stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Unusually for a Howatch, I let this lie for several months after I'd read the first section. This is the first of her super-epic-historical-romans-à-clef, and it seems she hasn't quite got into the swing of things yet. The historical period in question is the reign of Henry II and his two sons; Howatch has translated them to turn-of-the-century Cornwall, and made the realm of England a mouldering folly of a country house. Helpfully, she has included quotations from actual history books so you know who she's really talking about - it would have been useful if she'd kept that up in later books which would have made me feel less stupid. As the beauty of this particular style is how she translates the people, places and incidents, I don't want to give too much away, but I was particularly struck by how she manages Philip, the Richard I character, which is very bold but yet makes perfect sense in context.

Having been thinking a lot recently about unreliable narrators, it struck me how efficiently Howatch leads one up the garden path. One is inclined to trust the narrator; one does tend to identify the narrator, and the way she closes the door at the end of each section and lets an antagonist loose on the person who's just spoken can be quite a shock. She is good at characterisation, but bad at distinguishing voices (if I had a quid for every character in this book who says 'of course I realise that...' I could buy a couple of pints at least, and if I included her entire oeuvre it would be a couple of rounds).

But that's not news. What has struck - and disappointed - me in this particular book is the lack of resolution. A couple of times I have caught myself thinking 'oh, I must finish Penmarric...' before realising - I have. Perhaps finishing with King John was not a good idea.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10056864
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Something of a potboiler - reading between the lines of the author bio, this was written to keep the wolf from the door until she finished Penmarric. As such, it's rather dull, with the old Howatch combination of Sinister Pasts, Skeletons in Cupboards, moody seascapes, the religious life, and Mysterious Heroes. (I really don't see much in her Mysterious Heroes; generally they creep me out.) The twist is unexpected, certainly; it's also unconvincing.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10200632/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Unless you're in a Susan Howatch novel, in which case each unhappy family will feel irritatingly reminiscent of something you're sure you've read before, and then you get to the end and she tells you which episode of classical/medieval/church history it's based on, and you will feel very stupid. And, in my case, lazy, as I was fully expecting her to pull the same trick, and it's not as if she didn't leave clues liberally scattered around this one. And I've read Katherine... oh well.

Anyhow, this is a real brick of a novel, over eleven hundred pages of small print encompassing four generations of sex, death and foul language. (I assume this one was written before Howatch got religion, but, thinking about the last section, perhaps not, after all - Starbridge and after are equally full of sex and death, but more God and less swearing on the whole.) I must admit that I was beginning to flag around about page nine hundred and fifty, but, having ploughed through to the end, feel vaguely rewarded.

I will leave it a while before I move on to Penmarric, which is one of the few Howatch sagas I haven't yet read; having just looked her up on Wikipedia, I know which episode of English history that one's based on.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A short and early Howatch, and not really very impressive. Regency setting doesn't work, not least because all Howatch's first-person narrators sound the same, and when this one is a seventeen year old girl as opposed to a middle-aged twentieth century clergyman, it's a little disconcerting. The mystery was not very interesting, and there were some very irritating assumptions in there.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I still find Howatch's tales of the love lives of millionaires rather less compelling than her tales of the love lives of bishops. This may say more about me than it does about them. Anyway, this was still pretty compulsive. Sequel to "The Rich are Different" which I read last year (and failed, until I looked it up on Wikipedia, to connect to the lives of Caesar, Cleopatra and Antony, because I am a doofus and fail at allusion).

Usual generous Howatch helping of creepy men, though one at least sees the error of his ways in the end. But why does she not write any more about Lewis Hall?

Profile

stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
stapsreads

June 2013

S M T W T F S
      1
2345 6 78
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30      

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 28th, 2017 02:32 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios