This was my second parliamentary murder in a couple of weeks, along with The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkenson.
I liked them both. I think that Turner's mystery was a bit better, but Wilkinson's background and political characterizations were deeper. I would recommend either of them for fans of classic mystery, especially if you're looking for a book with political intrigue.
I know that there was some discussion around buddy reading Cards on the Table next. Given that we are already into the month of June, we can either plan to read in late June, or wait until July.
Is anyone else interested?
Let's talk timing below!
The votes are in and the results of the poll are as follows:
A Passage to India wins with 7
Beloved received 4 votes
Ethan Frome received 4 votes
Orient Express brought up the rear with a still respectable 3 votes
I have the Penguin Classics edition, which is 376 pages long. I've been meaning to read Forster for years, so I'm excited to get down to business on this one, although I would have been happy with any of the choices. I have a few books to finish up before I tackle this one - I really do want to finish up my Detection Club project, so I think I will do that first! I only have two relatively short books left for that one!
Moby Dick remains in the future...
Title: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
Author: Carson McCullers
Date Published: 1940
Plot Summary: Carson McCullers’ prodigious first novel was published to instant acclaim when she was just twenty-three. Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South, it is the story of John Singer, a lonely deaf-mute, and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind, sympathetic nature. The owner of the café where Singer eats every day, a young girl desperate to grow up, an angry drunkard, a frustrated black doctor: each pours their heart out to Singer, their silent confidant, and he in turn changes their disenchanted lives in ways they could never imagine.
Carson McCullers was 23 when she wrote The Heart is the Lonely Hunter, and already married to Reese McCullers. In 1934, she left home, in Columbus, Georgia, and went to New York City to study at Julliard, by herself, with $500.00 pinned to her underwear. She was 17 years old.
It's hard, in 2019, with a 23 year old daughter of my own, to imagine anyone having the life experience to write The Heart is a Lonely Hunter at that age. Carson McCullers was, obviously, remarkable. She died young, 3 years younger than I am right now, her body worn down from illness and alcoholism. She wasn't a prolific writer, leaving behind a small body of work: 4 novels and a dozen or so short stories, as her claim to immortality. But what a claim she makes.
There is research that demonstrates that reading, and especially reading literary fiction, improves the reader's ability to empathize. Reading a book like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter makes that statement almost laughably obvious. Of course, reading fiction improves empathy. How could it not?
This book is painfully resonant. McCuller's characters are so real that they nearly leap off the page. The center of the book is John Singer, a deaf-mute who, at the beginning of the book is living with his best friend, Antonopoulos, a fellow deaf-mute. Their lives are very simple - they rise, they go to work at their disparate employments, they meet after work and return home to dinner. Singer speaks with his hands, and talks all evening to his friend. Antonopoulos does not speak in return, and it's never clear to anyone, including Singer, that he understands what he is being told. Singer is deeply, and non-sexually, committed to Antonopoulos. After a while, Antonopoulos begins acting out in town, and his cousin has him committed to a mental institution, which is the event that really starts the book.
Singer moves out of the apartment he shared with his friend because it is too painful for him to live there alone, and he moves to the home of Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who is, to me, the true heart of the book. He begins frequenting the New York Cafe, owned by Biff Branner. He meets Benedict Copeland, the black doctor in town, and Jake Blount, usually drunk and always scrappy. And he, somewhat inexplicably, becomes the sun around which all of these characters orbit.
BY MIDSUMMER Singer had visitors more often than any other person in the house. From his room in the evening there was nearly always the sound of a voice. After dinner at the New York Café he bathed and dressed himself in one of his cool wash suits and as a rule did not go out again. The room was cool and pleasant. He had an icebox in the closet where he kept bottles of cold beer and fruit drinks. He was never busy or in a hurry. And always he met his guests at the door with a welcome smile.
We never do find out very much about Singer - his interior life is largely closed to the reader. We know that he visits his friend, Antonopoulos, in the institution and those visits give us just the smallest glimpse into Singer. But, he really serves as the catalyst for us to learn about the interior lives of the other characters.
McCuller's portrayal of the black community in this small town in Georgia was astonishing. When I was digging around on the internet after finishing the book, still in the throes of the emotional weight of the story, I found quotes by James Baldwin and Richard Wright, author of Native Son, who said, of McCullers that she had the ability to "embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness."
Dr. Copeland says:
"My people were brought from the great plains, and the dark, green jungles,’ he said once to Mr. Singer. ‘On the long chained journeys to the coast they died by the thousands. Only the strong survived. Chained in the foul ships that brought them here they died again. Only the hardy Negroes with will could live. Beaten and chained and sold on the block, the least of these strong ones perished again. And finally through the bitter years the strongest of my people are still here. Their sons and daughters, their grandsons and great-grandsons."
