Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Notes: April 15 - 21

Imagine dining on a 600+ page serving of lutefisk.  Revolting, right?  Then, imagine an opportunity soon afterward to snack on some Biscoff cookies.  How heavenly they would seem, especially in comparison with your previous meal!  So, I finished Doctor Zhivago and immediately began Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate with a Kinsella chaser of Twenties Girl.  Delightful, refreshing, insubstantial, ebullient concoctions of witty fluff that just race breathlessly along.  And, of course, written by Brits. Ah . . . now I'm home!

This was my second try with Nancy Mitford.  I first read The Pursuit of Love a couple years ago.  I enjoyed it well enough.  I enjoyed Love in a Cold Climate even more.  Could that be because I has just plodded through the lugubrious Doctor Zhivago?  Perhaps.  But, there is quite a bit to love about Love in a Cold Climate, regardless of whatever fare you were subjected to immediately prior.

Fanny is back as the narrator of all -- far enough away from her subjects to expound upon their follies with the proper irony; close enough to give us the real scoop.  This time, it is her feckless cousin of sorts, Polly, who is causing general consternation and hullabaloo among the family members. Can Polly even feel the love her mother expects her to fall dutifully into?  Well, she sorta, kinda can -- at least when it means engaging herself to her recently widowed uncle!  Everyone spends a great deal of time up in arms and out of sorts over her choice -- until the heir of Polly's dad's entailed estate shows up from Canada via Paris and gives everyone something new to talk about.  It all rolls pleasantly and amusingly along and the ending leaves all the characters in one mode or another of happiness and the reader satisfied.

Even more toothsome and nutritionally bereft than Love in a Cold Climate is Sophie Kinsella's recent offering, Twenties Girl.  If you just enjoy very funny writing that is not at all taxing on the grey cells, you ought definitely to read Kinsella.  Her novels are screwball comedies with dizzy, lovable heroines and appropriately dreamy leading men.  I have never read a Kinsella book without laughing out loud at least a dozen or so times.

Twenties Girl is about the haunting of Lara -- a 27-year-old corporate headhunting entrepreneur who daily fights an unhealthy obsession with the boyfriend who dumped her two months before -- by Sadie, the twenty-three-year-old ghostly incarnation of Lara's 105-year-old aunt who just died.  Sound confusing?  Stick with me.  Sadie needs Lara to find for her a very special glass bead necklace that has a dragonfly pendant at the end.  Over the course of the book, it is revealed why this necklace is so very important. 

The pacing is brisk, the writing is effervescent, and the heart and soul of the book is Lara's developing relationship with her great-aunt's sassy young self.  And, like all of Kinsella's heroines, Lara finds herself in embarrassing and side-splittingly funny situations and finds the most inventive ways out of them.  And, as in every stand-alone Kinsella book, the heroine finds some at-first aloof and then beguiled leading man in which to fall deliriously in love.  If you like this sort of thing -- and I do -- you will do yourself some good to read Sophie Kinsella.  Highly recommended are the first Shopaholic book, The Undomestic Goddess, and, now, Twenties Girl.

I'm in the midst of another favorite British author's work: Lucia's Progress by E.F. Benson.  I hope that by the time I have finished it I will have utterly done away with the depression of spirits that attended my reading of Boris's banal blatherings.  God bless the Brits!

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