Sunday, August 21, 2016

For: words

So, here I am just passing 70 (speed limit is 60) and trying to fill in some of my semi-retirement time with some book reviews of current and past reads.  Generally, I prefer what is termed as "literary fiction," i.e. not the stuff you find in airport book stalls.  As a "break" from the literary fiction genre I supplement with crime fiction, mostly by British authors such as Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, and Peter Lovesey.  At the moment, though, I am being sidetracked by non-fiction historical books, specifically SPQR and Pompeii by Mary Beard because she is giving a presentation next month in the city where I live.

This, then, will be the primary focus of the blog, although I will add in some other things such as DVD and TV show reviews and even occasionally let go with an opinion on some topical issue related to books.  In all cases, though, I am planning to do my utmost that this blog maintains quality writing.

And, as I become more experienced, I will upgrade the site and make it more attractive, although I am basically a minimalist so there will be no fancy graphics or outlandish colors.  The blog is called "Reads" and that is what is all about--not about delirious looking formats.

Come to me with your suggestions.


Murder, She Wrote (about).....

Robert Farquharson 

Just finished This House of Grief:  The Story of a Murder Trial by Helen Garner. The photo above is of the accused murderer as published in The Guardian newspaper.

I really enjoy non-fictional (and fictional) accounts of jury trials, especially of those which are of somewhat gruesome events; this one is of a man accused of driving off into a small lake near a dam somewhere not too far from Melbourne, Australia.  The car sank and he escaped--but his three children with him drowned and he was put on trial for murder, accused of deliberately creating an accident because he wanted to kill his children.  This book was written by Helen Garner as sort of a personal reflection on her experiences as a member of the court audience.  And this is the problem I had with it.  First of all, she often drops into some personal feelings which I think takes away from the trial itself.  Secondly, I didn't feel that there was enough given to the actual questioning and answering of the lawyers and the witnesses.  She often summarised the give and take in her own words and I believe this distracted from the hard-nose questioning. She could have accessed the transcripts to provide more exact quotations.
This book had so much potential of being a great, compelling thriller but for the reasons listed above and because Garner often slipped into cliche after cliche, the suspense, for me at least, was diluted.  I liked the book overall, but I think it did not deserve some of the outstanding reviews that it received.  It lacked the hard-hitting impact of the fictional Anatomy of a Murder or the semi-fictional play, Inherit the Wind.

If you decided to read this book anyway, watch out for the frequent Australian colloquialisms.  Having lived in Australia for 10 years, I understood them but they may be a bit of a bump in the road for some.