>> Friday, March 03, 2017
Two short reviews, one of a promising old book which I turned out not to like, and a novella by a favourite author that turned out to work really, really well.
TITLE: Rest and Be Thankful
AUTHOR: Helen MacInnes
I had Helen MacInnes pegged in my head as writer of spy novels, but this is one that is anything but. It's about two American friends, writers Sarah and Margaret, who are somewhat at loose ends after spending most of their adult lives in Europe, culminating in some very adventurous years during WW2. They've returned to the US, and since they are both well set up in terms of money, they have resorted to filling their time with long drives across the country.
It is while driving in Wyoming that a fortuitous automotive mishap leads them to finding the perfect ranch. It's love at first sight, and they end up purchasing the ranch house, which the owner of the land is quite happy to get rid of, as it's a bit of a white elephant to him. Margaret and Sarah's first project is to use the ranch as a literary retreat, and before too long a motley crew of mostly-unknown-to-them writers start to arrive.
It's a fun setup, but I just didn't like it. I found it extremely frustrating. The writing felt old fashioned and kind of arch and elliptical. But I could have got over that. Mainly, I got frustrated with the two main characters and how they allowed themselves to be treated by people who were guests into their own home. These guests are all nasty, self-absorbed arseholes, and I found it astounding that women who just a few years earlier were involved in the Resistance, so were clearly no pushovers, would allow themselves to be bullied in such a way. I was also frustrated by the preaching about politics. The book is very of its time in that area (it was published in 1949), and I got a really annoyed at the politics that were inserted when they had little to do with the plot. This wasn't so much that the characters had views, but that the book had views, and those views were pretty much McCarthyism. There's also a fair bit of how people from rural areas are so morally superior to people from the city (particularly New York!). Sorry, but I'm not here for that.
I was bored, as well as annoyed, so I gave up after about 100 pages.
MY GRADE: A DNF.
TITLE: Fanning the Flames
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl
Fanning the Flames is a novella that works as a prequel to Dahl's Girls' Night Out series.
Lauren Foster is a librarian. She's been divorced for a while, and recently she's been noticing fireman Jake Davis quite a bit. He's a friend of her ex's, so they've known each other for a while. Both try hard to resist the temptation, but then they give in.
There is not a lot of conflict here. What there is comes mainly from Lauren’s head. She was, as she saw it, bad at being married. She did not just meekly accept that she needed to do “wifely” things, like making a dish for her husband’s work potluck, or taking care of all the school things for their kid. She resented her husband not pulling his weight. She got angry. So she doesn’t see herself as a “nice” woman, not like Jake’s perfect, sweet, pre-school teacher late wife (as she puts it, the maximum amount of time she can spend with a group of 6-year-olds is 55 minutes. She’s timed it when they come in to the library in which she works. After that she needs to lock herself in an office and fantasise about whiskey). But Jake is baffled as to why people think he needs or wants a "nice" woman. He likes Lauren. He likes that Lauren is not shy at all about what she wants sexually, and the person she is fits him perfectly.
I think in a longer book, the story might have suffered because of the lightness of the conflict, but in novella length, it was perfect. This was hot and sweet and absolutely hilarious (that scene when they are surprised in Jake’s house... I'm still giggling). Just right.
MY GRADE: A B+.