As I mentioned in a previous post, I really haven't read as many books as I usually try to during the past couple of months. I was busy catching up on magazines, and just trying to slog through the heat and humidity we've had around here lately (and are still having).
Anyway, here are the things that I finished during May and June.
Three Bags Full : A Sheep Detective Story, by Leonie Swann. I had been wanting to read this book for a while, and finally got a copy. The story takes place in a small town in Ireland, where a shepherd has been murdered, and everyone is wondering who the culprit was. The townspeople of course have their theories, but the focus of this book is the decision by the sheep in the late shepherd's flock to band together and try to solve this murder mystery.
The sheep were very fond of George, their shepherd, and cannot believe that anyone would want him out of the way. Each member of the flock has a place in the story, and helps to eventually figure out not just what happened, but why. They also make it possible for the townspeople to learn of their results.
I liked this book; I found the idea of sheep "detectives" to be one that would either fail terribly or be enjoyable, and in my opinion book falls into the latter category. The observations of the animals about various human characters, and the descriptions of the sensory information that could be transmitted to the flock without the human even knowing it were things that appealed to me. I was amused that the primary female sheep detective was named Miss Maple, and that the black sheep was Othello. The overheard conversations had by the human characters were true examples of comments people will make when they have no reason to think anyone important is listening.
I will admit that I took a long time to read this book, partly because I was enjoying it so much, and partly because I would only sit down to read it when I had time to read more than 10 or 15 pages at a time.
I think that Swann does a good job of making the characters lively and alive, and the dialogue was often pretty amusing. This is not an intense, literary work, but I found it well worth reading.
The Code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse. Actually, I listened to this from an audio version of this produced by the BBC. Bertie Wooster's Aunt Dahlia assigns him to go to an antique store and pooh-pooh a silver cow creamer, hoping that the store owner will mark down the price so her husband can buy it. Needless to say, Bertie runs into trouble, in the form of Sir Watkyn Bassett, who is also interested in the cow creamer. And of course, there is a mixup so that it appears that Bertie was trying to steal the cow creamer.
Through a series of events that only occur in Bertie Wooster's world, he is also planning a visit to the estate of Madeline Bassett, who is engaged to his friend Gussie Finknottle [editorial note: best character name ever!], to provide moral support for Gussie. Once again, misunderstandings and ridiculous situations ensue, with Bertie right in the thick of it, and Jeeves once again coming to the rescue.
I am familiar with this story, but hearing it again was just as entertaining as it was the first time. Wodehouse has created characters that never cease to amuse me, living in one of my favorite time periods. Normally someone like Bertie Wooster would really irritate me, but he is just so happy with himself all of the time, and lives such a "jolly" life, it's hard not to enjoy his antics. Plus, he has friends with such stupidly great names, i.e., "Stinker" Pinker, who are also for the most part pretty worthless, and often make Bertie look like the brains of the outfit.
The only TV dramatization I've ever seen of these stories had Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as Jeeves. No matter when I read the stories, or hear them, those two will always be in my head as those characters.
Everyone needs some Bertie Wooster in their lives every once in a while, if you ask me!
Just Take My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark. Another Mary Higgins Clark entry, this time intertwining two womens' lives in a way that I didn't really expect. Emily Wallace is given the assignment of proving that the husband of a rising Broadway star killed her. The story of the victim and her past as well as that of Emily come together in a very interesting manner. Emily has her case all figured out - or so she thinks. Along the way, people and circumstances start to worry her, and she is no longer 100% convinced that the defendant is guilty.
In the meantime, Emily's personal life is getting weird, thanks to her creepy next-door neighbor, who is spying on her.
As with most of Mary Higgins Clark's books, the story develops for most of the book and then things start happening all at once right at the end.
If you are in the mood for a creepy and entertaining story, this one was a good read as far as I'm concerned.
The Three Weismanns of Westport, by Cathleen Schine. This was another book that I had read reviews about, and thought might be fun to read. I found a copy at the library, and snapped it up off the shelf before anyone else could get it!
The characters in the title are a mother and her two grown daughters, all of whom move to a cousin's house on the beach in Westport, Connecticut when various things start to go wrong in their lives.
The book starts when Betty Weismann learns that her husband Joseph has plans to divorce her and marry his younger assistant. Betty and Joseph have been married for 50 years, and at first, Betty doesn't believe what she is hearing. But soon enough, it's all too clear that Joseph is in fact ending the marriage. While things are being straightened out, she is forced to leave her New York City apartment and take refuge in a house owned by a cousin who swoops in to help at just the right time. Her daughter Miranda, who had been a very successful literary agent, sees her business fall apart when one of her authors admits to making up the information in his memoir. The other daughter, Annie, is a librarian who is drowning in debt, and is coming close to losing her apartment. She sublets it and heads to Westport as well, to join her mother and younger sister to be sure that someone "responsible" is there with them.
The book covers a year in their lives, and reveals each character's hopes, dreams, and flaws. The cast of supporting characters are very well-drawn, and for the most part, believable. There are some very funny parts, but in the end, the book is rather sad, in the sense of evoking a what-could-have-been feeling.
The characters of Joseph and his new wife Felicity, are not as well-developed and as a result, Joseph seems like a wuss and Felicity like a golddigger. Which may be the point, but I wished a couple of times that I could have some clue as to why they acted the way they did.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, and found aspects of the story ones that seem to be sadly played out in real life for too many people.
Two of these were library books, and one was a downloaded audiobook, so the only book that is up for grabs is Three Bags Full. Let me know by the end of the day on Thursday, July 8, if you are interested. I'll do some name pickin' out of a hat or something if more than one person would like it.