onsdag 3 juni 2015

Problems with the two-track reading system

I thought I'd hit on a clever reading idea. I have several tomes which I very much want to read, but which are simply to heavy to lug to work each day. So what about reading two books in tandem: a slim one during lunch breaks at work and the odd bus ride, and a hefty one at home during evenings and weekends?

The catch is the same as with every tandem-reading enterprise: what do you do when one of the books proves far more engrossing than the other? I manage to get through the slim ones fast enough, but I'm currently a bit stuck in my hefty-book choice. Cheating by smuggling in a Christie or two among the slim lunch reads doesn't help - they always get read first, while the hefty book languishes.

I didn't really see this coming, as the doorstopper I've currently got going is Karleen Koen's Now Face To Face, the sequel to the readable if corpse-laden Through  A Glass Darkly. It promised to be an improvement in some ways, as the tiresome sort-of hero is safely dead, and the often-bereaved heroine Barbara didn't have an awful lot left to lose, so things could only look up. Oh, and apparently Philippe, the tasty villain from Through A Glass Darkly, would appear again (there's a list of Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book). Maybe a bit of villain sex wouldn't be too much to hope for? Koen does villain sex rather well - in fact, she's one of the few authors I've come across who does villain sex at all.

Sadly Philippe plays a very limited part indeed in this sequel. He has one good scene - a stare-off with the novel's matriarch - but otherwise, the few times he appears, he's little more than an arrogantly French prop. Forget villain sex. This time around, the heroine's sluttish mum's the only one who's properly getting any (at least on-stage, as it were). There's no promising new baddie on the horizon either. I try valiantly to focus on the various plots and love affairs that do go on, lack of villain totty notwithstanding, but I find myself increasingly impatient with Barbara. Finally home after a far too long stay in Virginia where she unsurprisingly ends up freeing slaves, Barbara's next project seems to be to get even with the King's minister Walpole for not reducing her late husband's South Sea Bubble-related fine as he has promised.

Now, I can see that it's a quite an important thing for a heroine to be at least solvent. For this reason, if no other, one would not object to some fine-reducing. But let's review the facts, shall we? Barbara's husband was a director of the South Sea Company. He did speculate. I can't quite see why his widow should look upon it as an unassailable right that his fine be reduced, even if he was pally with Walpole. I suppose it is all an excuse to make her ready to join a Jacobite plot, which will be handy when she comes together with her next love interest, a Jacobite plotter. But in the meantime, I'm getting tired of Barbara stalking around thinking dark thoughts about "Robin" (Walpole) while the men around her sigh and the women - understandably - grow resentful.

Still, there's one consolation - if things don't look up soonish, not least on the Philippe front, I won't have to keep the novel and will free some much-needed bookcase space once I've finished it. I wonder if I'm the only one with limited book space who experiences ambivalent feelings every time I hit upon a novel that turns out to be really, seriously good: I'm thrilled, of course, but it does mean I will probably want to read the novel again, which means no bookcase space is cleared. Plus I will have to find space for the same author's other books. Oddly enough, though, the last part seldom worries me: the excitement of new and fairly safe book acquisitions blocks space worries effectively. That is, until it's time to put the darn things somewhere.