Nikki (nakeisha) wrote,

  • Mood:

Books read in March 2008

There still isn't any news on Father.

MARCH (19)

The Cat Who Brought Down The House - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Talked Turkey - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Went Bananas - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Dropped A Bombshell - Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Had Sixty Whiskers - Lilian Jackson Braun
Agatha Christie's Collected Short Stories - Agatha Christie
The Island Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Castle Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Valley Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Sea Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Mountain Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Ship Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The Circus Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
The River Of Adventure - Enid Blyton
Raffles Revisited: New Adventures Of A Gentleman Crook - Barry Perowne
Raffles Of The Albany - Barry Perowne
Raffles Of the MCC - Barry Perowne
The Return Of A.J. Raffles - Graham Greene (A play)
Exmoor Exposed - Norma Huxtable


16 were books I'd read before
03 were a first time reads

The Cat Who books continued to be good to okay, with the exception of the last book (. . . Had Sixty Whiskers). It was as though the book had been written by someone else, or was just the author's notes. It didn't flow in the way her other books did, the story had little or no tie in with the title, and the ending was . . . Well, put it this way I thought my version had pages missing. This was not the case as I discovered by reading various reviews. The author is, I believe, 94, so I guess that even to still be writing at that age is pretty darn good. Oddly enough, the book read somewhat better this time (it was a re-read) than it had done the first time - probably because I knew what to expect. I just hope she won't be remembered for this one book.

The xxx Of Adventure books are childhood favourites and books I tend to re-read every couple of years. caffyolay had read a couple and talked about them on her book journal last month, so this prompted me to go for a re-read. They tell the story of four children: Philip, Dinah, Jack and Lucy-Ann, Jack's parrot Kiki and their great friend Bill 'Smugs' Cunningham.

Simply put, the titles describe each book: the children fall into adventures. They are very much of their era, the children are polite, well mannered and can entertain themselves, spending a great deal of time out of doors, and using the 'C' word, they are middle-class - they are all at boarding school. Philip and Dinah are brother and sister as are Jack and Lucy-Ann, the latter siblings have no parents at all, the former no father, but Mrs. Mannering (who eventually becomes Mrs. Cunningham) in effect 'adopts' Jack and Lucy-Ann - two children aren't that much more work than four. I like them very much, but I was brought up on (amongst other writers) Enid Blyton. They won't be to everyone's tastes, but then, is any book? Indeed anything?

Perowne's Raffles. A. J. Raffles, upper-class gentleman about town, member of the MCC and lead bat and bowler for England is a gentleman thief. He was originally created by E. W. Hornung (Conan Doyle's brother-in-law) who wrote his stories in the same era as Sherlock Holmes was set - Victorian London.

Raffles and his side-kick Bunny Manders (who like Watson 'writes' the stories) steal; it's simple as that. But they also have their own sense of right and wrong: they never burgle as house in which they are guests, and only steal from the wealthy. As his brother-in-law did, Hornung killed Raffles off, he had him dying honourably serving his country. However, the public liked Raffles - he is very likeable - and in 1970s Perowne resurrected him. (He did write some stories for a magazine some years prior to being approached to write the books, but it was a rather different Raffles). Due to the change of era, he also made a small change to Raffles, thus rather than only stealing for personal gain, he also had a more altruistic reason as well.

Raffles and Bunny went to school together, indeed Bunny was Raffles fag and he's about three years younger than Raffles; he first finds out how Raffles can afford his lifestyle when down on his luck he turns, as was common-place, to his old school friend.

I first read the Raffles books when I was in my teens and one of the things that struck me was how 'slashy' they were (not that I knew the term existed at the time). Now a great deal of this is to do with the era and the class to which Raffles and Bunny belong: it was a time when men walked around arm-in-arm and used terms like 'my dear', and no one thought anything of it.

But Hornung and Perowne seem to take it even further; wherever Raffles goes Bunny pretty much always goes too. Raffles is invited to play cricket for England or in country houses, he takes Bunny along and if he doesn't for some reason they usually take the 'pretty' route to get to where Raffles is going so that Bunny can go with him. They dine together, they are often in one another's rooms - Bunny is more often at The Albany (where Raffles lives) - and women to do not feature in their lives, or hardly at all. Indeed Raffles declares neither of them will ever marry because of what they do. And if Bunny accompanies Raffles to some place Raffles had hitherto been alone before, it's always 'Mr. Manders, Raffles talked about you all the time'. When we meet other men in the books at house parties, etc. they certainly don't turn up with their best friend in tow :-)

I give you a line from one of the books: I was aware of the slow thump of my heart as I met his eyes in the candlelight. Slashy or what?

Oddly enough Perowne suddenly introduces a sister for Raffles - Dinah. They siblings were separated at a young age as their parents died, Raffles to go to good boarding schools, Dinah to live in Australia. As well as suddenly throwing her in, his method for it being Bunny rather than Raffles who meets her off the boat/train is an odd one. He has Bunny saying that he won't accompany Raffles to Australia where he'll play for England; he's happy to go to country houses, but not for important tours. Huh??? More than once in the book Bunny has done that very thing, indeed in the first story, we had them wrangling money from their Bank Manager so that Bunny could accompany Raffles again to Australia where Raffles will play cricket for England. And Perowne also has Bunny rather taken with Dinah, who is very like her brother - indeed she is also, in a very small way, a thief.

In many ways Raffles and Bunny and Holmes and Watson have an amazing number of similarities in their relationship, etc. etc. - it's just that they are on opposite sides of the law. I understand the brothers-in-law used to engage in light-hearted banterings about this very thing, with Conan Doyle mock teasing Hornung for making his lead character immoral - not that, burglary aside - Raffles is immoral, not at all.

I really, anything slashy totally aside, enjoy the books - but again they are to an extent very much of their time. I certainly would recommend them though.

Greene's Raffles play is interesting, as it was written with gay undertones. However, I do wonder whether Greene had actually read any Raffles before writing it as he has Bunny calling Raffles 'A.J.' at all times, which he does not do in Hornung's or Perowne's books. Or at least not in the short stories. I came across a short novel, which I didn't know existed until recently, which is called Mr. Justice Raffles and is Raffles on the side of 'good'. I gather it didn't sell well nor indeed did Hornung think much of it. I haven't read it yet, but a quick glance at the first page has Bunny using 'A.J', something I found very odd. The play wasn't great, in fact I feel asleep reading it ;-) but it was interesting (to me) that it had been deliberately written with gay undertones.

Agatha Christie's Short Stories (bought for me by the lovely caffyolay) is as is says a book of her short stories. I thought I'd got/read virtually all of her stories, but of the 30 stories in this books I'd actually only read two of them before. They are, in my opinion, amongst some of her best short stories and somewhat oddly none of them feature Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. Instead they are more suspense/mystery stories than detective stories. They all have a twist in the tale; by the time you're read a handful of the stories it gets reasonably easy to guess the twist, but having said that just as you think 'ah ha', along comes a new story with a different twist. So a very good book indeed.

Exmoor Exposed is another book that caffyolay bought me. It's a very small, very short humorous book about the life of the farmer on Exmoor. It is very un-PC in places, and I suspect if you know nothing about Exmoor and are a militant feminist in any way, the book would not appeal to you. But I loved it, I love Exmoor, J and I used to go there a lot, and it made me laugh out loud in more than one place.

Tags: books, books: 2008, books: 50 books

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded