Out with the old, in with the new. Happy 2014!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I always love those quiet days between Christmas and New Year. They’re the perfect time for reading, and – for the bloggers among us – provide a great chance to tie up loose ends and plan ahead.

Some loose ends now neatly tied up in a bow:

  • I took part in two reading challenges last year, the 2013 Global Reading Challenge and the 2013 Translation Challenge. I completed both, and enjoyed the global challenge in particular, as it made me reflect on the geographical distribution of my reading (somewhat biased towards Europe and the US). You can see which books I read for the challenges here.
  • I’ve managed to finish my two Christmas reads, which complemented one other very well. Patricio Pron’s My Father’s Ghost is Climbing in the Rain is a literary memoir exploring a father-son relationship and the legacy of Argentina’s military dictatorship. It’s an interesting read, but took a little while to get going (it would probably benefit from a second reading, as the significance of earlier sections becomes clearer in the light of later ones). While not a crime novel, criminality is a key theme and the genre is frequently referenced, albeit in slightly contradictory ways. For example, the narrator comments: ‘I understood for the first time that the children of young Argentines in the 1970s were going to have to solve our parents’ pasts, like detectives, and that what we were going to find out was going to seem like a mystery novel we wished we’d never bought’ (p.152). But then a little later it’s suggested that exploring ‘social crime [...] through the artifice of a detective novel’ is inadequate, because ‘the resolution of most detective stories is condescending, no matter how ruthless the plotting, so that the reader, once the loose ends are tied up and the guilty finally punished, can return to the real world with the conviction that crimes get solved and remain locked between the covers of a book, and that the world outside the book is guided by the same principles of justice as the tale told inside and should not be questioned’ (p.153). Of course that’s not always the case: lots of contemporary crime authors have pushed the boundaries of the genre to explore the absence of justice for state crimes. I wonder if Pron has read Ernesto Mallo’s outstanding 2006 crime novel Needle in a Haystack (see my review here), which examines the same historical period? It’s precisely the lack of a resolution/punishment for the crimes committed by the junta that gives the narrative its power.

  • My other Christmas novel was Jan Costin Wagner’s Light in a Dark House (Harvill Secker 2013), the fourth in the German/Finnish Kimmo Joentaa series, which was an excellent read. Even though each installment is made up of quite similar elements, the quality of the characterisation and narrative construction is such that they never appear formulaic. The starting points in Light in a Dark House are the disappearance of Kimmo’s secretive on-off lover, and the murder of a nameless, comatose woman in a hospital. Intriguingly, the only clue left by the murderer is ‘lacrimal fluid’, or tears.
  • And the connections between the two? The legacies of past violence, unresolved traumas, and the damaging effects of silence. These issues are presented quite differently in each, which makes them an interesting pair to read together.

Looking ahead:

  • Santa was kind enough to bring me a number of crime novels, including Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (Phoenix 2007), Eduardo Sacheri’s The Secret in their Eyes (Other Press 2005/2011) and John le Carré’s A Delicate Truth (Viking 2013). I’m going to make the Sacheri my first crime novel of 2014, as I enjoyed the Oscar-winning film adaptation of 2010, and am keen to read the original novel. That’ll keep me going on my Argentinian reading path as well for now.
  • As a 2014 Petrona judge, I need to pick up the pace of my reading. Thus far I’ve read 20 of the submissions, which means I have rather a lot to go. (This is by way of a confession to Karen, Barry and Sarah, but I will get cracking now, promise…once I’ve read the Sacheri, that is).
  • More generally, 2014 is going to be different compared to other years, as I’m on research leave for a semester from the end of January *happy face*. More on my plans for that interlude another time…

Wishing you all a great start to the year and many hours of good reading!

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22 Responses to Out with the old, in with the new. Happy 2014!

  1. What a lovely bow…and your metaphorical one’s pretty good too. Look forward to your views on your Petrona reading and hearing about your research project(s). Hope 2014 brings health, happiness and good reading

    • Mrs P. says:

      Many thanks, Bernadette. Wishing you a wonderful 2014, and all good things to you and yours. Happy reading and blogging! And thanks for opening my eyes to all the Australian goodies out there :)

  2. Jose Ignacio says:

    All the best to you for the New Year, Mrs. P.

  3. kathy.p says:

    Happy New one Mrs P. Have a good 2014. It looks as though you’re going to be kept busy. Keep up with the blogs they’re always interesting to read. Hoo roo.

  4. Brian r bird says:

    Happy new year Mrs P. My first novel of the year is Jason Websters new Max Camara ‘The Anarchist Detective’. I started it yesterday, & it’s one of those books that’s hard to put down, if I’d started it the day before it would have been the last book of 2013! Getting a lot more info on his family & background, I strongly recommend it. Glad you enjoyed the Wagner, I think characterisation is his strong point.
    2 female writers to look out for, Edith Pearlman & Renata Adler, not crime, but interesting non the less. Both featured on Mondays Front row along with James Salter & John Williams.

    • Mrs P. says:

      Happy New Year, Brian! As it happens, I read the Anarchist Detective a little while back, and liked it very much. My favourite of the series so far, I think.

      Thanks for your recommendations – both here and throughout the year – I’ve heard of Pearlman but not Adler, and will take a closer look.

      All the very best for 2014!

  5. Mrs. P – I wish you all the best for 2014. I hope you’ll enjoy your research leave and that you’ll find it productive too. I think you’re a perfect choice for the Petrona Award panel, too. Happy New Year!

    • Mrs P. says:

      Wishing you a very happy New Year, Margot, and a wonderful 2014.

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m finding the whole process of judging very interesting indeed, and am looking forward to meeting up with the others for some lively discussions soon!

      Very much looking forward to the research leave too. Lots of plans…

  6. Chrissie says:

    Happy New Year, Mrs P. I loved the film, The Secrets in Their Eyes, and will be interested to hear what you make of the novel.

    • Mrs P. says:

      I did, too, Chrissie, and will probably re-watch it once I’ve read the novel. I’ve started the book now and am enjoying it very much so far – will definitely review at some point soon.

      Happy New Year and hope you have a great 2014.

  7. Thanks for reminding me of the Eduardo Sacheri book. I remember trying to buy it after watching the film, but it wasn’t yet published in English. Then it slipped off my radar. I’ve added it back to my to buy list. All the best for 2014. Sounds like it’ll be a good reading year for you keeping up with the Petrona award books.

    • Mrs P. says:

      You’re welcome, Rob. I started the novel today and am enjoying it very much so far. And yes, lots of Petrona reading to come. Working through the submissions is an interesting experience as not everything is necessarily what I might choose to read myself… My literary horizons will be broadened, I’m sure.

      All best wishes for 2014!

  8. TracyK says:

    I did not know that The Secrets in Their Eyes was based on a book, and now I will have to look for the book. Sounds like you have some interesting reading ahead for 2014. And I will watch for your reviews.

    • Mrs P. says:

      Thanks, TracyK, and for reading and commenting over the year – much appreciated. I’ve started The Secret in Their Eyes now, and am liking very much so far.

      Wishing you a very happy 2014!

  9. kathy d. says:

    Happy, healthy 2014, and best wishes for your research leave. I have a feeling your loyal blog followers will be reading a lot of book reviews, Hope that you find many good reads in your horizon, including for the Petrona Award.
    Thanks so much for your scintillating blog, always full of excellent commentary, no matter the topic. It’s a pleasure.

    • Mrs P. says:

      Wishing you health and happiness for 2014 too, Kathy D, and huge thanks for all of your wonderful comments and contributions to discussions on the blog. They are greatly appreciated!

      May the year bring us both lots of fantastic reading! I’ve just finished the first novel of the year (the Sacheri) and it was a corker.

  10. A very Happy New Year to you to Mrs Pea! Looking forward to your 2014 picks and the Petrona list :)

  11. Rebecca says:

    A belated happy new year, Mrs. P., and have a great sabbatical too! BTW, I just saw that Sacheri’s next book to be published here is about soccer, not crime.

    • Mrs P. says:

      Happy New Year, Rebecca! That’s an interesting link between writers of crime and footballing books – David Peace has written on both too, for example…

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