Reading is, as you know, second nature to Gert. So why is it, in these troubled COVID times I can’t find a book that speaks to me?
First I tried an old-fashioned comfort read, Francis Hodgson Burnett’s The Making Of A Marchioness. (Yes, the same Hodgson Burnett who wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy.) This is the story of a really nice woman, well-bred but poor, who has the great good luck to marry a wealthy nobleman. Lots of lovely young women are after the widowed Lord Walderhurst. Emily isn’t one of them, but she’s the one he chooses. He likes her lack of self-absorption, her capacity to enjoy the simple things of life and he likes her eyes, which remind him of a very nice dog. You can see what a romantic marriage it is. There isn’t much more to it, but it did pass a few pleasant hours. It’s such a pleasure to share the luxuries of riches with a poor woman who never expected to have them. And as is so often the case, Lord Walderhurst is much improved by marrying such a nice woman.
And so on to a very bad choice, plucked from the shelves of the library, Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance Of Loss. This is an impressive book, winner of the Booker in 2006, but not one you want to read when you’re feeling depressed. Here’s an extract:
It was cold, but inside the house it was colder still, the dark, the freeze, contained by stone walls several feet deep. Here, at the back inside the cavernous kitchen, was the cook, trying to light the damp wood. He fingered the kindling gingerly for fear of the community of scorpions living, loving, reproducing in the pile. Once he’d found a mother, plump with poison, fourteen babies on her back.
Eventually the fire caught and he placed his kettle on top, as batterrd, as encrusted,as something dug up by an archeological team, and waited for it to boil. The walls were singed and sodden, garlie hung by muddy stems from the charred beams, thickets of soot clumped batlike upon the ceiling. The flame cast a mosaic of shiny orange across the cook’s face, and his top half grew hot, but a mean gust tortured his arthritic bones.
The only remedy for my low spirits, I think, is what my father used to call “a silly book”. And so here I am on Audible. Should I choose Knock Knock: An Absolutely Pulse–Racing, Heart-Stopping Crime Thriller or Cherringham – aA Cosy Crime Series Compilation? Or what about Lois Austen-Leigh’s The Incredible Crime?
Prince’s College, Cambridge, is a peaceful and scholarly community, enlivened by Prudence Pinsent, the Master’s daughter.
Spirited, beautiful, and thoroughly unconventional, Prudence is a remarkable young woman. One fine morning she sets out for Suffolk to join her cousin Lord Wellende for a few days hunting. On the way Prudence encounters Captain Studde of the coastguard who is pursuing a quarry of his own.
Studde is on the trail of a drug smuggling ring that connects Wellende Hall with the cloistered world of Cambridge. It falls to Prudence to unravel the identity of the smugglers who may be forced to kill to protect their secret.
What genteel smugglers. They “may be forced to kill”. Oh, let’s hope not. Who could resist it?