sixty-seven.

A House for Mr Biswas by V.S Naipaul (1961)
 But bigger than them all was the house, his house. How terrible it would have been, at this time, to be without it: to have died among the Tulsis, amid the squalor of that large, disintegrating and indifferent family; to have left Shama and the children among them, in one room; or worse, to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one’s portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated.”

Mr Biswas’ mother was told to keep him away from water by the Hindu pundit whom told his future. Yet Mr Biswas seeks water which eventually leads to his father’s death. Mr Biswas comes from a poor family, and he is sent to various jobs without much luck. He eventually gets a job painting signs for a rich family and he falls in love with one of their daughters.

Marrying the girl, Shama, means marrying the family. And the Tulsis are the in-laws from hell. Mr Biswas has to live with them and work for them for very little money and bad food. All he wants is to be able to build or buy a house for his family.

V.S Naipaul impressed me with a Bend in the River, and a House for Mr Biswas is also a great read. I really enjoyed reading about Indian descendants in Trinidad and Tobago. This book wasn’t as comic as the cover made it to be, but it definitely put me in a good mood. I have already put more of his books on my wish list.

sixty.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.”

Yossarian does everything he can to avoid having to fly another mission. He has been in and out of the hospital with real injuries and fake diseases. He has been asking everyone he knows if they could ground him, but no success. His (and others’) attempts to get out of flying get more desperate as the war increases.

Yossarian is stationed on a fictional island outside Italy during World War II. The number of flights they have to fly increases every time they have reached the limit and no one, despite how crazy they are, is sent home. And the fear of flying increases as they watch planes being shot down.

How is it possible to write so witty about something so serious as war? Because the book is witty. The situations and conversations they get into as they try to get out of flying are absurd. The characters are spot-on and although I mixed the characters all the time, they really made the book. I also loved the scenes where they were chasing for whores in Rome.

On the other hand, I really struggled with this book. I don’t think I have ever read so slowly as reading Catch-22. And I don’t know why. It is really frustrating to read a book of 519 pages when you feel you’re never getting anywhere with it.

Some of the teachers at work are using Catch-22 as a catch-phrase (and if the students ask what it means they answer read the book. I have also seen it being used in various newspapers and articles and it feels good to finally know what it means!

sixty-nine, seventy, seventy-one, seventy-two: poirot

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie (1953)

After her brother’s funeral, Cora turns to her family and says he was murdered, wasn’t he?’. Two days later Cora is found dead, murdered in her bed. The family’s solicitor believes that Cora was right and gets Poirot on the case.

I think I have had it with family feud themed Agatha Christie’s novels. Didn’t enjoy this one as much as I should although it had a very clever twist.

Hickory Dickory Dock (1955)


Miss Lemon’s sister is working at a student house where a lot of things have disappeared. Poirot is fascinated by the list of missing things and he want to solve the puzzle. After having a chat with the students, a girl confesses to Poirot. The next day the girl is found dead with a suicide note next to her. But was it really suicide?

A great crime novel, I really enjoyed the setting with the student house and all the drama.

Cat among the Pigeons (1959)


A royal prince in a small state in the Middle East and his British friend are planning an escape because of rumours of a revolution. The plan fails as the plane they are flying crashes in the mountains, but some precious stones are missing. A princess from the same state is starting at a top-notch private school for girls in England and a few weeks later a teacher is found murdered. Is there any connection to the jewels?

Poirot is not part of this story until over half-way into it, but it such a thrilling tale. Another great Poirot story.

the Clocks (1963)


A young typist is sent to a house owned by a blind woman, but when she comes there she discovers a dead man. The woman who owns the house claims she didn’t ask for a typist and has no idea who the man in her living room is. But the strangest thing is the clocks; four beautiful clocks set to the same time and none of them belong to the house.

Another story where Poirot doesn’t appear from the start. And yet another great story.

All these stories can be found in the Poirot: the Post-War Years omnibus. And now I’m taking a break from Agatha Christie and Poirot, I think I still have 12 more stories to read.

fifty-eight, fifty-seven, fifty-three, fifty-one: poirot

the Third Girl by Agatha Christie (1966)


Hercule Poirot has a young girl waiting for him in his office, when making the appointment she said “I think I have committed a murder” to Ms Lemon, his secretary. But when she sees Poirot, she says that she cannot tell him because he is too old. Despite being very offended, Poirot decides to get to the bottom of this case, even if the girl refuses to cooperate. Together with Mrs Ariadne Oliver he gets to the truth.

This story is written in the 1960s, and it is weird having Poirot in the same time period as the Beatles, LSD and computers. But the plot in this one is truly awesome and I really enjoyed reading this one.

Hallowe’en Party (1969)

Mrs Ariadne Oliver is visiting a friend on the country side when a child is found murdered at a Hallowe’en Party. The child had said that she had witnessed a murder shortly before she herself was murdered. Mrs Oliver calls up Hercule Poirot and together they do not just solve one murder, but several.

Elephants Can Remember (1972)


Mrs Ariadne Oliver is asked the strangest question concerning her god-daughter at an event; Did her mother kill her father or was it the father who killed the mother? The couple had been found shot and the investigation at that time concluded with double-suicide. With the help of Mr Poirot, Mrs Oliver starts looking for clues among her friends for a tragedy that happened fifteen years earlier. And the truth is more spectacular and tragic that anyone could guess.

the Pale Horse (1961)

An old Catholic priest is found murdered and in his shoe a list of names is found. When Mrs Oliver is told the story of the peculiar findings, she recognises one of the names on the list and says that the woman died recently of an illness. Her friend, Mr Easterbrook also recognises some names, also dead persons, and they start to look into the case. Mr Easterbrook quickly discovers that the clues lead to an old inn, the Pale Horse, that is now inhabited by witches.

This story doesn’t involve Mr Poirot at all, and it was written in a different style than the rest of the novels I have read by Agatha Christie. Confusing in the beginning and no surprises at the end when it is all solved. But it is brilliant and I really enjoyed reading it.

All these novels are found in the Complete Ariadne Oliver volume 2 omnibus. I really grow fond of Mrs Oliver and is sad that there are no more stories concerning her.

twenty-eight.

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. (1964)


The place is Brooklyn, New York, some time after World War II. The gang hangs around Greeks, a local bar, looking for sailors and military men to rob and pick fights with, girls and fairies to lay and cars to steal.

With this book, Hubert Selby Jr. replaced Charles Bukowski as my favourite dirty old man. I love his introduction to the book where he explained how and why he learnt to write. It is a hard book to read. It took me a while for me to get used to the language, the way he glue the words together, but the book wouldn’t be the same if it was written in standard English.

It was banned in England for being controversial. And it is brutal. Cross dressing, drugs, foul language, violence and very descriptive sex scenes. I will not recommend it to the faint-hearted. But it is definitely a book worth reading.

5.

Book 5 is the Rum Diary (written in the 1960s, first published in 1998) by Hunter S. Thompson.

The Caribbean, a struggling newspaper and rum. Action, violence and sex. A brilliant tale about journalists taking it easy on the job and drinking too much because there’s nothing else to do in Puerto Rico in the 1950s.

I loved it. It was a quick and exciting read which was exactly what I needed on a cold winter day. The only thing that was missing was a bottle of rum to accompany me.

I will definitely be reading more Hunter in the future.