Monday, June 2, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

This novel teeters on the edge of romance (in the modern, Harlequin, bodice-ripper sense of the word) and has a heroine with a strikingly anachronistic sense of self and purpose. Other critics lambaste its historical accuracy, but as this work is fictional, deviations from the historical record don't bother me so much. Instead, the attitudes of characters, which strike me as significantly more modern than they should be, are troubling. Still, the story is pretty good (if the ironic foreshadowing a bit self-satisfied at times), and I will probably read more of her Tudor Court novels.

The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving

This collection of short stories is quite a mixed bag. The book starts with a voyage across the Atlantic back to England, metaphorically figured as an alienated father. In the course of the book, however, the stories jump back and forth across the Atlantic. There are hints of the gothic, with ghost stories presented as folklore accounts. There is a lengthy account of an old-fashioned English Christmas, and a brief piece on King Philip. "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Diederich Knickerbocker's two posthumous works, bookend the collection. Irving's views on the Native Americans are both surprisingly enlightened, and yet, still deeply patronizing. Despite the mixed genres, the collection is pervaded by a sense of chaos and confusion--the loss of something old without a clear direction of what new thing will replace it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

This novel presents the moral dilemma of a clergyman: a reformer claims that the position that he has been holding as warden of an alms hospital is overpaid by several hundred pounds, according to the terms of the will. Rev. Harding finds himself torn between his responsibility to the church and to his bedesmen. This problem has no good solution, as the morally complex novel refuses to simply condemn anyone; instead, it offers both sympathy for and judgment on all parties involved in the dispute. This satirical novel was a delight to read and I look forward to continuing the chronicles of Barsetshire.

Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

This book, a thriller set in modern-day New York, but the solution to the series of murders lies buried in the past. The mystery part of the plot was pretty entertaining, but I can't say that I cared for all the gory descriptions of murder that accompany the solution.