Robert Tanitch’s Round-Up of Books No 4 (2017)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Oxford University Press £16.99). A new translation by Nicholas Pasternak Slater. The novel, a psychological exploration of a murderer, is a permanent fixture of the world’s greatest novels list Raskolnikov has inspired almost 40 films and television adaptations and many theatre productions. It would be a wonderful present to give to a late teenager or somebody in their early twenties. I remember the terrific impact it had on me when I first read it.
Swann in Love by Marcel Proust (Oxford World’s Classics £8.99). I don’t know about you but I have tried to read A la recherche du temps perdu a number of times and always failed to finish it. I find all my friends have had the same experience. Now this new translation which concentrates of Charles’s infatuation for Odette is a gentle and accessible introduction to Proust’s monumental oeuvre, being quite self-contained and not nearly so daunting a read.
The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay (Aurum Press £20). The murder mystery is sub-titled The Case Conan Doyle Couldn’t Solve. Was the wrong person hanged at Newgate, a well-attended public execution? So who did murder Mary Emsley in 1860, then? She was a wealthy widow whom nobody liked. The subject is perfect for a penny dreadful and for a television film and all those who enjoy crime novels. McKay gives a vivid picture of Victorian London and nails the real murderer.
The Faber Book of Christmas (Faber & Faber £20) is a collection of stories, carols, prose and poetry by such authors as Charles Dickens, Philip Larkin, W H Auden, Wendy Cope, Jilly Cooper and Dylan Thomas. The Christmas Festival brings out the worst in families but the tensions are all part of the ritual and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without all the rows. Instead of participating you could retire to your room, lock the door and dip into this book instead. It’s a good read.
The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by Anna Wright (Faber and Faber £9.99) comes up with a new and non-Catholic interpretation of the carol whose origins date back to the 16th century. The rings are hula hoops for frogs, the eight maids are pigs, the nine ladies are butterflies, the ten lords are grasshoppers, the eleven pipers are bunny rabbits and the twelve drummers are woodpeckers. A sweet present for a child and a charming way to learn the carol.
Postcards from the Past by Tom Jackson (4th Estate £9.99). A funny/sad collection of wish-you-were-here postcards from the 1960s and 1970s are reproduced for their cryptic messages. All human life is here in all its banality: “My sandals broke in Yugoslavia… We’ve been on the beach since 10 past 2…. Having a shower at the moment… I’m sleeping with Charlotte… I’ve locked Chris on the balcony. He’s going mad… Hope you had some luck at you know what.”