Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Reading

While I wait for my last Birth Year Reading Challenge book to be available from the library, I've been working on a couple of other library books for the Support Your Library Challenge. Finished up both The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton and The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld.

The Man Who Was Thursday has been on my TBR list for a long time and after reading a review by Amanda over at Dead White Guys I knew I needed to move it up the list. I agree with Amanda that this seems like a cross between a spy thriller, Monty Python, and biblical interpretation. It is absolutely hilarious in parts and I found myself scratching my head and thinking, "This was written in 1908??" The only way to explain that would be to reveal the plot...and I don't want to be a spoil-sport.

Chesterton takes the story of a philosophical policeman (who is also a poet) who infiltrates a group of anarchists and sends it down a rabbit-hole of twists and turns full of wit and paradox, symbolism and allegory. It was a delightful read--earning three and a half stars. I would have given it four stars if I hadn't seen a major plot point coming--thus robbing me of the surprise. And, perhaps, just a little bit heavy-handed in religious allegory at the end...but one knows there will be a bit of that in Chesterton's work.

I discovered The Interpretation of Murder while blog-hopping a while ago (I wish I could remember who was reading it at the time) and it sounded interesting. It tells the tale of Sigmund Freud's only visit to America and gives a plausible reason why Freud refused to ever return.

In the summer of 1909 Freud comes to New York on his way to Clark University to accept an honorary degree as well as to deliver lectures on psychoanalysis. He is greeted in New York by Dr. Stratham Younger, one of his supporters. During his visit to the city, a beautiful young woman is brutally murdered and mutilated and another barely escapes becoming a second victim. The second victim cannot speak and cannot remember what has happened to her. Younger and Freud are called in to analyze the girl and try to help her recall her attacker. The story follows Younger and a homicide detective named Jimmy Littlemore as they try to untangle the ever-deepening mystery. There is also a parallel story running about a conspiracy to discredit Freud and his psychoanalytic techniques.

This should have been right up my alley--my favorite time periods are Victorian and early 20th Century. Although, I tend to prefer the other side of the pond (I'm definitely a Brit Lit girl), there have been some excellent mysteries written about this time period in America. The plot idea was good and solid. But it didn't hold my interest and at times was hard to follow. I found myself not really caring about Younger and whether he got anywhere with the young woman (did I mention he falls for her? No? Well, he does.) and the parallel story about Dr. Freud wasn't all that engaging either. Two stars out five on Visual Bookshelf.

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