This was my first Sarah Waters novel which, like all too many books, has been waiting patiently on my shelf to be read. All her work seems to have attracted prizes and awards and this book was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2009. It turns out to be very much more than a 20th Century ghost story.
The Collini Case is a fascinating book and its author, Ferdinand von Schirach is an equally fascinating person. He is a qualified lawyer who is one of Germany’s most prominent defence counsel. As a second string to his bow he started writing and has been at least as successful doing this. His novel concerns a young, newly-qualified defence lawyer whose first brief is the legal aid defence of a man who not only admits murder but sat waiting for the police to come for him. An open-and-shut case? Well, not if you want to write an interesting crime novel.
My next blog will be on the newly published Let me be Frank with you which is a welcome addition to Richard Ford’s three Frank Bascombe novels about which you can read in earlier blogs (click on the Richard Ford link in the Tagged list below). It promises to be every bit as good, maybe, as he matures, even better, than the first three. Put it on your Christmas list for yourself and even give copies to others! My review in about a week.
The provocative title of Hilary Mantel’s recent collection of short stories is what may attract some readers to the book but ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is the final story in a splendid set of ten that each repay close reading. Short stories are like chamber music, or perhaps Lieder, as compared to symphonies or operas as long as a novel. The jewel-like compression of the structure, exposition and development into only a few pages, means that every note Mantel strikes has to have been chosen with great deliberation.
Every so often I give myself the vicarious thrill of reading a novel by John Le Carré, and his recent book A Most Wanted Man has not let me down. Le Carré constructs his spy thrillers like the fuse of a bomb so that the explosion is on the last page and the reader, protected from lethal impact, can see that, as so often in real life, it’s the bastards who really win in the end. But it is not until the last four or five pages that we can begin to sort out who are the genuine goodies and who the real baddies. Is John Le Carré, a one-time MI6 operative, a realist, or just a cynic who writes like a poet?