Mick Kelly is Scout Finch, if Atticus had been an out-of-work watch repairman with too many children and not nearly enough money, and if Scout had been a musician. Mick is the character who broke my heart into one million pieces, with the futility of her love of music and the chains of her birth circumstances tightening around her as the novel progresses. She is Thea Kronberg, from The Song of the Lark, without wings to lift her. There are no happy endings here, as she submits gracelessly to her fate, working at Woolworth's, saying goodbye to her dreams, for the $10.00 a week that will help her feed her family.
And then we have Jake Blount, the drunken communist with a dark past.
“And the reason I think like I do is this: We live in the richest country in the world. There’s plenty and to spare for no man, woman, or child to be in want. And in addition to this our country was founded on what should have been a great, true principle—the freedom, equality, and rights of each individual. Huh! And what has come of that start? There are corporations worth billions of dollars—and hundreds of thousands of people who don’t get to eat.”
This book was written during the grimmest part of the Great Depression, and yet the more things change, the more things stay the same. Like all of the very best fiction, it shows the reader things that are true in the way that only fiction can be true. I think that I could read this book a hundred times and I would get something different out of it with each reading.
I am going to finish Detection bingo this summer, while I play Booklikesopoly!
My remaining are squares are 2 & 14. I'm finished with The Moonstone - woo hooo -so next up is The Skeleton Key or Green For Danger.
So close to finishing!
Links to the book lists - courtesy of Themis-Athena
The 100 books: The 100 books individually highlighted by the author.
Chapters 1 through 5: (Chapter 1: A New Era Dawns; Chapter 2: The Birth of the Golden Age; Chapter 3: The Great Detectives; Chapter 4: Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!; Chapter 5: Miraculous Murders)
Chapters 6 & 7: (Chapter Six: Serpents in Eden; Chapter Seven: Murder at the Manor)
Chapters 8 through 10: (Chapter Eight: Capital Crimes (London mysteries); Chapter Nine: Resorting to Murder (detectives solving crimes while on vacation); Chapter Ten: Making Fun of Murder)
Chapters 11 through 15: (Chapter Eleven: Education, Education, Education; Chapter Twelve: Playing Politics; Chapter Thirteeen: Scientific Enquiries;; Chapter Fourteen: The Long Arm of the Law; Chapter Fifteen: The Justice Game
Chapters 16 through 20: (Chapter 16: Multiplying Murders; Chapter 17: The Psychology of Crime; Chapter 18: Inverted Mysteries; Chapter 19: The Ironists; Chapter 20: Fiction from Fact)
Chapters 21 through 24: (Chapter Twenty-One: Singletons; Chapter Twenty-Two: Across the Atlantic; Chapter Twenty-Three: Cosmopolitan Crimes; ChapterTwenty-Four: The Way Ahead)
As promised, I put together a bingo card for The Detective Club, based on the chapter headings in Martin Edward's The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.
Each number refers to the relevant chapter in The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. The images are either a detail from the cover image of a book mentioned in the chapter, with the exception of #3, and I couldn't resist an image of Hercule Poirot for a chapter called The Great Detectives!
We all have one of those private "I want to read that someday" lists in our heads, right? Some of us even write them down, but whether a reader writes down their list of books that have crossed their paths that they want to get to "someday" the list exists. At least, I think I'm probably not alone there.
This has been on that private list of mine for years.
Back on September 1, 2012, I signed up for the Classics Club, which was a blog project to read 50 classics in 5 years. I finished that first round of the Classics Club in precisely 3 years, making a huge push to finish the project on August 31, 2015. (If you are interested in reading about that project, you can find it on my old blog, The Dead Author's Club, and the wrap-up post is here, the list of books read is here).
I then proceeded to take four years off - although not really. In that time, I've had many other reading projects, some of which I have abandoned, some of which I have stuck with (Detection Club, my Christie project). I decided a while ago that I'm not going to look back, so the abandoned projects will probably stay abandoned, unless they catch my fancy again.
But, my fancy has again taken me back to the Classics Club, version 2.0. Some of you may have noticed my new list, created over the last few days, but posted yesterday, which you can find here. This list is both ambitious and more modern than my last list, which was fairly heavy on the Victorians. There are some books on it that are long-standing goals of mine - Faulkner in particular. I still haven't ginned up enough confidence (or despair) to put Joyce on my list. I struggle with modernist lit.
This list is also considerably more diverse than my last list, which was exclusively dead white people. I did a pretty good job of dividing my attention between women and men, but looking back it, there was not a single book written by a person of color., which is both embarrassing and indefensible. I'm pleased to say that this list has several, including Beloved by Nobel Prize Winner Toni Morrison. I am intimidated but not overwhelmed by the list.
I've set the list at 50, although I am planning to add another 10 when I get some time to think about it, both because 60 is a nice number, and is the precise number of months in 5 years. The only real parameter that I have is to read and post about one book a month on average. I'm sure there will be months where I read two, or even three, and then there will be months when the idea of picking up something more challenging than YA fantasy will feel like too much.
