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Two books

I browsed through the shelves of a Chicago airport bookstore with frustration. There were books I had already read, and plenty of books I specifically didn't want to read. The woman browsing the next set of shelves offered to switch places with me so we could continue our fruitless searches, and I looked up to see the charmingly flustered Latin professor of Saturday morning's session.

I proffered my thanks for her session, and we discussed Latin and the Toronto exam. She had already determined there was nothing in the bookstore at all that was worth reading, a conclusion I was well on my way to myself. Eventually she offered up the name of a satirist as someone she'd heard secondhand recommendations for, and went on her way after encouraging me to contact her if I wanted to discuss Latin further.

Another woman, equally frustrated, joined me in reading the backs of the satirist's books, but I was turned off by the coarseness of the descriptions on the backs. I was in no mood to read about tearing out the eyeballs of big game. I told her I didn't think I was in the mood for a mystery either.

But I need a book, you see, for I was nearly done with Jo Walton (papersky)'s The Prize in the Game and knew it wouldn't last me until Toronto. Eventually a Regency romance/mystery novel caught my eye. The prose at first glance seemed flat, but the concept was appealing.

The Prize in the Game almost left me in tears, and a bit frustrated. I liked quite a bit of the book, but left it feeling as if I really didn't know how the story had actually ended. Madeleine E. Robins's Point of Honour was a pleasant foil, far more engrossing and compelling than my superficial assessment had feared, the prose flat only in the sense that the style was inspired by Jane Austen and not a more modern style of prose. After the ending, I read through the acknowledgements at the back: to my surprise, there were thanks to Sherwood Smith (sartorias) and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, among others. Despite browsing the mystery section, my instincts led me to fantasy-influenced novels with connections I greatly respect despite a bookstore three of us judged devoid of much more than words at first pass.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
cliosfolly
May. 10th, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC)
Robins has written a sequel to A Point of Honour. I haven't read it yet, though I mean to sometime. I also found the first book enjoyable, though not in a head-over-heels sort of fashion. Just mostly competent, good storytelling with an intriguing character and thorny social situation.

Have you read any of Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies Detective Agency books? The first one is called The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency; they're set in Kenya, and the first one, at least, is rather well done. I picked it up initially because one of my UVa professors described it as the best example of non-periodic complex sentences in 20th century fiction. I haven't quite found that to be the case--sometimes I wonder if I misremembered which book he had meant--but the setting and stories are neat. They read quickly, too, and make good airplane books.
oursin
May. 10th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
Botswana, not Kenya - very different geographically and politically. Sometimes I like them and sometimes I feel a bit ambivalent - I wouldn't want to read several of them one after the other.
cliosfolly
May. 10th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you--I hesitated over the country affiliation for a moment, but was fuzzy-minded and couldn't get beyond a vague querying of it to myself.

I agree about not wanting to read them one after the other; I wouldn't either. I think they work well as plane books because of the more-or-less self-contained nature of the chapters as individual mysteries, so they work well in situations where disruptions are frequent and one's attention wanders, which more or less describes my mind-set on airplanes. I've had book #2 for six months now and have been saving it for another plane trip.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )