I don’t often buy books I’ve never heard of by the unfamiliar authors purely on a whim, let alone for a full price, but this novel by a Korean-American writer, a spontaneous pick while milling around a bookstore, totally justified the gamble (also, I’ve noticed I’m much more likely to buy anything when it’s in red). It’s a sign of a great book when, after spending time with its characters for over 600 pages, you’re sad to say goodbye as you turn over the last page.
I finally got around to reading this excellent biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, which I picked up, appropriately enough, during my trip to Mexico almost three years ago. I’ve been a fan of Frida’s striking, intensely personal paintings for a long time, and during my trip I was lucky enough to visit Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in the neighbourhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City. In retrospect, I almost wish I’d read the book and got more insight into Frida’s life before the visit, but ah well.
One of Christie’s most beloved and famous novels, Murder on the Orient Express is top-tier Dame Agatha, so effortlessly readable I finished most of it while taking a very long bath. It’s also something of a favourite for big-screen adaptation, as evidenced by the recent star-studded version with Kenneth Branagh as Poirot, though I haven’t seen either that or the 1974 adaptation.
I absolutely loved Kate Atkinson’s brilliant and inventive Life After Life from a few years back, a genre-defying novel that portrayed the many parallel lives of its heroine Ursula Todd in the first half of the 20th century. It also introduced the readers to the rest of the Todd family, among them Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy who becomes a bomber pilot in World War II. In the final “life” of the novel, Teddy gets a miraculous reprieve: presumed dead by everyone, he survives the war and comes back after having spent time as a POW. A God in Ruins takes that ending and runs with it, exploring Teddy’s war as well as his post-war life, a life that he never really expected to have.
This novel marks the debut of Miss Marple, Christie’s other beloved fictional detective, a gentle and harmless-looking old lady with a keen interest in human nature and a remarkably clear view of its dark side. I couldn’t say if it’s the best Miss Marple whodunit, but it ranks as my personal favourite for being so enjoyable to re-visit. I lost count of how many times I picked up my old tattered copy of The Murder at the Vicarage (now replaced with a more respectable one) for a quick and easy in-between comfort re-read.
I’ve now read three Liane Moriarty books and enjoyed them all, including this latest novel which is probably the funniest so far, and a perfect summer read to take to the beach. Most of the times I take a book or magazine with me to the beach I actually don’t end up reading it, but I was glued to this one.
Picking this Poirot novel as my next Christie re-read was a purely strategic choice. Since I’ve committed to a full Christie marathon, it meant revisiting occasional stinkers as well as masterpieces; not everything Dame Agatha touched turned to gold. If I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of duds to read through gritted teeth, I’d better start sprinkling them in along the way. I remember being underwhelmed with a few Christie novels, but I’d be surprised if I come across a worse book than The Big Four. It’s a relief to get this travesty out of the way.