Three Act Tragedy

The latest selection by my book club is Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie. Apart from a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that I read while still in high school, I haven’t read many crime stories — or “whodunits” — before. I had friends who were really into this genre, but it never interested me. I was more of a fantasy/sci-fi person back then.

As such, I approached Three Act Tragedy with caution — I figured there would be red herrings all over the place, so I didn’t want to jump the gun and place all my suspicions on anyone too early. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to even try to guess the murderer (the crime in question was murder), and just go along with the story. However, a friend told me that half the fun of whodunits was trying to solve the mystery before the characters do, so I got back on the trail again.

In the end, I did not guess correctly. It was quite a surprise who the culprit was. I was going to try to write this post without spoilers, but I don’t think I can, so please be warned that there will be spoilers

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screen scourge

Being unable to go out to borrow or purchase a copy of my book club’s current read, my only options were to resort to buying an electronic copy, or otherwise miss the next meeting (which I suppose will be done online, considering current circumstances).

Speaking of current circumstances, my book club’s current read is The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s quite a fitting read at a time like this, although it is about a fictitious plague set in a world several decades in the past. But it makes one realise that we are doing quite well in comparison. (Well, I’m speaking only for the country I live in, and the people I know.)

In the novel, the plagued city in question, Oran, closed off their borders as the epidemic worsened, and forbade travel in and out of the city, both by locals and foreigners alike. The story being set in pre-internet days, the inhabitants do not have the option of video calling each other, nor can they even send letters due to fears of transmitting pathogens via paper. If I remember correctly, the only option left to them is the use of telegrams.

Moreover, the treatment for the plague must be sourced from Paris, and of course there are supply issues, and of course the treatment does not always work. Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale

My book club’s November book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Despite being what I would consider “average length” for a novel, it took me less than two weeks to read, which says something of how easy it was to read, and how much of a page-turner it was (and also how much time I purposely dedicated to reading it because I was afraid I wasn’t going to finish it before the book club meeting…)

I’d seen ads for the TV series before — ages ago — and I’d heard of the book, so I must have had some basic idea of what it was about, but, realistically, I went into it not knowing much more than whatever brief description was given in the blurb. For anyone likewise unfamiliar with the story, it’s basically a dystopian sci-fi novel in which certain women are chosen as “handmaids” for rich, high-status couples. The whole purpose of these handmaids is to produce offspring for the couple they have been assigned to. Continue reading

the sleeper awakes

I’ve just finished reading When the Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells. It’s the first story I’ve read by Wells, and I actually probably wouldn’t have read it had it not been a book club pick.

The unfortunate thing is that it was actually the October book, and I missed that meet-up because I had to travel interstate for a funeral (hence last week’s haiku). Knowing I would not be attending the meet-up kind of put the book on the back-burner, but now that I’ve really got to get started on this month’s book, I made an effort to get it finished this week-end (it’s one of the few ways I’m really stubborn — I cannot leave a book half-finished). Continue reading

lessons from the crematorium

This month’s book club selection was Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. The book club I joined alternates between fiction and non-fiction every month, and I originally thought I would be skipping a lot of the non-fiction months, but I was really intrigued by this book. (To be fair, I joined not very long ago, so there have only been two non-fiction months for me so far, so I guess I’m sitting at 50% participation on non-fiction.)

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes was first published in 2015, and was apparently a New York Times bestseller, so maybe a lot of people already know about it (?) If you don’t, it’s basically about Doughty’s experience with working in the funeral (or death) industry — mostly about her time working at a crematorium.

But the book wasn’t just written to tell us what it’s like working at a crematorium and to describe dead bodies to us. Doughty also seems to be fascinated by rituals surrounding death, and with people’s beliefs and thoughts about death and dying. It’s something that will happen to everyone but people don’t really talk about it, don’t really understand it. Continue reading

a literary numbers lessons

Time to rewind to the end of July. This is the post I would have written last week had I had the time.

On the last Saturday of July, I went to my first book club meeting. It makes it sound incredibly formal to call it a “meeting” but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to call it. It was actually very casual: we (a group of about nine people plus dog) sat around a big table eating pizza while chatting about the club’s book of the month.

I’d wanted to find and join book clubs before, but since I’m not a very fast reader, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and would end up skipping a lot of meetings, or just giving up. The other reason I never joined one was because I was worried about getting “stuck” reading book club selections, and never having time for the books I really wanted to read.

Yet it’s always such a joy to meet other bookish people, and to have other readers to talk to about bookish things. Literary past-times tend to slip out of people’s lives once they leave school, so it’s been hard to find other bookish people (with similar tastes). Continue reading