A quick read: Sarah Caudwell’s light-hearted mystery novel The Sirens Sang of Murder (published 1989). Improbably, this book is about a group of lawyers and financial advisers, and is chock-a-block full of really uninteresting details about British tax law. The characters are somewhat eccentric, and the plot, though somewhat thin, is not too bad. What kept me reading was some of the funny British eccentric parody. Some examples:
- “The chagrin of a woman displaced in her lover’s affections is as nothing compared with that of a barrister superseded in the favour of a leading firm of solicitors.” (p. 15)
- “We were driving through one of those bits of France where the hills have vines growing all over them and the names on the signposts make you feel as if you’re driving through the wine list in a rather high-class restaurant.” (p. 165)
- “It seems to us that the readers who want fiction to be like life are considerably outnumbered by those who would like life to be like fiction.” (p. 11)
- “I told her she was talking bilge, because even if she isn’t being followed, it doesn’t mean she’s loopy. People do follow people, so if you think you’re being followed by someone and you’re not, that’s not being loopy, it’s just being wrong—being loopy is if you think you’re being followed by purple elephants, unless you are of course.“ (p. 51)
I have read one other of this series of novels, titled Thus was Adonis Murdered. I may not read more.
Finding more books to read.
|My stack of library books ready to check out. This branch library is architecturally beautiful, and serves many purposes besides the traditional library functions. The low bookcases make it very spacious looking.|
First Library Book I Read.
"A 'historical novel' is a novel which is set fifty or more years in the past, and one in which the author is writing from research rather than personal experience." -- Historical Novel Society
This excellent and concise definition applies well to each of the historical novels by Susan Vreeland that I have read. Lisette’s List (published 2014) is set in Paris and in a village in Provence beginning as World War II was threatening to begin, in 1937, and continuing until the post-war era. The characters suffer numerous bereavements and deprivations during the war, particularly the loss of many men who have gone to fight.
Villagers in the novel suffer from the lack of many essentials, such as gasoline for transportation and such as construction materials. There are many descriptions of the food shortages they experience, even though they live in an agricultural village: a French version of the wartime rationing that I wrote about earlier this week. However, the author downplays many of the atrocities of the war: vicious Nazi reprisals happened in other villages, not this one, and serious issues of the occupation, especially of the disloyal collaboration by French citizens, are glossed over in order to create a more romantic story. This soft-pedaling of wartime suffering is a flaw of the book.
For me, reading Lisette’s List evokes many memories, as over the years I have visited Paris and a number of cities and villages in the area where the story takes place. I also love the artists who are at the center of the story: Chagall, Pissarro, Cézanne, and Picasso and works by these painters all are important to the narrator. Lisette actually (fictitiously of course) meets Chagall and his wife as they are fleeing the Nazis; another character, her husband’s elderly grandfather, shares his own memories of the impressionist painters, as well as owning several of their paintings, which play a major role in the novel.
The beauty of France and the losses caused by the war are central to the novel, and to the title character/narrator, Lisette. She is a warm, intelligent and deeply thoughtful human being. Her day-to-day experiences and her deep passions are portrayed in a fascinating way, mingled with larger themes of art and history. Tomorrow I will post some photos illustrating the novel's connection to my memories and experiences in the French countryside.
Note: I found a good review with images of the paintings and places that appear in the novel here: American Girls Art Club.
|One of Chagall’s painting that Lisette loves.|
More Library Books.
|More library books that I intend to read: another historical novel, a Donna Leon mystery, and a history book.|
Also, I watched a film.
Blog post © 2023 mae sander
Shared with the Sunday Salon at Readerbuzz.