Books I read in February

I started a few books but haven’t finished them yet. I’ve started Terminal World by Alastair Macdonald and Queering Your Craft by Cassandra Snow.

The Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey

I thought this would be a nice escapist book like the Pern series, but instead it was a rather plodding plot and I didn’t like the main character. I liked the drinkers of Yarran beer. I did not appreciate the number of times that the main character ended up in bed with men whose lives had been artificially prolonged by a symbiont and were therefore several times her age. It was rather nasty. Even the seemingly exciting activity of singing crystal was probably not worth it for the side effects of the symbiont. I realize that this book is from another era than our own, but still, eeuuww. I read this book about 35 years ago and had forgotten what was in it. Maybe I didn’t even finish it back then, because I might’ve remembered the ick factor of various aspects of it.


The Novel in the Viola, by Natasha Solomons

A Jewish girl fleeing Vienna arrives in England in 1938 and becomes a servant on a refugee visa. Of course, coming from an upper middle class background, it’s hard for her to be a servant. You’d think that what happened next would be all too predictable, but the author manages to make the plot surprising and memorable. The first time I read this book, the twists and turns surprised me and kept me turning the pages, and even reading it for a second time, it’s still unputdownable. The main characters (the Jewish family in Vienna, Elise and Kit and Daniel) are compassionately drawn and the humanity shines through. I liked the Tyneford villagers too. It’s hard to believe that servants were ever that fanatical about their role, but maybe some of them were. What’s good about this book is that it doesn’t sentimentalize about life in a country house — it makes it clear how awful it could be.

Tyneham House

Various reviewers (including the Guardian) said they thought the plot was a bit obvious, but I didn’t see it coming. I suppose I don’t read enough other things like this, apart from Mary Wesley.

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  1. Pingback: Books I read in March | Dowsing for Divinity

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