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I have had this book on my to read pile for almost eight years, but had the urge to pick it up recently – perhaps the unseasonally cool weather made me look for a book whose blurb suggests that it is best read on a cold winter’s night next to a blazing fire rather than the beginning of July. In any case, as soon as I started reading The Unburied by Charles Palliser I was hooked. It is one of the few books which has made me nearly miss my train stop, and that for me is confirmation of the strength of the tale.
The novel is largely taken up by the account of Dr Courtine, a scholar who has gone to visit an old college friend in a Cathedral town, with the aim of locating a manuscript which he hopes will support his own theory of events around the time of King Alfred. During the visit he becomes drawn into a mysterious and seemingly impossible murder, which leads him to question his friendship and his own reliability as a witness.
The main story is framed by the comments of someone else who was present at these events but who has never spoken of them, who has edited Dr Courtin’e account in later life, and perhaps solved the mystery, at least to his own satisfaction.
I really loved this; it had echoes of M R James in terms of atmosphere, and the central story was really gripping. It depends very much on what you as a reader thinks of Courtine himself; I found him complex and all too human, becoming increasingly aware of how he is viewed by the world, and rather liked him. Recommended.
A number of other blogs have mentioned the beauty and quality of Hesperus Books, and having already bought a couple in previous months I decided to have a look at their catalogue and succumbed.
A Tale Told by Moonlight is an addition to my reading around Leonard Woolf’s time in Ceylon, of which more to come in a future post.
The History of the Reign of King Henry VII is a slight drift from my sixteenth century obsession, but does deal with the foundation of the Tudor dynasty, and will run nicely into David Loades’ Henry VIII which joins the ever expanding pile – I really do need to think how I’m going to tackle all of these!
Something very different next; pointed out to me by the Book God as something he thought I would enjoy, Sylvia, Queen of the Headhunters, set in Sarawak in the 1930s and describing the exotic and powerful dynasty which ruled this part of the world.
The Book God had some book tokens to spend this month, and I accompanied him on a shopping trip with the intention of watching, not buying; I failed of course, drawn irresistibly to Queuing for Beginners by Joe Moran which (according to the cover) tells the story of daily life from breakfast to bedtime. I’ve dipped in and it looks like one to savour.
Last but not least, I gave in to temptation and now have the Folio Society edition of A Dance to the Music of Time, in four volumes. The fact that I already have the whole of Anthony Powell’s masterpiece in various formats didn’t stop me, and of course it’s a wonderful excuse to read the whole thing again.