If I were a banned book, I’d be the Pigman and I’d be a Wallflower and I’d be the story of Sleeping Beauty, written under a penname. I’d kill mockingbirds and I’d talk about the things we talk about when we talk about things like death and love and sex and forever, which, as I already would have taught you, sometimes means less than forever but always mean what forever will mean to you, then, at that moment.
The Tiger is structured around the hunt, and Vaillant uses the time between the tiger’s two kills to build up the historical narrative that is so integral to the current conflict. But, as the days grow shorter (the book takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas) and the timeline grows tighter, the intensity of the hunt builds until you’re forced to read at breakneck speed, barely pausing to breath, because the tiger could be anywhere. When the inevitable confrontation occurs, though, Vaillant slows everything down; a second becomes a minute and, as if the page is a lens, he pans around the attack, allowing you to see it from every angle before speeding everything back up to realtime. It’s an incredible finish and it will leave you gasping.
In The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, the second book in the series, Bradley took us away from Buckshaw and into the village of Bishop’s Lacey and all the gossip and memories of other people. By setting A Red Herring Without Mustard back on Buckshaw’s grounds he’s bridging what we know about the villagers with what we’re learning about the de Luce’s. Coming closer to home means seeing more of Flavia’s inner world, including how hurt she is by the meanness of her older sisters, and how much she grieves for Harriet, a mother she never knew. I’ve always thought of Flavia as distinctly Miss Marple-esque, and although that comparison stands in terms of sleuthing and poking around, Bradley takes care in his third book to remind us that she is still a little girl and, although she’s adept at solving crimes, the puzzles of life and relationships still need working out.
On this day in 1990, beloved children’s author Roald Dahl died from a blood disease at the age of 74. Apparently, Dahl was buried with his snooker cues, burgundy wine, chocolates, HB pencils and a power saw… we don’t know about you, but we cannot think of a better way to go out.
I think I read all of Dahl’s kids books and I’ve even made some headway into his more adult collections. I also read both of his autobiographies and the huge biography of his that came out last year (Storyteller by Donald Sturrock – it was excellent). If you want to catch up on your Dahl love but don’t have time to re-read his books today, feel free to dip into my reviews:
The Paper Garden is, in my opinion, the whole package. It’s a riveting story about a woman who, against all odds, created an art form that has never been matched; it’s a contemporary coming-of-age story about another fascinating woman; and it’s told with language and photos that so lovely it’s hard to believe they’re real. Reading The Paper Garden now, while I’m in my twenties, makes me wonder if I’m working toward something (it makes me hope I am) and I can only imagine how I’ll feel when I reread it in twenty years, or in forty years. In her search for a role model, Peacock found the ultimate woman to look up to, and in sharing her discovery, has shown herself to be quite a uniquely talented woman as well.
Most people read in one of two ways: they either take their time and soak things up, or they breeze through quickly. On my blog Books Under Skin, I cover the first one by offering book recommendations every Thursday and longer posts on literary issues. Here, I cover the latter, offering up the little quirks of the book world one bite at a time.