Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie — Revisit Review

When I picked Elephants Can Remember off the shelf to read next, I was expecting it to be Miss Marple’s Sleeping Murder, which is one of my favourites. The two novels have similar concepts: a young woman with a past mystery about which she needs help discovering answers, so I’m not surprised that I mixed them up. On realising I wasn’t about to read Sleeping Murder, I was initially disappointed, but the first chapter of Elephants Can Remember got me over that hurdle almost immediately.

“I don’t know,” said Mrs Oliver. “I might be going to — well, bother you rather. Ask things. I want to know what you think about something.”
“That I am always ready to tell anyone,” said Poirot.

Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie

Ariadne Oliver is immediately charming, in much the same way that Tuppence is in By the Pricking of My Thumbs. Agatha Christie has mastered the conveyance of the meandering way one’s mind moves from topic to topic. In some adaptations (and possibly in the original stories they’re based on) Ariadne Oliver can act a little idiotically, but that isn’t the case here. Her relationship with Hercule Poirot, the way she chastises him for merely sitting at home, also helps cut through his character’s superiority.

A tragedy of love may not always belong to Romeo and Juliet, it is not only the young who suffer the pains of love and are ready to die for love.

Elephants Can Remember, Agatha Christie

The actual puzzle mystery in Elephants Can Remember isn’t Agatha Christie’s best. The clues are there, but the red herrings are presented in such brief and indirect fashion that it’s readily apparent they’re not going to be important. Hercule Poirot explains how he came to his conclusions, but he doesn’t really give each clue its proper weight and explanation. On top of all that, the final proof of the mystery comes not from deduction but from simply asking someone who knew the truth all along! It doesn’t feel particularly satisfying.

I immensely enjoyed reading Elephants Can Remember, I just know that Agatha Christie can and has done even better.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton — New Review, Bookclub Edition

The Queens of Innis Lear is the second retelling of King Lear that I’ve read, and because I still haven’t read the original play, I enjoyed trying to reverse engineer the plot from the similarities between this and A Thousand Acres. It’s particularly interesting to see which of Lear’s three daughters are treated most sympathetically. While Tessa Gratton really made me feel for Regan, The Queens of Innis Lear was definitely the story of Elia (our Cordelia stand-in).

He suspected most of his memories were sweetened by time and brightened with longing, not accurate to what their relationship had truly been.

The Queens of Innis Lear, Tessa Gratton

Caroline warned us that The Queens of Innis Lear was long, but I was glad it was, because it allowed the political and emotional situation to spin out slowly, details piling up one after the other so that I always felt I understood what was at stake without long passages of exposition. The only place this didn’t entirely work was in the relationship between Elia and Ban, which I felt quite impatient with at first — though I forgot that as soon as they could actually speak to one another rather than being in separate countries.

Given the tensions that mount up throughout the story, Tessa Gratton pulled off an impressive feat by making me feel for almost every character — with the notable exception of Ullo, whose perspective we are never given. I particularly loved Aefa, whose power to manipulate the plot is far more limited and who therefore has to think very differently from everyone else. Character motives were always understandable, without the reader being hit over the head with them. The one exception was Rory’s realisation and return to Innis Lear, which seemed to come out of nowhere.

“That’s what comes of choosing to love something above all others, instead of widening your heart. If he’d loved stars and Dalat and my sisters and everything, maybe he wouldn’t have broken without her.” Elia touched her lips to Ban’s shoulder and whispered against his skin, “I won’t love anyone so much more than everything else that I lose it all if that person is lost. If it makes your world smaller, it isn’t love.”

The Queens of Innis Lear, Tessa Gratton

Elia’s journey and philosophy were definitely the most absorbing, and I wanted to see her succeed. Without spoilers, I can say I was a little disappointed in the ending. From certain things Elia said, as well as Regan and Conley’s relationship with Ban, I thought she was hinting at a way The Queens of Lear could end to (nearly) everyone’s satisfaction. Maybe it was naive of me to think that would happen in a book based on a tragedy, but nonetheless, I felt as if the actual ending was one of relief rather than satisfaction.

Despite the ending, I want to read the rest of the Innis Lear series, and have added Tessa Gratton to my list of authors to follow.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams — Revisit Review

Cover: bookshop.org

Previous in the series: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Disappointingly, my enjoyment of each book in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series is a little lower than the one before. Life, the Universe and Everything has some nice set-pieces, like Arthur learning to fly, Trillian flirting with a Thunder God and the Bistromathic drive, but seems to lack the sparkling wordplay that I enjoyed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Nothing made me laugh out loud, and that’s a real shame.

“All right!” bellowed Thor, like an enraged bull (or in fact like an enraged Thunder God, which is a great deal more impressive), and did so.

Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams

Part of the problem is that the gang are separated for much of the book. Arthur doesn’t get the chance to bounce off Trillian or Zaphod until the very end, and Ford spends much of the novel sulking so doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. Life, the Universe and Everything is also less episodic than the previous books. Almost the entire plot is taken up with the story of the Krikkit wars. There’s nothing wrong with that plot, exactly, but there’s no variety.

“We came to find you,” said Trillian, deliberately not keeping the disappointment out of her voice.

Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams

If I hadn’t experienced these novels before, as audiobooks, this might be where I’d stop. As it is, I know at least one piece is coming up that I really enjoy, so I’m going to continue on at least until I reach Arthur as the sandwich maker. Hopefully it’ll be worth it!

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Next in the series: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish.

The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd — New Review

Cover: bookshop.org

I picked up The Arctic Curry Club because my dad’s street has a ‘curry club’ and I was amused by the coincidence. From the blurb, I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of book I would be getting, or whether I would like it, but the snowy arctic setting of Longyearbyen in Norway made it seem like an appropriately wintery read for this time of year.

There had been dark days, but she had cared for me too. Cared for me so much I could still feel it, decades after her death and thousands of miles from India.

The Arctic Curry Club, Dani Redd

It took some time for me to get invested in Maya. At first, her negativity created a barrier, making it difficult to sympathise with the hardships she was going through. The sudden journey to India, taking us away from the main plot and into a family mystery subplot that I could probably have done without was also pretty jarring.

For my whole life I had been looking for home. Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it.

The Arctic Curry Club, Dani Redd

But then Maya returned to the arctic and her life started to change in really compelling ways. I love character development, and Maya’s really kicked off around this point. Suddenly, I was reading chapter after chapter, ignoring my page goal for the day to keep uncovering Maya’s story. Dani Redd continued to include the history subplot, which never fully engaged my interest, but it did tie up with the main plot at the end in a way I could appreciate.

I thought about sending this to my dad, purely because of the coincidence with the name, but in the end I decided it wasn’t really his kind of book. Besides, I wasn’t willing to part with it, which is surely an indication of just how Dani Redd managed to turn things around.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.