Reading report for April 2008

Can someone please explain to me how I managed to lose a book the size of 2 bricks? I’m sure I’m not that disorganised, but I managed to lose it anyway. The book in question is my copy of the collected works of Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales being my classic of the month. I only found it (under my bed, if you must know) on Wednesday the 23 of April. “Fine” I thought, “I’ll have the holiday (April 24 was the Icelandic 1st day of summer and a bank holiday) and the weekend to read it”, but it was not to be: my parents arrived and on Thursday we visited relatives and the weekend was spent on quality time with my mother, something I wouldn’t have missed for any book, however important. Therefore, I will be reading 2 classics in May: The Canterbury Tales and a Saga I have yet to choose (probably one of the shorter ones).

April was a busy reading month for me, even if I didn’t get round to more than the prologue and first three Canterbury tales. I read 15 books, 3 of which were rereads:

Georgette Heyer’s The Corinthian and Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms & Feet of Clay.

Last month I finally started reading Nora Roberts. I don’t know what took me so long to get going with her books – that is, the books published under that name. I discovered her J.D. Robb books several years ago and have been reading them in order of publication, taking care to do it slowly enough that I will not catch up with the series for a number of years. If the books in the In Death series continue to be as entertaining as they have been so far, I think I would be miserable if I didn’t have at least one of them to look forward to. But back to Nora – I accidentally bought the second book in one of her trilogies at the flea market and when I discovered it, I went to the library and checked out the other 2, plus another 2 trilogies and a book of her novellas, thinking I should have some choices. I ended up reading 2 trilogies, and am in the middle of the third. Roberts is an expert spinner of tales, and while they all focus on romance, her books are also full of strong characters, complicated non-romance relationships and adventure, and the ones I read also have supernatural elements.

Due to this Nora Roberts spree and the 3 other romances I read, I read more romances in April than I think I have ever done in one month before. This is possibly due to it being spring, or possibly because I find that the prospect of a happy ending is very nice indeed when my mood barometer is on the down-swing. Depression, even the mild sort, is a nasty thing to have and sometimes I need all the help I can get to make the mood barometer swing the other way.

I also managed to squeeze in one challenge author, and will review her once I have read the second book by her that I have lined up.

The rest of the books:
David Niven: Bring on the Empty Horses
Michael Palin: The New Europe (coincidentally, just as I finished the book, they started showing the TV series on national television)
Susan Elizabeth Phillips: This Heart of Mine & Heaven, Texas (coincidentally, one of these deals with depression)
J.D. Robb: Judgment in Death
Nora Roberts: The In the Garden trilogy: Blue Dahlia, Black Rose & Red Lily and the Keys trilogy: Key of Light, Key of Knowledge & Key of Valor
Margaret Truman: Murder at the Library of Congress

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I also watched one literary adaptation: Perfume, based on the novel by Patrick Süskind. It was a beautifully filmed but somewhat simplified version of the story told in the book. While I understand the film-maker’s desire to have a sympathetic protagonist in the film (which Grenouille is most assuredly not in the book) to boost its saleability, I still think the actor playing Grenouille, while skilful at his art, was too good looking. Having Grenouille understand the wrongness of his actions was, in my opinion, an unnecessary addition to the story, because the point of it, if any, was to create a totally unsympathetic character, which could only be done without allowing him to have even the slightest bit of regret for his actions. Some of the other actors were miscast as well, especially Dustin Hoffman who was far from convincing in the role of the Italian has-been perfumer. I also understand the necessity of fleshing out the story to plainly show things that were only hinted at in the story, but I don’t recall there having been even the slightest hint of detective story in the novel. I did enjoy how sight and sound were used to interpret what Grenouille was smelling, surely the most clever attempt to use synesthesia I have seen on the screen. Apart from the choice of actors and the simplification of the story, I felt that there was something else missing. For lack of a better word I will call it “soul” – that indescribable depth and sparkle that can make the difference between a movie being a mere passing fancy to it becoming a classic.

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