My January Reads: Wildean Works, Italian Trains and Deirdre Barlow!

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ITALIAN WAYS BY TIM PARKS

English writer and translator, Tim Parks, has lived in Italy since the early 1980s. During that time he has travelled extensively throughout his adoptive country on its varying and often baffling rail network. This book is a collection of extraordinary encounters with ordinary Italians, ticket systems, gypsies, prostitutes, immigrants and priests as he journeys from Verona and Milano in the north down to the southern parts of Sicily all by train. He brilliantly captures what makes Italian life distinctive through amusing scenes and detail and tries to make sense of their behaviour and their trains on our behalf, interpreting Italian Ways in both senses. I enjoyed the book as I felt like his travel companion throughout and as someone who plans on spending a lot of time in Italy, it proved both interesting and funny 6/10

DEIRDRE – A LIFE ON CORONATION STREET BY GLENDA YOUNG

The slaps, the glasses, the affairs, the chain belts, the hairdos (and don’ts) and the enduring love between Deirdre and Ken Barlow. This book has it all for huge Corrie fans like myself who miss the actress Anne Kirkbride and her cobbles character Deirdre who both sadly passed away last year. The photos, scripts and scenes are great reminders of her best bits; the break ups and make ups of her numerous flings and the hilarious exchanges with rogue daughter Tracey and with the wicked tongue of her mother Blanche. 200+ pages of pure Corrie joy! 10/10

OSCAR WILDE – THE COLLECTED WORKS

Coming in at 1000+ pages this volume was no mean feat for an uninspiring yet busy January but I enjoyed almost all of it. I’ve always been a Wilde fan – led to him of course by my idol Morrissey – and have challenged myself to really get to know his work better this year. The Picture Of Dorian Gray is naturally the highlight but I was also particularly fond of his other stories; The Canterville Ghost, Lord Arthur Saville’s Crime, The Sphinx Without A Secret etc. I’d read The Happy Prince and Other Tales (including The Selfish Giant) previously and found them to be just as delightful all over again. I admit to struggling with his essays and poetry but loved above all else the plays of Oscar Wilde. Witty and evocative, pushing boundaries for their time and even now in places. I know I will read Lady Windemere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest again and again. A beautifully presented book with a contents of absolute, true and declared genius within 9.5/10

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Penguin Little Black Classic No.59: Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

LORD ARTHUR SAVILE’S CRIME

BY OSCAR WILDE

lord arthur

Penguin Classics have published 80 Little Black Classics to mark their 80th anniversary. They are beautiful and neat and at just 80p each, instantly collectible.

Naturally, I chose Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime to be the first in my collection. A perfectly wonderful and funny story, easily devoured in a lunchbreak.

Lord Arthur has his palm read at lady Windemere’s party. He is alarmed and sickened to be warned that he is on the path to murder. Hopelessly in love with his beautiful fiance, he vows to commit the crime before they marry, saving her family from the ensuing scandal and disgrace. But who will he choose to murder? Why? How?

Wilde’s story is full of neat twists and of course the Wildean wit is ever present. Great little book, here are my best bits:

The author on Lady Windemere: “She was now forty years of age, childless, and with that inordinate passion for pleasure which is the secret of remaining young.” Continue reading

Wilde about these mysteries!

OSCAR WILDE AND THE NEST OF VIPERS

BY GYLES BRANDRETH

I have previously written on this blog about my love of the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries Series. Nest of Vipers is the fourth book in the run. Not quite my favourite but neither did it disappoint. We join the story in 1890 as the game is afoot after The Duchess of Albemarle is found dead with two small puncture marks in her neck following a glamorous reception.

The Prince of Wales, sensing foul play, asks Oscar Wilde and his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to quietly investigate the crime for fear of a public scandal.

A thrilling pursuit unfurls that includes royalty, hysteria, vampires and dancers from the Moulin Rouge. The story is brilliantly told through the letters, journal extracts and diary entries by the central characters adding pace and excitement to the slow reveal.

As with all his books, Brandreth’s Wilde is convincing and dazzlingly entertaining as a detective.The dialogue is richly enjoyable and there is no denying that our author certainly knows his stuff. Full of twists and turns and glorious Wildean wit, there is nothing not to love here.

Highly recommended.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 8.5/10

Notes on the author – Gyles Brandreth

  •  He is a writer, broadcaster, former MP and government whip
  • Currently a reporter on BBC1’s The One Show and a regular on Radio 4’s Just a Minute
  • These acclaimed Victorian detective stories are now being published in 21 countries around the world.
  • Many my age will known him as the man in the crazy woolly jumpers on breakfast television in the 1980s

The game is afoot

oscar game called murder

OSCAR WILDE & A GAME CALLED MURDER BY GYLES BRANDRETH

The second witty and fascinating book in the Oscar Wilde Mystery series by author, broadcaster and former MP, Gyles Brandreth. This hugely entertaining fictionalised series focuses on Oscar as an amateur sleuth, joined on his investigations by famous friends including Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker and their elite circle.

The game is afoot as Oscar invites his friends and acquaintances to join him at the Cadogan Hotel for another Sunday Supper Club. During the merriment of the evening, the great wit cajoles his guests into a game – with murderous consequences.

The gathered writers, poets, politicians, sportsmen and clergymen are all asked, in jest, to secretly name someone they would most like to murder. In the subsequent week, the named victims (some of whom are Oscar’s guests) begin to drop like flies. Oscar smells murder most foul but can he solve the mystery before he loses his own life?

This book like the others in the series is a work of genius with its complex and exciting plot that zips along. An intelligent story, full of gorgeous Wildean wit and language that I read over and over just to savour the words. Brandreth and Wilde are made for each other. The stuff that is real is believeable and the invented is as wonderful, if not more so.

Sparkling and atmospheric throughout, this series is murder mystery at its best.

SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 9/10

Notes on the author – Gyles Brandrethgyles brandreth

  • He is a writer, broadcaster, former MP and government whip
  • Currently a reporter on BBC1’s The One Show and a regular on Radio 4’s Just a Minute
  • These acclaimed Victorian detective stories are now being published in 21 countries around the world.
  • Many my age will known him as the man in the crazy woolly jumpers on breakfast television in the 1980s