Tea & Mystery

So this past week has been pretty stressful, but things are finally starting to look up. My husband’s still in the hospital after his surgery last Monday, but he’s slowly starting to get better and will hopefully be home sometime in the coming week. I actually got sick as well, probably from stress, with a sore throat, cold and cough. 😦 So I wasn’t able to visit him as much, but both our families have been supportive of us (and thanks to everyone who left comments on my last post!), so we’re getting through it.

I read P.D. James’s first mystery, Cover Her Face, while waiting for the man to get through surgery, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything without a good plot. It was written in 1962, but actually set in the early ’50s I would say, there are several references to the changes in society since WW2. I’ve read one of her later mysteries, The Murder Room, but I enjoyed this one more, so my plan to sample various British mystery writers from the beginning of their various series seems to be going well.

By the middle of the week I took a much needed break from work and hospital visits and read the third Dorothy L. Sayers mystery, Unnatural Death, sprawled on the grass in the park next to my library, soaking in the setting summer sun and gentle breeze. It was refreshing and this book made me laugh even more than the previous one. Sayer’s plots so far aren’t quite as strong as Agatha Christie’s, I would say, but I do enjoy all the clever banter, so it’s a worthwhile trade off. Sayers introduces an older woman Lord Peter has hired to do some gossipy snooping for him and oh, her letters to him about the results of her sleuthing are hilariously over-italicized and punctuated! (No quotes though, since I’ve already taken it back to the library.)

I’ve since started The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West in an old Virago edition that I treated myself to this week. It’s a very detailed account of the lives of the very rich and titled in the last golden years before WW1 and reminded me most of The Age of Innocence combined with the movie Gosford Park. The old Victorian matrons still rule high society, but some try to escape their iron morality in affairs, while life in the old British country houses is kept up perfectly for these few pampered rich. The story focuses on a brother and sister, Sebastian and Viola (in a reference to Twelfth Night, even if they aren’t twins) and how they deal with trying to find their place in this society that seems as if it will never change, but is in fact on the very edge of changing forever.

I’ve also been rereading more of the short stories in Tea With Mr. Rochester, yes right after finishing it! They’re nice and short and beautiful, like a tiny bouquet of delicate flowers. Each has a slightly different fragrance than the others, some are love stories, some coming of age, some end with an odd relationship changing twist, one is even a ghost story and one makes me cry both times I’ve read it. Perfect calming before bed reading. I’m not really a fan of contemporary literary short stories (because they are deeply dull, basically) but I can see myself reading this little collection over and over, just to analyze each character yet again (a lot of her endings are rather a surprise) and to revel in the romantic writing.

9 thoughts on “Tea & Mystery

  1. Coffee and a Book Chick says:

    You’ve got quite a nice list of books to read — which is so important while waiting. I’m so happy to hear that your husband is starting to get better. I will send good thoughts and energy/prayers your way.

    I’ve always wanted to read P.D. James — a good British mystery is always good for the soul, don’t you think?

  2. Claire (The Captive Reader) says:

    I’m so glad to hear that the surgery went well! Sorry, of course, to hear that you’re under the weather yourself, but at least a lot of that stress is off your shoulders now.

    Mysteries are always great comfort reads – especially such well-written ones from James and Sayers. I’d agree that Sayers’ plots are weaker than Christie’s, but it’s her characterization that makes them so memorable. P.D. James is always dependable.

    Hope you feel better soon and that your husband’s recovery continues smoothly!

  3. Joan Hunter Dunn says:

    So glad you’re enjoying The Edwardians – it too is good bedtime reading.
    I love how you describe short stories. I like reading collections of short stories and shall think of them as ‘tiny bouquet of delicate flowers’ next time I read a collection.
    Hope they and everyone around you help you and your husband get better each day.

  4. bookssnob says:

    Good news that your husband’s surgery went well and he is feeling better – make sure you rest up and give yourself some time to recover from the stress!

    I loved The Edwardians – Sebastian was such an intriguing character. I grew up near the house – Knole – Vita Sackville-West based the story on, and it’s a wonderful place to visit if you’re ever in the UK.

    I so enjoyed Tea With Mr Rochester as well – your mentions of it have made me desperately eager to read it again but I have no idea which box I’ve packed it in, so it’s going to have to wait until I’m settled in my own place again with bookshelves. Might be a while! 😦

  5. Willa says:

    Good to hear that you are enjoying The Edwardians, I really did too. It is a good introduction to the Edwardian England, I think. Looking forward to getting started on The Age Of Innocence. If you like The Edwardians, try The Bolter about Idina Sackville, it is great.

  6. Christina says:

    I also agree with you about Sayers vs. Christie — since I’m such an avid Christie fan, it’s hard for me to get into Sayers’ books sometimes. I plan to persevere, though, because I’m sure they will be worth the effort!

    Also, every time you talk about a Persephone book, I add it to my TBR list. This list is getting very long! 🙂

  7. Penny says:

    What a nice selection of books! There’s nothing like reading to help one through stressful times and I pity people who aren’t ‘bookie’.
    I’m glad your husband’s got through the operation successfully. It’s such a shame that you were unwell and unable to visit much, but soon this will all be behind you…
    I love Lord Peter. He sounds like a ‘silly ass’, but so isn’t! 🙂
    A quick scan along my Viragos reveals that I have The Edwardians, so I’ve extracted it and put it on one of the the ever-teetering TBR piles…

  8. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for all the kind wishes and comments everyone! Sorry I haven’t replied sooner, things have continued to be pretty hectic…

    Rachel, how cool to grow up near Knole! I’d love to see the gardens at Sissinghurst someday, that’s about as much as I know about old British houses to visit. 🙂

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