed every muscle and locked every joint. She did not know how long it endured, but at last her fingers flexed again and she switched on the light.


As she sat up, she realised that she was really awake, and in a strange but commonplace room. In spite of her relief, she could not shake off the impression of her dream immediately. That sudden drainage of power in the moment of peril appeared to her the more horrible because of her own confidence in her strength and agility.

"Is it a warning dream?" she wondered with a flicker of prescience.





From the next morning, Caroline realises that there is something rotten in the school, especially in the kind of insidious hold that Yaxley-Moore has over Mrs. Nash with her claims to have a third-eye and the gift of communicating with the dead. Caroline wants to prove her  a fraud but doesn't have any conclusive proof. Then finally before the school breaks-up for the winter holidays, Caroline realises that Yaxley-Moore has been guilty of negligence towards an asthmatic girl. And now she has solid proof - in the form of two unopened bottles of medicine - which the matron should have given to the sick girl. Threatening exposure, she asks the matron not to rejoin in the next term.

However, Yaxley-Moore is not one to give up easily and along with her half-sister, Miss Bat, plans to stop Caroline from reaching the school after the break. And this is when the novel really takes off. As Caroline boards the bus on another rain-drenched evening, the nightmare begins.

She was only just entering the labyrinth, when she could not distinguish true from false—friend from foe—or know which move led to salvation or death. The poor Professor, who had preserved a touch of Celtic vision in spite of the grind of routine, had been smitten with presentiment at his last sight of Caroline's face, drowning in the fog.

Who is to be trusted, who is to be not? Who is the young wife of a naval officer? Who is the lady in brown? Who is the commercial traveller? And who is that figure in front - a man or a woman??? Are they all in league against Caroline?

By now the poison of the anonymous letters had spread through her system, numbing her sense of proportion. As she looked around her she began to suspect every one in the bus. From that moment, Someone who was her enemy was travelling with her in the Streamline Coach. Yet, because it was impossible to credit any particular person with sinister qualities, "Someone" became an abstraction of horror, rather than an actual human being.

It was this anonymous element which gradually wore away her nerve, until lethal squares seemed to crowd the board.

And what  about the aristocratic lady in fur:

"Shirley Temple in disguise," suggested the bony man, making his bid as humorist. "She wants to escape her fans, so don't ask for her 
autograph."

[This reminded me that England's captain Douglas Jardine had sent two Shirley Temple dolls to the daughters of Australian cricketer Bre Oldfield when the latter had been felled by a Harold Larwood bomb. We are definitely in the thirties.]





But to get back to Caroline's dilemma: Should she accept the invitation of a man who claims to be the professor's friend? What about the car-driver who so eagerly offers her lift? Should she stay on the bus or get down? Will she ever reach her destination?

The coach continued to roll through the forest, which stretched for miles. On either side of her were walls of dark, funereal trees—pines, Scotch firs, yews—all weeping with moisture. The ray from the lamps picked out details: the rusty stain on a rubbed trunk, like dried blood; the moonlight-blue tips of black-green shoots; the scar of a lopped branch, which glimmered whitely like a magnified eye.


Read John's comment about the dagger:)



A totally terrific ride. Hop on NOW.

*

Besides Curt, John @ Pretty Sinister Books also rates this book very highly. His review can be read over here.

*

Submitted for Friday's Forgotten Books @ Pattinase and Crimes of the Century @ Past Offences.

*

First Line: FROM THE first, Professor Freeman was reluctant to let his young sister-in-law—Caroline—accept the post of games mistress at the Abbey School.

Source: Project Gutenberg Australia.

Other books read of the same author: (Among others) The Wheel Spins




Reading Challenges: My Kind of Mystery & Celtic Coasts

Carolyn @ Riedel Fascination hosts a number of challenges every year. She is a fantastic host, encouraging the participants by visiting the blogs and commenting on the posts submitted. And yes! There are prizes too!




Like the past years, I am again signing up for her My Kind of Mystery challenge. This year, there don't seem to be any levels of participation. So if you love mysteries or are thinking of starting on this genre, why don't you sign up over here?


The other challenge that I am signing up for is the Celtic Coasts challenge, a gathering place for all Celtic reading. Since Carolyn has not set any quota, you can do as much (or as little) reading as you please. More information, over here.



*

To see the other challenges Carolyn is hosting this year, go to her home-page.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: The Boy That Never Was

The Boy That Never Was The Boy That Never Was by Karen Perry
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another book that promises more than it delivers.

Harry and Robin are coping with the grief of losing their three old son. Though it was a natural calamity that took him away yet both are full of guilt and resentment which is straining their relationship, or what is left of it anyway.

This book seemed to drag in the beginning then seemed to perk up in the middle but the climax completely ruined it. I liked Harry and his friends - Spenser and Cozimo. He seemed more closed to them than to his own wife. Wish at least one chapter p-o-v had been provided to both at least.

All I could think at the end was that nobody really cared about the child. They all wanted him to satisfy something within themselves without really bothering about his needs and wants.

*

First Line: A storm is rising.
Alternate Title: The Innocent Sleep

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: The Blue Note

The Blue Note The Blue Note by Charlotte Bingham
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Did not enjoy.


First Line: Afterwards they said there was never to be a time quite like it again.

London: Bantam Books, 2000.
First published: 2000
Pages: 567
Source: Bought it at DBF in Sept. last year.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: What Happened At Hazelwood

What Happened At Hazelwood What Happened At Hazelwood by Michael Innes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only Innes can conjure up such make-belief and make it convincing.

"Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss..."

First Line: Nobody could have predicted just what has happened at Hazelwood, and at the moment it appears as if nobody can elucidate it either.

Pages: 237
Source: Open Library

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