Flash Reviews (25th October 2013)

Isis by Douglas Clegg ***
I very much enjoy reading novellas, and Douglas Clegg’s Isis sounded like one which I thought I would really like.  The setting, Cornwall, along with its folklore and superstitions were outlined marvellously, as was the Gothic atmosphere of the old English house which the family inhabited.  A real sense of place was built up rather quickly in consequence.  I liked the first person perspective used throughout, and felt that it was well written.  Clegg tells the tale believably within the guise of a young girl.  The illustrations in the volume are truly gorgeous, and reminded me of Sir John Tenniel’s Alice pictures.  The story was both unexpected and unpredictable, and aside from the rushed ending, I found it rather an enjoyable read.

Another Time, Another Place by Jessie Kesson **
I had been looking forward to reading this book particularly when I spotted it on the Virago Modern Classics list and read its blurb: ‘In 1944 Italian prisoners of war are billeted in a tiny village in the far northeast of Scotland’.  The novel – well, the novella really – even features a character named Kirsty, which I was rather pleased about.  It did not quite live up to my expectations, however.  At times, particularly at the outset of the book, it was not always clear who was speaking, and the way in which the text is split into small, separate scenes also adds to this confusion.  Kesson’s descriptions are occasionally lovely, but I found her dialogue lacking and the fragments of songs placed in at random times rather tiresome after a while.  I believed that the novella would focus more upon the assimilation of the Italians and the mixing of both cultures present, but it turned out to be a small book about mediocre people in a tiny – and rather dull – town.  As a consequence to reading this wholly disappointing story, I have decided to strike the rest of Kesson’s books from the Virago Modern Classics list which I am working my way through, simply because I cannot bear to read anything else like Another Time, Another Place.

All the Dogs of My Life by Elizabeth von Arnim ***
Whilst I am rather frightened of dogs and would not ordinarily choose to read a book focused upon them, I decided to read All the Dogs of My Life for two reasons.  The first of these is that I have read and enjoyed many of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novels, and the second is that it was an entry on the Virago Modern Classics list, which I am determined to read the majority of, whether the subject matter of a particular book appeals to me or not.  As I have already mentioned, I had no real interest in the non-fiction which was presented here, but it was nicely written on the whole.  Sadly, however, the Kindle version which I purchased has not been well edited (if it has been edited at all!) and is riddled with mistakes.