Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Charmed Circle – by Anna Kavan

I love finding new/old authors. So what do I mean by that? Well, authors that wrote many years ago, but who I’ve never heard off. Many of these have become favourites, such as Barbara Pym. Anna Kavan will be the same I have a feeling, though from what I understand some of her later books are a lot different then her first few.

Anna Kavan wrote this book in 1929. It is a modern book of the time, so you have to get that time period in your head….only if like me you like to picture what is being worn etc. Industry has taken over much of the countryside of Hannington and the vicar moved out of the Old Vicarage and a new family moved in. This family is who we meet in this story. I was taken from the start with the way Anna writes:

In time builders came. They set up houses of a different kind: neat, ugly
little boxes strung together in rows. The rows, too, strung together. Surprisingly, they extended and met, forming mean streets that devoured the unresisting land. Fields were eaten away almost in a night. People went for their yearly holidays and returned four short weeks later to find the landscape strangely altered. Everywhere was an alien and unwelcome activity. Steam-rollers crawled over the endless new roads; workmen swarmed everywhere, combining with the inhabitants of the new houses to overwhelm the natives of the place. The ancient population dwindled and
vanished. A new people took possession of Hannington; a people which
teemed in the poor streets, demanding numberless shops, public-houses and
(Kavan, Anna. A Charmed Circle. London: Peter Owen. 1994, p.9.)

You really get a sense of what is going on here…then you meet the family and you see that unlike the progress that is going on around them, this family is stuck. They can’t seem to progress at all even though several of them try.

The reason I think they are stuck is because they don’t communicate with each other. It drives me made how many people I have difficulties with, only because they won’t tell you how they feel. At first you see it with the sisters. You are in their heads a lot and they tell you how they feel. But for some reason they can’t seem to express that then to the other sister and it leads to resentment and misunderstanding. There is a real hatred that flows through all of the inhabitants of the house. None of the family are happy, none of them tell each other how they feel, and they are all stuck together. No matter what they try to do so they can live their own lives….they end up back where they started. The reason is never really explained. I found that interesting. You have to really try and figure it out for yourself. You get the feeling that it could have something to do with the Dad and the illness he had that changed him. Or is it the house that keeps drawing them back. Is this why they can’t communicate to each other?

From what I understand, this book reflects the way Kavan was brought up. I see that with many authors (one of the reasons I like to read their biographies as I’m reading the first book.) A Stranger on the Earth: The Life and Work of Anna Kavan by Jeremy Reed, is the new biography that has been written about her and I’m going to get it soon so I can read it.

It might take you a bit to track down this book, but it is worth it! I interlibrary loaned it and it came quite quickly. In the States, I’m not sure how easy it will be to get.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Friends in High Places by Donna Leon

When Donna Leon writes about Venice, you feel like you are there. Her description of places and people almost makes you smell the salt of the sea. The opening of this mystery we find Commissario Brunetti told by a representative from the Ufficio Catasto that the apartment that his family live in doesn’t exist. This leads to Leon’s use of the corruption of Venice as a drive for what happens in the book. As the title says, if you know the right people, then little things such as an apartment addition that didn’t go through the proper government channels can be overlooked.

Leon plays with the idea of what is just calling in a few favours and what is letting something slide that is criminal. Brunetti’s father-in-law is called in by Paola to do something about the apartment. His contacts handle the problem very quickly. But Brunetti isn’t happy because he wanted to fix the problem. But does it really matter, would one person’s favour calling be any different then an others?

Corruption is rife in the book. Vice-Questore Patta, Brunetti’s superior, has a son arrested for selling drugs. Brunetti’s trying to figure out where a young man, who died from an overdose, bought the drugs. But Brunetti puts Patta’s son in danger with an planted article in the local newspaper. Patta makes Brunetti call up the paper and say that the problem has now been sorted. So the death of the young man is forgotten so that Patta’s son can walk free.

Another case of corruption is when the representative from the Ufficio Catasto, Rossi, that contacted Brunetti about his apartment, is killed because he was going to tell Brunetti about corruption in his department. Two drug addicts who witness the crime are also killed. All so that one man can be protected from scandal.

This is a very good read. In fact all of her books are very good. Brunetti and his family are very close and intelligently written. You really like them as a couple, they work hard at their marriage. The returning characters are well drawn. The description of Italian food makes me want to go make myself a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad! Definitely give her a try. She is a stunning writer! I would say that each of the books stand alone, though I have enjoyed reading them in order myself.

Death at La Fenice (1992)

Death in a Strange Country (1993)

Dressed for Death (1994)

Death and Judgment (1996)

Acqua Alta (1996)

The Death of Faith (1997)

A Noble Radiance (1998.)

Fatal Remedies (1999)

Friends in High Places (2000)

A Sea of Troubles (2001)

Wilful Behaviour (2002)

Uniform Justice (2003)

Doctored Evidence (2004)

Blood from a Stone (2005)

I’m reading another great book at the moment from Anna Kavan. I can’t wait to introduce you to her….though I must finish the book first and then let you know about her!