Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Read in 2012 - 21: A Housefly in Autumn and The Marriages

Another "two in one" book review - both "books" were so short that I am counting them as one, and both ended in such an abrupt manner that I wonder whether I actually downloaded the complete work or just something like a teaser.
The first one, "A Housefly in Autumn", is by Scott Nagele and tells the story of a certain Anders Christiansen who, growing up the son of a humble fisherman and his wife, learns the art of storytelling from his father, then goes on to studying in town because his teachers recognize his extraordinary talent, and seems to have a bright future ahead until something happens that brings his shining prospects to sudden end.

Exactly as sudden as the book ended, yes. And now I know why: on doing reasearch about this book just now, I found this piece of information on a different website (not on Amazon itself, mind you): "A Housefly In Autumn - 2012 ABNA Quarter Finalist in the YA Fiction Category (5,000 word excerpt free on Amazon)".
Now, I obviously downloaded this 5000-word-excerpt, but why wasn't that information available on the product page on Amazon? All it says there is that it is a 2012 ABNA entry (whatever ABNA stands for).
Anyway, the excerpt was interesting enough to make me want to read on, although the writing itself is not exactly brilliant.
Why I am saying this should become obvious from this paragraph, to be found at the end of the 1st chapter:
Whether Anders Christiansen's story is a happy one or a sad one depends upon how you look at it. I leave it to you to look at it how you will and decide for yourself whether you think it is a happy story or a sad one.
Sounds a bit... like someone who has not much practice in writing, and his editor apparently did not mind the repetition. Still, as I said, it would have been nice to read the whole story and not been cut off after the first five chapters.

The second one was "The Marriages" by Henry James. For me, it was the first time ever I read anything by Henry James, which might surprise some of you, seen that I was originally trained as a librarian, and Mr. James has certainly contributed largely enough to the world of literature. 
"The Marriages" was written in 1891 and is classified as a novella on Wikipedia - again, this information was not available on the Amazon product page, but it would have been good to know beforehand, since then the shortness of the book would not have come as such a surprise.

I liked this book - not for the main character, young Adela, who to me comes across like a rather selfish person, given to hysterical and over-dramatic reactions, but for its language. The descriptions of characters and settings are beautiful and atmospheric without being too lengthy, and the age of this novella does not diminuish the pleasurable reading experience, since it is still easy enough to understand, without needing a dictionary.

Two marriages - actually three - are the background for this book; one that sadly ended in the death of the wife long before the events of the novella take place, one that should never have happened, and one that never comes about - but maybe would have been good. And it is this that I missed in the book, this exploring of what could have been, how the characters could have developed further.
Still, "The Marriages" was certainly not a waste of time. I just wish I would have known from the start it was not a full-length novel, but a novella.


  1. Hi there, I was curious about "ABNA" too, it means - Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award - I've pasted a little about it here, you can go to the website and read more - if you like. http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011

    The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award brings together talented writers, reviewers, and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. The 2012 competition awarded two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner received a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.

    We'll announce details of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the coming months; in the meantime, join in discussions with new and returning writers in our author forum below.

    In any event, you've now piqued my curiosity about those two books! I haven't done much with digital reading, as I still like the feel of a book in my hands! I think they are especially great for traveling!

    Have a wonderful day!


    1. Meike, one thing I forgot to ask you, would you recommend the first book for a YA library?

    2. Yes, Mary, it is perfect for travelling! I have about 80 books with me and they weigh only about as much as my mobile phone - how cool is that :-)
      Hmmm can't really say enough about "The Housefly in Autumn". The story itself is interesting enough, but - sorry for being so frank - the style could be better, and why should younger people be exposed to anything less than really good writing?
      Thank you for taking the time to find out more and letting me know about ABNA!

  2. Hello Meike:
    Henry James remains one of our all time favourite authors. Indeed, we should rate him as one of the great writers of his period with an ability to manipulate language as few others.

    If you are looking for somewhere to start, then you might well enjoy 'The Spoils of Poynton' as an introduction.

    1. Thank you very much for that recommendation! I shall certainly keep it in mind. In fact, I am going to check the Kindle store right now for this book.

    2. And now, it is on my Kindle - it was available for free.

  3. Very interesting reviews, Meike. Daniel and I read a lot of YA literature since many of our friends are YA authors and so we always get good recommendations for books to read. I'll keep these in mind! I hope your are doing well!! Hugs, Silke

    1. Thank you, Silke! Note: only one of these is named YA literature. And as I said above, I am not sure about recommending it because of it somewhat "clumsy" style.

  4. It is strange, your posts are not showing in my feeds, each time I have had to remember to seek your blog out. I wonder what I can do about it. I might unsubscribe and then subscribe again.

    1. Jenny, I've had to do that several times with some blogs; at the moment (at least I think and hope so!) all of them are "behaving", though.