Thursday, 16 August 2007

hanging out for the weekend.

I read this after reading Hannah's review. Annoyingly, she writes better than me (why did I bother with that Arts degree again?), so you should probably just go and read what she wrote. (Aside: I never knew she was a 'reader' too- it's quite odd in a nice way to find out that you have more in common with a good friend than you thought).

Anyway, suffice to say I didn't fall in love with Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, but it was amusing and quaint, like a cross between Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh, and I expect it will improve with re-reading. Also, I couldn't find it in Borders, so you may have to borrow it from a friend, like I did. There is a film with Kate Beckinsale & Ian McKellen which is apparently quite good, but I haven't watched it yet.

I was kind of miffed to find that one of my favourite teenage series has a fifth book and I didn't even know. But it turns out that this one is much more recent, first published in 2006, ten years after what I had assumed was the final in the series (it had an epilogue and everything!). I'm glad I wasn't that out of the loop, but it still doesn't fix the fact that this edition doesn't match all of the others. Oh well. Book and cover and all that jazz.

The series follows Pagan, a 'Christian Arab' in the 12th century, from signing up as a squire to get himself off the streets, to fighting in the crusades, to becoming a monk and so forth. Pagan's wry worldview is hilarious, and the books are a fun way to learn about the era. They're well written - easy enough to read for teenagers, but not so simplistic they're boring to adults.

Pagan's Daughter is set soon after Pagan's death, and follows his illegitimate daughter Babylonne in her escape from her strict Cathar family, and her relationship with Pagan's protege Isidore.

Unfortunatly, I didn't really enjoy this one as much as the others. It didn't really feel like the plot was going anywhere, and none of the characters were developed much, except for Babylonne herself who just felt like a poor-man's Pagan to me. There's still some funny moments, and it's a quick and enjoyable read, but it was just a bit of a disappointment compared to the earlier books.

I would highly recommend the series on the whole, but unfortunately this book felt like a bit of an afterthought.


Hannah said...

Blush!! I feel like such a hack writing about books, your reviews are great.. "Like Jane Austen, but without the marrying off, like RL Stevenson without the dark and crazy, like Dickens but without the heavy, like Conan Doyle but without the detective." = excellent!

I'm glad you enjoyed Cold Comfort Farm at least a bit. My lovely grandmother lent me her copy when I was about 13... I didn't get it for ages but it kept getting funnier with every re-read and now it totally hits the spot... Nostalgia has a lot to do with it I think.

Probably I have much lower standards as I haven't read as many good books as you have!

m∃ said...

You don't write like a hack! You make me want to read the books you write about, because they sound so exciting! Which is surely the point...

I feel like I'm stuck in an academic writing hole and I can't help but make everthing drier than ryvitas. Oh well. I'm working on it.

I did like Cold Comfort Farm, but think it will definitely improve with rereads. I reckon it's a bit like Monty Python, so simultaneously subtle and blinding that you (I?) tend to miss it the first time, and pee your pants the second...