February 2nd, 2012

Teyla Green Tree

Rambling About Books

We have fog again and I still need to finish the last chapter of this book. Not much has changed from yesterday.

Books I'm reading: Two for Sorrow and Angel with Two Faces by Nicola Upson. These are mysteries, set in the UK in the mid 1930s, starring mystery author Josephine Tey as the main character. They're...okay. I think part of the problem is that I'm a huge Tey fan and while these books try to imitate her style, the writing is too long-winded (the conversations are often repetitive and go on way too long, to the point where in my head they sound like "blah blah blah we talked about that already" and the characters not nearly as engaging as Tey's characters. Also, she makes Tey kind of a distant jerk, especially in the third book. Which, given the attitudes and prejudices likely to be found in mid-1930s anywhere, she may well have been, but that's just not a characterization that grabs me in a series mystery.

There are some really good things about these books that keep me reading. The actual murder mystery plot is very intriguing and kind of nicely scary, once you get to it. The Scotland Yard detective, Archie, and his two female cousins who are West End theatrical costumers, are very engaging (I wish they were the main characters of the books). And the theatrical bits and the discussion about what being a lesbian in London was like in the 1930s as opposed to the 1920s are interesting.

I just wish she hadn't included Tey, and had dropped the faulty imitation of Tey's style. It's just making me think of books like The Franchise Affair and Miss Pym Disposes (now that's a book about a flawed main character who is still engaging to read about, because her flaws are subtle in that they're flaws most of us share, and so they don't really stand out until the end, when you see what's happened and think "Oh yeah, I would have totally screwed that up, too." It's like a warning against passing judgement on people and trying to affect their lives, and a reminder that no matter what you think is going on, you aren't omniscient, and if you're wrong, people other than you are going to suffer. (Also, there's a sideways slap at Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, with a similar grumpy-supposedly-spinster professor character, except in Tey the character has a hot famous West End actor following her around trying to marry her, and she just doesn't feel like getting married.)

In some ways, The Franchise Affair has a similar theme, because it's about a situation that some people are 100% convinced happened one way, and it turns out that they are completely 100% wrong. It's practically a textbook example of how someone can use the idea of the Big Lie (one lie so big that everyone assumes it has to be true, garnished with bits of truth and half-truth to add verisimilitude) to totally destroy the lives of random strangers, for no other reason than that it's convenient for her. (You can see this play out in realtime with depressing frequency on the internet.))

Okay, long parenthetical, and I forgot what my point was. Anyway, I'm still reading these books, but I think I'm going to read some real Tey afterward.