Oh, and this is an update post, right?
So far I am really enjoying this book - Mick Kelly is a fantastic character, and I love Dr. Copeland. Once I get The Moonstone off my back, I'll be able to concentrate fully on it.
On the one hand, I really love the way that Wilkie Collins has constructed this book, with the "story" at the beginning, told from the perspective of Betteredge, who is a fantastic character, and then with the additional narratives at the end, that provide the perspectives of the additional characters.
Miss Clack is a peach.
However, on the other hand, I want to shake Collins and yell at him to get on with it man. I'm at 78% and I am ready for this book to be finished. I remember this sensation from the first time that I read this book as well.
I will finish this book today. I am setting aside everything else to get it done.
I started this as an audiobook, but couldn't sustain listening to it - it was too graphically violent. When I read a violent book, I'm able to skip over the really detailed violence. With an audiobook, I can't do that. I have decided that Karin Slaughter's audiobooks aren't for me for that reason.
I got to about the midpoint, and wanted to know how it ended, so I checked it out of the library.
I really like the Will Trent series, but I also just wish that Slaughter would dial back the graphic descriptions about five notches. I love the interactions between Faith & Will, and this is the book that brings her two series together - Grant County's Sara Linton is now working in Atlanta and meets Faith & Will at the beginning of the book.
As is always the case, Slaughter's plot was well-crafted and highly readable. The murderer wasn't entirely convincing, and the resolution was really not very believable. She does put together a wild ride, though.
I think that fans of the Lucas Davenport books might enjoy Slaughter's mysteries. They are similar in execution, but her characters do a lot less tripping over their own dicks. They aren't quite as good as the Bosch series at that sort of noir, hard-boiled police procedural thing, but they are still good reads. If you can make your way past the descriptions of trauma and pain.
I don't have a ton to say about this one. I read the first installment in the series years ago, and sort of liked it, but didn't want to spend any money on the books. I keep a vague eye on them, but I haven't actually seen them go on sale. I don't feel like these UF series have a ton of rereading potential, so I tend not to buy them unless I can get them for a buck or two.
I've been doing a lot more library reading recently, though, so I decided to continue with the series and checked out this one, as well as the third book in the series.
Overall, of the three McGuire series that I've read - InCryptids, Wayward Children & this one - this is my least favorite. Wayward Children has a brutal lyricism that I find compelling, and InCryptids is so full of whimsy and flair that poor Toby just can't compete (this probably just boils down to my love of Aeslin mice). Overall, I've found the first two books in the series to be quite average.
Plus, I thought that the overall plot of this book was weak.
It's an easy read, though. I started the book around 1:30, and finished it by 6:30, with quite a bit of additional activity in the middle, including a trip to a favorite restaurant for a plate of dirty fries and an IPA.
The book may have been mediocre. The fries and the beer were outstanding.
I'll probably keep reading because UF is such an easy genre for me and I enjoy bingeing on it from time to time.
I've read all of Kate Daniels, most of Mercy Thompson, a lot of Harry Dresden and a smattering of a few other series. If you have a favorite UF series, point me to it below, and maybe I'll check it out of the library.
I am planning on reading for every square in this roll, so I probably won't be rolling again for several days!
Square 27: Read a book that features a hero's journey or is a bildungsroman (coming of age tale) or that has a word related to space in the title, such as star, planet, rocket).
Reading The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, which is identified as a bildungsroman on many booklists. This is a book I've been planning on reading for a long time, so I'm glad to be able to fit into the game! (359 pages, +$3.00)
Space 36: Read a book that involves travel to Europe, or that has an image of any European city or monument on the cover, or that the letters of the title can spell the name of any European city* that I visited on my trip *Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Geneva, Rome, Florence, Venice & Barcelona.
Reading Below the Clock by J.V. Turner. I have the Collins Crime Edition pictured, which has an image of Big Ben on the cover. (224 pages, +$3.00)
Space 6: Read a book set in your home town, state, or country or that you checked out of your local library or that has been on your (physical) bookshelves since last summer.
Reading A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, which is checked out of my local library. (376 pages, +$3.00)
For a Monday morning.
I mean, honestly, what can I say? This is, to me, a near perfect Christie.
It's a Poirot, which are generally my favorites. Agatha mines her knowledge of exotic travel settings to excellent effect when she sends her characters down the Nile on the Karnak. The personalities are well drawn, and it has an appearance by the enigmatic and intriguing Colonel Race (I'm not going to lie, for me, he is the recurring Christie character with by far the most SA, as Christie herself would've said).
There is a fun little romantic subplot. There are a couple of truly bonkers older women. And the mystery is first rate.
It does get a bit bogged down with all of those extraneous crimes happening around the primary murder, but I don't even care.