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19 August 2017

Book Review: The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger (Miss Marple, #4)The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Miss Marple doesn't even show up until page 175! How can you call this a Miss Marple Mystery, I ask you?

But the narrator, Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna are charming lead characters in a mystery that didn't really intrigue me or entice me much at all.

Jerry has been in a horrible flying accident and is sent to the country to slow down and recover. When he first arrives, he gets a letter. He turns it over "in the idle way one does when time goes slowly and every event must be spun out to its full extent."

Yes, life was slower in 1943, when this book was originally published. Consider this; "The human mind prefers to be spoon-fed with the thoughts of others, but deprived of such nourishment it will, reluctantly, begin to think for itself--and such thinking, remember, is original thinking and may have valuable results." One imagines if staying away from being spoon-fed was difficult in a small village in 1943, it is nearly impossible now with talking heads and social media screaming at us all the time.

At one point, a character says, "God doesn't really need to punish us, Miss Barton. We're so very busy punishing ourselves," which was about the only allusion to the fact that this was written during WWII.

And, finally, describing a character as speaking "with that maddeningly complacent confidence in herself which was her chief characteristic," Christie finally gave me the vocabulary to describe a type of person who I find extraordinarily tedious and annoying. I could never quite give that feeling that certain people give me, that annoyance and eye-roll-inducing tedium, accurate description. Until now.

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16 August 2017

Book Review: Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple, #1)Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first full-length Marple mystery, but she's almost a secondary character. The narrator is the local Vicar, who initially judges Miss Marple to be just like the other old biddies in the village, who would fit very nicely into the "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" scene in The Music Man. The Vicar thinks about one of them, "It is difficult with Miss Hartnell to know where narrative ends and vituperation begins."

But Miss Marple, while an inveterate gossip, also is the "type to notice things." So wisdom and truth come because she putters in her garden not only because she loves flowers but also loves watching the comings and goings in the neighborhood. Because she watches birds through binoculars and, if she also sees the activities of her friends and neighbors, so be it. What makes her charming, though, is that she is aware of her predilection for over-reaching inquisitiveness. It's her hobby. And she makes no apologies.

And thank goodness. Because these bumbling inspectors and constables would never have figured it out without her help.

"I wish you'd solve the case, Miss Marple, like you did the way Miss Wetherby's gill of pickled shrimps disappeared. And all because it reminded you of something quite different about a sack of coals."

"You're laughing, my dear," said Miss Marple. "But, after all, that is a very sound way of arriving at the truth. It's really what people call intuition and make such a fuss about. Intuition is like reading a word without having to spell it out. A child can't do that, because it has had so little experience. But a grown-up person knows the word because he's seen it often before."

Later, Miss Marple says, "I remember a saying of my Great Aunt Fanny's. I was sixteen at the time and thought it particularly foolish. She used to say, 'The young people think the old people are fools--but the old people know the young people are fools!"

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13 August 2017

Book Review: The Basque History of the World

The Basque History of the World: The Story of a NationThe Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation by Mark Kurlansky
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Couldn't get through this one, even though I have a hearty desire to know more about Basques and Spanish/French history.


Before I quit reading, right in the middle of a convoluted section that started several pages earlier declaring it would explain the Basque beret but getting bogged down in so much poorly-told history that I threw the book down in disgust, I did learn a couple of things.

Basques have the highest percentage of Rh negative blood in the world. Other places originally occupied by Cro-Magnon man, like the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the Canary Islands, also have high percentages of Rh negative.

The Basque language, Euskera, is not related to any other language. It has no Indo-European roots. At all. Which is remarkable because once those Indo-Europeans started spreading, they left virtually no European language untouched.

The only defeat Charlemagne ever suffered was at the hands of the Basques in 778. The story is told in the Song of Roland.

I wish I could hang in and keep learning. But I just can't read this darn book any more.

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