Monday, September 27, 2010

A Mystery Book From The Past & Others

Crooked House by Agatha Christie
Before I knew about genres, about mysteries, about Dame Christie herself  I had the chance to read a book that I had appropriated from my brothers' room. The brothers in question are right above me and my sister in the pecking order -er.. birth order- and shared a room at the other end of our house. The room contained a variety of books which was a constant source of fascination for yours truly. Oh.. they tried to lock it up and stuff in an effort to keep the pest of a little sister away. Me, I was rather resourceful and knew where the key was kept, what time they were likely to return etc and made a clean sweep of any books present as soon as the coast was clear. More than anything else I guess they did it out of a sense of personal space that we all acquire around the early/late teen years.

Coming back to our book, it was a Library book in Malayalam but the story was so foreign that I still remember it quite vividly. Books from the past are playing catchup with me now-a-days. First The Cardinal and now this. There was hilariously delightful book called "Vellappokkam" (flood) that I still remember from one of those forays. Only a few years back did I figure out that it was written by none other than Thakazhi Sivasankarapillai.

Few months back a book friend of mine gave me three books to read. Since she was not particular about getting them back anytime soon I had put off reading 2 of those by Agatha Christie for a later date. I had a bunch of Library books to finish off you see. The time finally came for me to pick up Crooked House and give it the read. On my way into the 50th page or so it dawned on me that I am familiar with this story and in fact had never forgotten it! Having read it in Malayalam by the name of "Ajnatha Khathakan' (Unknown Murderer) and not remembering the author's name at all it never occurred to me that they could be one and the same. Though I knew the mystery's answer Dame Christie's intriguing ways kept me a captive till the last page once again.  This is not a Ms. Marple or M. Poirot story by the way.

Aftermath: I finished the 2nd Agatha Christie in one sitting (The
                 Murder of Roger Akroyd) and fished out  "Ordeal
                 by Innocence" from the Library. Ordeal by Innocence
                apparently is one of two all time favorites of Agatha
                Christie. Crooked House being the second.Christie is
                a beloved writer who can get you through boredom
                 without fear of any long lasting effect and so what have you
                 got to lose? Get off that sofa and go get some for there is
                 no better medicine to cure a reading block:-)

A Death In The Family by James Agee

Memories always take precedence over exemplary writing. Mea Culpa. The subject/story is morbid as the title implies but the book is a literary treasure. What puts this book on the pedestal is not the all too familiar storyline but the evocative, moving pros describing the love, angst and care of all in the family when faced with a beloved person's death. It is autobiographical which I didn't know when I read the book. Young Rufus and deaf Grandma Catherine alike will take root in our hearts and refuse to go away with the last page.

That James Agee was gifted does not need to be said by the likes of me. The book was posthumously published and had an editing team arranging the manuscript in chronological order. The manuscript itself was finished before Agee died. A true classic and a must read. You will be a better person to have read it and I beg of you to do just that.

Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander trilogy

I know by now most people have heard of Larsson's  Millennium series. The saving grace is the heroine Lisbath Salander who is very contemporary and accounts for the wider spectrum of empathizers. I read all three books and while it is awfully boring where Blomkvist descriptions takes on a larger than life form,  it is quite an entertainer that could get you through train journeys and airport waits in a jiffy.  I  think the story could have been better told in 2 books instead of 3. The strength is the tightly woven dark story albeit with a more Utopian view of the world for certain aspects of living.

It is to Larsson's credit that he wrote the stories while living under threats to his life and was always an advocate for what he believed in. He also did not live to see the phenomenal success of his books.
I am not sure if he intended Salander to be the main character but that is what caught the imagination of the public and the reason for the success of the books. I feel Salander lives in the background except maybe in the 2nd book while Blomkvist looms large everywhere. Another all important fact is the window into Sweden's darker side which had remained relatively unknown to the outside world.I really enjoyed the first one esp taken as a mystery of the missingVanger heiress. There is a certain naivete to Larsson's writing that could be endearing or tiresome depending on the reader. To read or not to read is left up to you.