Eduardo Mendoza: El misterio de la cripta embrujada (Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt)

The latest addition to my website is Eduardo Mendoza‘s El misterio de la cripta embrujada (Mystery of the Enchanted Crypt). The novel, Mendoza’s second, is nominally a detective story. However, the detective is a homeless man who is on (temporary) release from a mental hospital. Under orders from the police, he is investigating the temporary disappearance and then reappearance of girls from a posh Catholic convent school in Barcelona. They are using him because of his connections to the underworld, though he soon finds out that it is more his cunning, lying, deception and ability to adopt multiple personalties that is of more use. Mendoza has great fun with the complicated and unpredictable plot and brings in a host of odd characters (our hero’s prostitute sister, a large Swedish sailor and a possible giant creature in the enchanted crypt of the title being just a few). Mendoza has said that this is his favourite of all his novels and you can see why, as it is great fun to read and must have been great fun to write.

Alison Rosse: Room for Books

Image copyright Alison, Countess of Rosse

During our recent travels in Ireland, we visited Birr Castle, a beautiful castle in wonderful grounds and well worth the visit. The castle is owned and still partially occupied by Lord and Lady Rosse. The Earl of Rosse is the brother of the Earl of Snowdon who was, for eighteen years married to Princess Margaret. In the bookshop, I found a copy of a book called Room for Books – Paintings of Irish Libraries by Alison Rosse. Alison Rosse is the Countess of Rosse. It is, as it says, a selection of paintings of various Irish libraries, both private and public, beautifully done. The paintings reminded me of the painting of Coole Park Library done by Yeats. which I had just seen, shown in my post of yesterday (scroll down).

I am no art critic but I did find these paintings well done, somewhat but certainly not too much impressionistic and all giving the flavour of the library in question, all of which have their similarities – high shelves with books in them – but all of which have their own distinct appearance. Each painting is accompanied by a useful description/history written by William Laffan, an Irish art historian. My only regret is that I have not visited any of them and, as many of them are private, probably never will; however this is definitely an excellent way of seeing and appreciating fine libraries you will probably never see. The one shown above, by the way, is the library at Birr Castle.

The best way to get the book is to visit Birr Castle. If that is not possible, it is available online from the publishers, the Irish Georgian Society and from Offaly History for the very reasonable price of €10.00.

Patrick Modiano: Les Boulevards de ceinture (Ring Roads)

The latest addition to my website is Patrick Modiano‘s Les Boulevards de ceinture (Ring Roads). This is the third novel in Modiano’s Occupation Trilogy. The narrator, probably called Serge, a young novelist, first met his father when he was seventeen. The pair tried various nefarious scams, finally hitting on forged dedications in novels to sell to collectors. However, it seems that the father tried to kill his son. Ten years later, during the German occupation, the son has tracked down the father in a village. He is now involved with a group who appear to be both dealing in the black market and publishing a magazine which uses blackmail as a way of earning money. The father does not seem to recognise his son and the son does not introduce himself, though he gets involved with the group. Inevitably, things do not work out well, though we are never sure if the narrator is telling us the truth and what really happened.