I’ve already done my summer reading: three silly books that would have been better saved for that horsefly-haunted fishing lodge I will find myself in soon.
But they are no less frothy than most of what will be promoted this summer!
FIRST, THE ROMANCE NOVELLA.
D. H. Lawrence is one of my favorite English writers. I love his poetry, novels, and travel writing. His style can be intense, but I appreciate intensity. Why, why, why did I not get on a train to Nottingham, his birthplace, when I was in England? Well, he didn’t like Nottingham much. And he wasn’t that keen on England.
Is he still in fashion? I have no idea. My obsession began when I saw the movie Women in Love, starring Glenda Jackson, who won the Oscar for Best Actress, Oliver Reed, Alan Bates, and Jennie Linden. And then I was enraptured by the novel Women in Love, though I tried to be cool about it, because my best friend thought it was very funny. It is one of the strangest, loveliest, most seductive books I’ve ever read. The Rainbow, its prequel, is even more stunning. I also like Sons and Lovers, his beautiful coming-of-age novel.
And then there’s The Virgin and the Gipsy.
Mind you, I enjoyed The Virgin and the Gipsy, but Lawrence’s sexual philosophy can seem ridiculous when concentrated in a novella. He needs a short story or a novel.
It is actually a typical Lawrence story of forbidden sexual attraction between a middle-class woman and a lower-class man. Think Lady Chatterley’s Lover, only sillier. It begins almost like a fairy tale. The rebellious Yvette and her older sister, Lucille, are trapped in the rigid life of a rectory dominated by a grim granny referred to as the Mater. We learn that their mother, Cynthia, left the rector for a penniless man when the girls were children. And their Aunt Cissie sizzles furiously about the house hating both girls, but especially Yvette.
So, naturally, the girls like to get out. One day the wild Yvette is out in a car with Lucille and some other young people, and they almost run down a gipsy cart. The cart finally gets over to the side of the road, but the driver is furious.
Yvette’s heart gave a jump. The man on the cart was a gipsy, one of the black, loose-bodied, handsome sort.
He asks if they would like their fortunes told.
She met his dark eyes for a second, their level search, their insolence, their complete indifference to people like Bob and Leo, and something took fire in her breast. She thought: “he is stronger than I am! He doesn’t care!”
Yvette experiences pure sexual attraction. This is a little overwritten, though.
Yvette has clandestine meetings with the gipsy. Sometimes he drives his cart past their house and she runs out, other times Yvette resists. She is also scandalizes her granny by befriending a couple who are living in sin while they wait for the woman’s divorce.
It’s a little silly. Still, it seemed pure sex when I was an adolescent.
So maybe it’s a Y.A. book?
SECOND, THE COZY MYSTERY THAT’S TOO COZY.
I picked up a couple of mysteries by Patricia Moyes, because they were very nice paperback editions with crisp pages. I THINK I read about them at a blog.
Well, damn, Down Among the Dead Men is just not that good.
Chief Inspector Henry Tibbetts and his wife Emmy go on vacation with friends, Rosemary and Alastair, who have a sailboat. And then they (and we) have to learn everything about sailing.
Alastair looked at him pityingly. “If the jib didn’t have a port and a starboard sheet, how could you come about?” Henry said he had no idea, and watched humbly as Alastair picked up another rope from the deck.
If the jib didn’t…? It’s a lot like Nancy Drew. Everything has to be explained, and over-explained, until you’re ready actually to put your backs into it and heave ho!
Anyhow, they sail with a bunch of friends, including a saucy sexpot of a woman, Ann, whom the other women hate (including me).
And Henry figures out that a friend of theirs who died tragically was actually murdered.
And Ann puts her hands all over him and makes him promise to stop saying he was murdered.
Okay, but not good enough. Maybe this isn’t Moyes’ best?
THIRD, THE SIMENON THAT’S VERY SIMENON-Y.
Of course Simenon is excellent, if you like that kind of thing. The Grand Banks Cafe is a police procedural, straight investigation with no real rounded characters, and lots of re-creation of the crime going on in Maigret’s mind.
Maigret, a French detective, and his wife go on vacation in a fishing port so he can help clear the name of a teacher friend’s student, Pierre, who was the wireless operator of a ship whose voyage was apparently doomed. (Lots of accidents.) Pierre is accused of murdering the captain after they came ashore. The investigation gets stranger and more bizarre as Maigret discovers that a femme fatale was involved with three of the men on the ship.
Very tight, short, and fast. One of the better Simenons.
And if you want it, it’s yours. I’m giving away the Simenon. Leave a comment if you’d like the book.
I confess I’ve always thought Lawrence might be a bit melodramatic for me, which is why I’ve never read him! And the Moyes sounds a bit thin. But the best Simenons are marvellous – I love Maigret!
Lawrence’s best are great, but this one is to be avoided! I very much liked this Simenon.
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Have we talked about book packaging? Before the 1970s (maybe a bit earlier) or around the time Oxford and a couple of other prestigious imprints began to publish books in paperback on the first round and published large numbers of classic paperbacks, most of them had these “low” and sexy pictures. By low I mean appealing to non-learned people, not college types, with working class imagery. That changed, and on “classic” authors there appeared images of respectable 19th century paintings. These announced the book as serious. Today we have sophisticated art work, 20th century and earlier paintings.
Most of the time I much prefer the “serious” packaging, but as I look at Lawrence’s plot-design and ideas I’m glad to see him given a package which stamps the book as the kind of misogynistic claptrap (women love to be punished, love to stand around bare-foot in towels just aching for a fuck) that say a Mickey Spillane book doesn’t bother to hide. Ironically for once the cover fits.
I don’t care for Lawrence 🙂 except for his travel books.
I chose the pulp covers because they’re so outrageous and they do fit this particular book (in a way). It’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover gone haywire, and God knows that’s far from his best book! There are so many of these pulp covers…
I will read anything with Maigret in it, so if there are no other takers…..
Did you see the series on public television with Michael Gambon as Maigret?
Yes, I’ll send you the Maigret. I haven’t seen the series. I’ll look for it!
I read The Virgin and the Gypsy when I was about nineteen. I liked it then a lot I think I would be irritated by it now. It seemed far sexier than many other books of the time.
Oh, I do love Lawrence! I did like this one when I was young. It’s not quite up to his usual standards!
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I am sorry to say that I could never enjoy a DH Lawrence’s novel. I read Lady Chatterley, which seemed one of the highest sex books – except that Mother gave it to me and we ended dissecting and analysing the text! Not sexy at all. Perhaps, it killed (for the time being) all temptation to read more. The same happened with Thomas Hardy. I shall come back to them later.
I do not know Moyes. Is it a great hole in my reading hostory?
Simenon is unequal: some books are very good, others are less. I tend to like those without Maigret. They are tighter. Stories are very straightforward, vocabulary simple, and the narrative is taut. But this is in French. Is it different in English?
The best Lawrence is great!
Moyes: Very light. This one was disappointing, but I do think someone online recommended her.
Oh, the Simenon is excellent, though I must admit I’m not a great fan of police procedurals!
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