Wednesday, September 28, 2016


This is my first completed read for the R.I.P. Challenge XI: Peril the Second. I first heard about this title months ago on the Radio 4 podcast Open Book in an interview with the author and it stuck with me enough for me to recall it when I was browsing the new books section at my local library. Open book classified this book at “Gothic” and I would agree with that. The book is never really terrifying and yet the author managed to maintain an eerie atmosphere all the way through.

The Loney is one of those books where the reader may not be quite sure what exactly happened when they reach the end of it, which I know can be frustrating for some. However, I like it when this type of story is done well; I like having room for interpretation. And I think the author got the balance right most of the time. I don’t read a lot of this type of book, but it reminded me a bit of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House in in terms of keeping the reader off-kilter.

On the surface, the story is about an ultra-religious Catholic family in the mid-1970’s and their quest to heal their disabled son via miracle, whatever that takes. The book is narrated by the younger son as an adult looking back in hindsight upon events which took place when he was a teenager. The fact that the narrator is never named is something I only noticed after finishing the book. The unnamed narrator serves as a caretaker for his older brother and has a complex and difficult relationship with his overbearing mother. Most of the story takes place in an isolated stretch of coast in England where the narrator has come on a pilgrimage with his family, their priest and other church members.

But dig a little deeper and the reader will find that The Loney is also about the difference (if any) between superstition and religion and the potential harm of either, in particular when wielded upon young, impressionable minds. And that is where perhaps the real horror lies.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

R.I.P.Challenge 11 (Readers Imbibing in Peril)

Unlike last year, when I almost didn’t manage to complete all 12 challenges in the Back to the Classics Challenge at Books and Chocolate , this year I have a mere one book more to go and it is only September.  So I thought I would participate in the R.I.P. Challenge 11 hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings .  I have observed this challenge on the internet from a far for many years and now seems like the perfect time to take the plunge.  Most importantly, this challenge is very easy to commit to, since there are quite a few Perils to choose from, it runs for a full two months (September 1 to October 31), and the works need only fall into the broad categories of (i) mystery, (ii) suspense, (iii) thriller, (iv) Gothic, (v) horror or (vi) dark fantasy.
So I have chosen to try the Peril the 2ond: Read 2 books from any of the above listed 6 categories AND Peril the Short Story: Read one or many short stories  

For Peril the 2ond I will read in the category of Mystery, Faithful Place by Tana French.  I have been meaning to get back into this series for a while and here is the perfect opportunity. In the Category of Gothic, I will read The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley which I first heard about on the BBC Radio 4 podcast and recently stumbled across at my library in the new books section.

For Peril the Short Story, I will read The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories edited by Leslie Sheppard, which actually will double up with my final category in the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge: Classic Short Stories.

I do wish I could add in some crispy fall weather to help with the challenge, but is is over 100 degrees today, so I will just have to let the books transport me to cooler climates. I think this will be a lot of fun and I look forward to reading other bloggers posts in conjunction with the challenge!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

BONJOUR TRISTESSE by Françoise Sagan

My first thought for the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge category “A Classic In Translation” was to try something from Collette, since I had never read her and was curious to try.  But I also have this nutty idea to read the entire Rougon-Macquart  series by Zola (I have only read two: The Fortunes of the Rougons and Germinal…only  18 more to go! – cue crazed laughter).  But in the end, I spontaneously decided to go for something different, but still translated from the French interestingly enough. I read Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (translated into English by Irene Ash) which was first published in 1954 when Sagan was just 19.  I didn’t realize that this is a novella, but that was a happy surprise in that it didn’t take me long to finish it.

The story is about Cécile, a 17 year old who has been living in Paris with her widowed father and his string of live-in girlfriends for two years since leaving her convent boarding school.  Cécile should be studying for her entrance exams to university, but frankly she can’t be bothered.  Like her father Raymond, she is too busy having fun to worry too much about exams or anything else she finds unpleasant.  She spends most of her time attending parties and social events in her father’s circle of like-minded men and women.  However, when she goes to the French Rivera for the summer with Raymond and his latest gal pal, their family friend, Anne, shows up unexpectedly.  Cécile and her father are drawn to Anne’s common sense stability, a trait they both lack. However, Cécile soon feels threatened by Anne and Anne’s relationship with and influence over Raymond and drama and tragedy ensue.

This book is very much a character study of Cécile. There is some dialog and description but much of the book is inside Cécile’s head. And because she is a spoiled, immature teenager who doesn’t have the emotional experience to navigate the threat that she believes is posed by Anne’s presence, often the inside of her head is a confusing and contradictory place to be.

I liked the novella OK but I am not going to rush and read any further books by Sagan.  It is great when I read a classic and discover a new author with a huge back catalog for me to explore, but when that doesn’t happen, that is OK too!