25 October 2011


Myrna Loy in Evelyn Prentice.

While working my way through endless stacks of magazines and papers I managed to get some novels in along the way. Here's the latest.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness 
Dr. Diana Bishop is an American scholar studying at Oxford who just happens to be a witch with roots back to Salem, Massachusetts. One day in the Bodleian Library she orders up an alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, which draws the attention of every witch, vampire, and daemon in the area, including a 1,500-year old vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Bishop, who has always been reluctant to use her powers, is drawn to the charismatic Clairmont and the two are soon working together to discover the secrets of the manuscript. The book starts off strong; I loved the scenes set in the library and around Oxford as well as the initial dance between Bishop and Clairmont. Yet I felt the romance became too rushed and at 592 pages, certain sections could have been edited down.

13 rue Thérèse: A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro
American scholar Trevor Stratton, (yes, I read two books in a row involving American scholars) working at a Paris university, discovers a box filled with objects once owned by Louise Brunet, a woman whose story is pieced together by Trevor from the contents and his own imagination. Spanning both World Wars, Brunet’s tale includes a cousin she loved who was lost in the first war, her marriage to a good but boring man, and her fixation with a neighbor. Filled with photographs of the objects in the box, the book is both lovely and moving. The author states that she inherited the box and its contents from the real Brunet. I don’t know how much of this tale is true but in the end it doesn’t really matter. Shapiro vividly brings Paris and Brunet to life and that’s what’s important.

 When ten-year old Patrick becomes an orphan he is sent to live with his eccentric Auntie Mame in New York. There he receives a most unconventional upbringing, from the notepad he is given to record all the words he overhears and doesn’t understand at her cocktail parties to the bohemian school in the Village he attends where the students study in the nude. When Patrick grows up and threatens to turn into a stiff like his father Auntie Mame intervenes, including a hilarious visit to his school, and shows how strong her love is for her ward. I had seen the film with Rosalind Russell (which is fabulous) but this was my first time reading the book and it’s by far one of the funniest I’ve read in years. Hilarious yet poignant in sections, it’s a must read for everyone.

Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford
 Sally and Walter are newly weds and as part of the group dubbed the Bright Young Things find things like budgets and living within ones means a foreign idea. When they are asked to go up to Scotland and host a shooting party at Dalloch Castle they accept, inviting their friends Albert, a painter recently returned from Paris, and Jane, who is always falling in love. The other guests, all older and highly respectable, soon clash with the younger set in a series of hilarious situations. I have to confess that Nancy Mitford is one of my favourite writers and love all of her work. Highland Fling may not be her best novel but it is highly entertaining and had me laughing throughout.

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