Category Archives: Adair Gilbert

A March Retrospective

A summary of the books I read in March, with links to reviews:

A Mysterious Affair of Style by Gilbert Adair – 3/5
Nowhere near as entertaining or cleverly conceived/wrought as the previous book in the series, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd. Disappointing.  (My mum enjoyed it, though!)

Ella Minnow Pea by Matt Dunn – 4/5
A clever & enjoyable fable set on an island where an overzealous council bans more and more letters from daily usage as a historic monument begins to decay. If you enjoy word puzzles, this is a really fun read, but more importantly, it’s a good story, too!

BOOK OF THE MONTH:
War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen – 4/5

In this sharply witty tale, Gloria looks back on life with her sister during the war, and discovers why certain memories are more reluctant to re-surface than others. I was relieved that the ‘twist’ (evident that it would be coming from early on in the story) was slightly different than I had imagined.  I like the fact that Jensen explores different styles in her writing, this being quite different to The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (equally enjoyed, and in retrospect does have some overlap of theme despite the dramatic difference in characters), My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (a vivid historical romp, but with a schmaltzy ending), Egg Dancing (reminded me very much of Fay Weldon – actually, War Crimes could be said to have echoes of Weldon, also) and The Rapture (not as good as I had hoped).

The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Peju – 3.5/5
An accident involving a bookseller’s van knocking down a young child whose mother has not collected her from school provides the framework for this introspective and philosophical novel about two drifting souls searching for either meaning or escape.  Very French, very existential, quietly intriguing but lacking engagement on an emotional level.

Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway – 3.5/5
An encyclopedic look at Verity Bell’s life, naive and touching; very cleverly constructed.

The American Boy by Andrew Taylor – unrated
Read up to about the halfway point & was neither hating nor loving it, but realised I had no great desire to continue reading it.  So I stopped.

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Ella Minnow Pea by Matt Dunn

DATE FINISHED: March 29th, 2012

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS:  The tiny island of Nollop has built its life and customs around the revered lipogram, ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’. When – due surely to the passage of time – the lettering on the memorial statue begins to fall away, the Nollopian council decrees that useage of the fallen letters must likewise fall from use.  The island’s story is told through a postal correspondence, of correspondingly limited letters.

THOUGHTS:   I was worried that the story would suffer at the hands of its premise and turn into a technical exercise at the expense of narrative flow, but luckily this fear was unfounded.   Read more of this post