Category Archives: Fiction

Double Indemnity, by James M Cain

Double Indemnity, James M Cain, book review by Ruth LivingstoneDouble Indemnity is a crime-fiction novel and often cited as a classic of the genre. First published in 1936, the book remains very popular. Why?

Written in the first person, this is a crime novel told through the point of view of the murderer. The language is simple and conversational, using the idioms and figures of speech consistent with the narrator’s background, era and nationality – he is a Californian insurance salesman. While I’m sure this was perfectly in keeping with the time, the language seems quaintly old-fashioned in the 21st Century. (I guess this is an important lesson in how quickly our contemporary fiction can become dated.) Continue reading Double Indemnity, by James M Cain

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Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell

Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell, book review by Ruth LivingstoneI had forgotten how good Patricia Cornwell is. This is her first Kay Scarpetta novel and one that I read a long time ago. As part of my Birkbeck University course, I recently had to revisit it.

This is crime fiction at its best. Kay Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, and works with the police to uncover the identity of the serial murderer who is terrorising the city. There is no equivalent role in the UK, but Scarpetta’s responsibilities appear to be a combination of postmortem pathologist and police surgeon. Continue reading Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell

The Lonely Londoners, by Sam Selvon

The Lonely Londoners, by Samuel Selvon, Book review by Ruth LivingstoneThis book was written the same year as I was born, 1956. A short book, it describes the interweaving lives of the first West Indian immigrants to England as seen through the eyes of an established immigrant, Moses Aloetta. The book is written in the third person and includes a number of characters, but the narrator is firmly established at the outset as Moses. Continue reading The Lonely Londoners, by Sam Selvon

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things fall apart, Chinua AchebeThis is the story of Okonkwo, a man of the Ibo tribe in Nigeria. It is also the story of his father, his various friends, his 3 wives and his collection of children. Okonkwo is an upright, uptight sort of man, with a firm sense of the proper way for a good Ibo man to behave. Ultimately, he finds himself at odds with the encroaching laws of the white colonialists.

What I liked about this book:

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy - book coverThis is a rich, multilayered book which tells the story of various members of an Indian family and the calamities that befall them.

When the book begins, we see the world through the eyes of the grown up daughter, Rahel, returning to her family home to visit her mute twin brother, Estha. Then we flash back to the twins’ childhood and there are a serious of lengthy passages where the histories of various members of her family are described – the awful great-aunt, the frustrated grand-father, the divorced mother, the spoilt uncle, etc. The timeline bounces back and forth. We know, very early on, that someone died in the past Continue reading The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

A Good School, by Richard Yates

A Good School, Richard Yates - book coverThis is a semi-autobiographical book, describing the experiences of a group of boys at an American boarding school at the start of World War 2.

The book begins with a first-person ‘Foreword’, describing how the author came to be enrolled in this particular school – the Dorset Academy, and ends with a first-person ‘Afterword’, describing what happened to the author and to some of his school-mates Continue reading A Good School, by Richard Yates

Now and Forever, by Ray Bradbury

Now and Forever, Ray BradburyI was delighted to find this particular book in my local library. There is so much of Ray Bradbury’s work I haven’t yet read.

This book contains two long short-stories:

1. Somewhere a Band is Playing is a strange little story, with the main character being an aspiring journalist who sets out to report on a small town that is destined for demolition.

The tale blends romance with mystery, and features a town of immortal egyptian characters who hold the knowledge of the books of long-lost libraries in their memories. Part horror story, part fantasy, part ghost story Continue reading Now and Forever, by Ray Bradbury