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Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson and The Mesmerist's Apprentice by Lee Jackson

I've had rather a slow start to reading in 2010. The snow has meant I have been working from home for a few days which meant I lost my commute/reading time. I sometimes wonder how I would find time to read if it wasn't for the half hour journey to and from work every day. I try to read a chapter of something every night before bed, but nine times out of ten my eyes start drooping as soon as I pick up the book. It is also a habit - I notice how quickly the evening disappears when I come straight in from work and put the tv on. It doesn't help that hubby and I bought The Sopranos DVD boxset just after Christmas and now watch nothing else. I am surprised by how much I have got hooked on The Sopranos - it's so well written and the characters are all so strong and memorable. I think its secret is that it's basically a soap-opera and concentrates on a few key characters, without trying to spread itself too thinly. We're on series 4 now, so only three more to go after that and then perhaps I can start doing something more constructive in the evenings?

So, the books I have completed are two library books I took out just before Christmas...

The Art of Love by Elizabeth Edmondson follows our heroine as she uncovers her true identity. It's set in 1930s London and Paris and involves devious dealings in the art world. Our heroine (Polly Smith, or as she then learns, Polyhymnia Tomkins) is an artist struggling to make her way. The novel is trying to be about identity and how we are who we are, despite our names, up-bringing or circumstances. It's just that it all seems quite weak and half-hearted. The plot holds no surprising twists (unless I was just lucky in guessing how things were going to turn out, but I am not usually the type of person to decipher a mystery!) The characters are merely sketched - I didn't feel I got to know or care about any of them particularly. One other thing which spoilt the book for me was the number and frequency of typographical errors, from spelling, to grammar and even missing or incorrect words. I try not to be a pedant about such things, but I just kept noticing errors and it became rather distracting. I don't know much about publishing, so not sure where the fault lies and I am not saying that I would have enjoyed the story any more than I did if there were no errors, simply that I found it annoying and it re-enforced my impression of the novel being rather 'slap-dash'. A shame, because I think this story had potential.

The Mesmerist's Apprentice by L.M. Jackson (who also writes as Lee Jackson) is the third of his novels that I have read. They are all set in Victorian London and owe a debt to the detective and sensation novels of the time. What I enjoy about Jackson's novels are his attention to detail and obvious love of the period. The books are littered with interesting historical and social facts. This particular novel also focuses on one of the Victorians' great obesessions - spiritualism. The main character, Sarah Tanner, is our eyes and ears through the novel. She is a strong and independent woman in a time when these qualities were not encouraged and, as with all good heroines, there is a sense of tragedy past about her. There is humour, romance, murder, intrigue and mystery in this novel and it trots along at a great pace. I'll certainly be going back to read the first Sarah Tanner novel A Most Dangerous Woman, as well as following Lee's blog The Cat's Meat Shop and VictorianLondon Twitter updates...

Currently Reading:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - inspired to read this after seeing Guy Ritchies recent Sherlock Holmes film and the embarrassing knowledge that I have never read any of them...
Becoming Queen by Kate Williams - the biography behind the recent film. There seems to be a theme in my reading at the moment!

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