Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Books & Cats miscellany - Part 1

Or should that be cats & books miscellany? I'm sure Phoebe & Lucky would prefer it that way around.So, I'll begin with a photo of Lucky, sitting on the arm of a chair in the evening light one night last week.

I'm writing this post instead of a proper review because I haven't finished a book in the last week or so. I did finish reading The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade (cover picture from here) with my 19th century bookgroup but I'm not going to post about it. It was a very long book &, while I enjoyed the beginning & the end, the middle was just so discursive & so interminable that I can't even summarise the plot. I'm glad I've read it, if only because I won't get it mixed up in my mind with Dickens's Cricket on the Hearth, ever again. Cricket on the Hearth is much shorter, for one thing.

Very briefly, The Cloister and the Hearth is the story of Gerard & Margaret, 15th century lovers who are separated by the Church, an evil Burgomeister & Gerard's own family. Margaret stays at home in Holland while Gerard goes to Rome to avoid prison & earn enough money through his talent as an illuminator of manuscripts to take Margaret away & start a new life. Many hundreds of pages later, they are reunited but not in the way you might expect. The book is based on the true story of the parents of the philosopher, Erasmus, who was a friend of Sir Thomas More & lived in England for a time. If only I'd known about the 44 page comic book version (click on the link for the picture credit & you can read the whole story)! No, I'm joking, I did enjoy it, it kept me reading over six weeks, & I'm really pleased it was chosen for the bookgroup.

Next, we'll on to Inevitable by Louis Couperus. I loved The Hidden Force by Couperus which we read last year so I'm looking forward to this.

I've just started listening to Moby-Dick on audio, read by William Hootkins. I bought this lovely Penguin Deluxe edition a few months ago & thought that listening to the book on audio would be a good way to get me into the story. Well, it worked because I'm loving it. I didn't expect Ishmael to be so funny & William Hootkins' narration is excellent (the recording on Naxos won an Audie Award in 2006).

I also listen to a lot of podcasts & the one that has me, & millions of other people around the world, glued to their iPads, iPods & PCs at the moment is Serial. I heard about Serial on another podcast I listen to, Books on the Nightstand. Serial is an investigation into a murder that happened in Baltimore in 1999. 17 year old Hae Min Lee was murdered & her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of the crime & is serving a life sentence. Journalist Sarah Koenig was alerted to some of the inconsistencies in the prosecution's case & has been re-investigating it, talking to Adnan & the witnesses, friends of Adnan & Hae, retracing the steps of the police, reading the trial transcripts & listening to the tapes. The podcast has been running 9 weeks with another 3 to go & it's addictive. It's like reading an in-depth article into an investigation or watching a TV series one week at a time. It's suspenseful & brings up so many issues about justice, & our perceptions of guilt & innocence. Sarah Koenig's narration is so engaging as she takes the listener with her through all the twists & turns.  She often confesses that she doesn't know what she thinks about Adnan's guilt or innocence. The music score is also haunting & is now stuck in my mind. There's an article in the Wall Street Journal here & the website is here. If you decide to listen to Serial, you really need to begin at Episode 1.

I have a lot of DVD box sets waiting to be watched (there's another list I could create, tbw instead of tbr) & at the moment I'm watching An Age of Kings. This is the 1960 BBC production of Shakespeare's history plays from Richard II to Richard III. It was originally screened fortnightly in 15 episodes. Each play (except Henry VI Part 1) was spread over two episodes. It's wonderful. Shot in black & white & obviously shot in a studio, the performances have been wonderful with some well-known names among the cast. That's Eileen Atkins as Joan of Arc on the cover & Robert Hardy plays Prince Hal/Henry V. Sean Connery is a very effective & charismatic Hotspur & Judi Dench has one of her first roles as Princess Katherine in Henry V, which I've just finished watching. There are also lots of character actors in minor roles, from Hermione & Angela Baddeley as Mistress Quickly & Doll Tearsheet to Julian Glover as the Earl of Westmoreland (& I see that he also plays Edward IV later on) & Cyril Luckham as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Well, this post is much longer that I planned & I still haven't mentioned the short stories I've been reading or posted the latest photos of Phoebe. I'll have to leave you in suspense for a couple of days - although nothing like the level of suspense I experience between episodes of Serial - & post Part 2 on Thursday.


  1. hi Lyn,
    There must be something in the air at the moment as i have read so many positive things about Moby Dick.., I have an old copy and I really want to read it too..but i really love you copy!!
    There are some Book tubers that go on about it too,
    am tempted to start with the audio as you say its a great way to get into a book!!
    anyway well done as usual, plus I did listen to the first episode of the Serial its very good but depressing.
    as far as any sense of justice goes..but its america!
    i may continue when i have time there is too much to read and listen too at the moment and I have yet to create my own masterpiece " my blog"!!
    sorry for all the exclamation marks but I am in a big hurry....really enjoying your wonderful blog.too

    1. Leonie, the audio book is from Overdrive. I'm not sure I'll get through it in three weeks but I may just go on after that & read the book instead of listening. I agree that Serial can be depressing & I have some reservations about the impact it's having on the real people involved, especially Hae's family who don't want to be involved but it's great storytelling. I'm looking forward to reading your blog when you create it. Finding time is the problem, isn't it?

  2. Hi Lyn, I'm listening to Serial too, isn't it extraordinary. I'd be interested to read a list of the podcasts you enjoy sometime, I know you've mentioned a couple in posts.

    Love that photo of Lucky, such a cute expression.

    1. Serial is amazing, it's become a worldwide phenomenon. People are having listening parties where they get together to listen to the latest episode. I should do a post about podcasts. I've mentioned a few in passing but there are lots more that I enjoy. I think Lucky looks puzzled in that photo. She often looks puzzled when I point the iPad at her!

  3. I have an ancient copy of The Cloister and the Hearth which my Granny got as a school prize but I've never got around to reading it, I think I'll not bother now. Moby Dick is the one which I've been dodging for years, I feel I should read it but somehow dreaded it, so I was surprised that you've been enjoying an audio version of it. It's now a must read for 2015 for me.

    1. I don't think TCATH is a must-read so you don't need to feel guilty about not reading it. Moby-Dick, on the other hand, is terrific. I'd been avoiding it for years too as I thought it would be difficult but listening to it is, so far, a really engaging experience.

  4. Speaking of podcasts, I've been thinking of you...we're days away from getting back to Folkestone on Home Front!
    And give the cats a cuddle for me, Lyn!

    1. Yes! Every time I look at my podcasts on the iPad & see the empty little Home Front box I think - not long to go now! I'll cuddle the cats separately for you, Darleen!