I can imagine what you´re thinking upon reading that title – Choice of Magic has gone avantgarde and this month´s topic makes no sense. Well there´s little I can say to defend myself. January started off with two murder stories – Robert Galbraith´s Troubled Blood and Richard Osman´s Thursday Murder Club. I loooooved both of them, as I love pretty much any good crime novel, and I would have continued with the theme, if only I had had more crime novels around the house. But I did not, so I went for a book on marriage. My boyfriend should be concerned, I know. Marriageology is a book I read a couple of years back and reread now because I just love the author´s sense of humour so much, and the content of the book will never seize to be useful. As I am writing this I realise how it´s going to sound, but next I went for the heartbreaking classic Sense and Sensibility. I reread Austen every couple of years and this one I read in 2016 for the last time, but since my memory is just awful, it was wonderful to reread it now. And finally, I ended the month with some poetry (so far keeping to my resolution of reading more poetry and classics this year) and I read a beautiful bilingual edition of Pessoa´s TaBaCaRia. Here´s what I thought of them all.
Robert Galbraith´s Troubled Blood
Troubled Blood is the fifth novel from Robert Galbraith´s (aka undercover JK Rowling for those who don´t know) Cormoran Strike series. The almost 1000 pages follow detectives Cormoran Strike and his business partner, Robin as they try to uncover a 40 year old disappearance while simultaneously dealing with their feelings about each other. You might think that sounds a tad cheesy, but as someone who doesn´t like romance novels much, I feel it´s just the appropriate amount of cheesy. Not to mention that the actual narrative about the disappearance and the subsequent murders is bloody brilliant. No pun intended. Robert Galbraith manages to wrap you into the story to the degree where you feel like mapping and hopefully solving the murders he writes about, on the walls of your room, just like you see in the movies. And while reading these loooong books might sound like quite a piece of work, especially if like me you dwell on every scene, thinking it´s gonna make you identify the culprit before the end of the book, it´s actually surprisingly fast. I read this one in about a week and cannot wait for the next book of the series.
Richard Osman´s The Thursday Murder Club
I´ll start off by saying that I would have paid big money to be in the room as Richard Osman pitched this book idea to his publisher. That must have been quite something. The Thursday Murder club is essentially the story of a small group of octogenarians that try to solve murders every Thursday, from the comfort of their nursing home. About half of the book is written as a diary of one of said old people (Joyce) and I find it just hilarious how well the author managed to assume a 80 year old woman´s thoughts and writing style. What did make this book tricky to read for me though, was the fact that I constantly look for clues in crime novels. And that was rather difficult due to the chapters written as Joyce´s diary. They sound like an old woman´s nonsense and yet make you desperate to analyse them, but then there´s nothing there. However, I think I found this as tiring as I found it entertaining. As for the ending (or rather last couple of chapters) – they are beautifully twisted and confusing and marvellous.
Belinda Luscombe´s Marriageology
If you know me, you know I cringe whenever I pass the self-help isle at the book store. So naturally you´ll be confused as to how and why did I read this book TWICE. Well simply put, I´ve kind of learned to accept that we do need the self help isle, especially under the current circumstances. Last year has not been easy on anyone I know and as much as one tries, it´s hard to remind yourself every day that there were a lot of growth opportunities in the mess that we call 2020. To me, 2020 has been a year spent away from my partner and that has not come without challenges. So I felt like rereading this book and am really glad I did so. I should mention that this is not necessarily a book one reads when one´s relationship is in trouble. It has great advice for couples that are doing fine as well as for couples going through a tough patch. This is just to say that there´s no reason to feel self conscious buying it. I had almost forgotten what a fantastic sense of humour Belinda Luscombe had. Her personal anecdotes are wrapped into extensive case studies and fantastic advice for couples (married or not). By the time I finished this book for a second time it was full of dog ears and underlinings every couple of pages. Truly recommended if you´re committed to your relationship.
Jane Austen´s Sense and Sensibility
What is it about Jane Austen that drags me back to her books again and again and again? Despite the pressure I often feel to read everything that´s out there, Austen is one of the few writers I revisit again and again. And while I loved Pride and Prejudice (who here hasn´t, really?), it´s Sense and Sensibility that I always return to to get my heart broken. The story focuses on two of the three Dashwood girls – Elinor (the incorporation of sense) and Marianne (as sensitive as it gets at the end of the 18th century). The Dashwood girls have lost their father and as such are forced to move to Barton cottage with their mother and sister, Margret. Young women looking to marry, they both fall in love (one more passionately and vocal than the other) and go through heartbreak, each in their own way. I personally find the book extremely entertaining and feel it has a great capacity to make one feel for its characters. The criticism it has received from feminists, albeit I consider myself one, I find rather without basis. The book was after all written by a teenage Jane Austen at the beginning of the 19th century and has to be regarded in that context. As such, for what it is, I find it nothing short of remarkable.
Álvaro de Campos´ TaBaCaRia
I received this beautiful book as a Christmas present and felt almost bad for reading it in one go. TaBaCaRia is just a poem (albeit a longer one), but the book has a pretty nice introduction and also has the poem in both English and Portuguese so it took me just a couple of hours to read it one evening. Written in 1933, by one of Fernando Pessoa´s heteronyms, Álvaro de Campos, touches upon topics such as the infinite or one´s identity. I really love the sound of it in Portuguese, but confess I had to read it in English to comprehend most of it. This particular translation is absolutely beautiful though. TaBaCaRia is considered by some the most important Portuguese poem of the 20th century and is definitely a must read for anyone interested in Portuguese culture. And while I have difficulties rating works of art as short as poems, I cannot help but give it 5 stars. We´re talking about Pessoa, after all.