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This is a little gem of a book.

The Touchstone tells the story of Stephen Glennard, who is in love with the beautiful but poor Alexa Tennant but who can’t afford to marry her. When confronted with the possibility of losing her to a lengthy trip in Europe with her aunt, and having come across a newspaper advertisement seeking the letters of the late author Margaret Aubyn, he resolves to publish her correspondence to him as a means of funding his marriage. But of course it isn’t that straightforward, as the reaction to the letters and his own feelings about what he has done to the memory of a woman who had loved him begin to intrude into his domestic bliss.

This is all about moral ambiguity, how we live with the consequences of the choices we have made, and how we might redeem ourselves. It is a powerful story, beautifully written, full of wonderfully quotable passages such as “there are times when the constancy of the woman one cannot marry is almost as trying as that of the woman one does not want to.”

This is a lovely edition, with a striking cover and an excellent foreword by Sally Vickers which is full of interesting insights, including the suggestion that Margaret Aubyn may have been based in part on George Eliot (with the implcation that Edith Wharton dd not like her).

I haven’t read as much Wharton as I should, though I’ve always been attracted by her work ever since reading The House of Mirth as a teenager. I will definitely read this novella again, and will probably pick up more.

This is my sixth and final read for the Novella Challenge.

I have to say right at the beginning that I really love stories about vampires. That’s not to say that I am uncritical; there are at least two series of vampire novels that I’ve stopped following because the the stories have become formulaic (I won’t mention any names…..). But it means that I’m always on the lookout for something interesting in the genre, and was thrilled to come across Let The Right One In by accident when browsing in a bookshop.

According to the blurb on the cover, Lindqvist has “reinvented the vampire novel” and there is “a whiff of the new Stephen King” so this was a no brainer for me. And I’m so glad that I picked it up, as it is a genuinely creepy and unsettling book which has been stuck in my head over the few days since I finished it.

We are in Sweden, a suburb of Stockholm to be exact, on a council estate. Oskar is 12 years old, being brought up by his mother alone and bullied at school. One night, while acting out a fantasy of revenge in the local play area, he meets Eli, a girl of indeterminate age, and they form a bond. She gives him the courage to face up to his problems, but it soon becomes clear that she isn’t what she seems; she is in fact a vampire who is at least 200 years old.

That’s the set-up, but there is so much more to this story. It’s incredibly bleak in places, a lot of the characters lead disappointedlives, the children are mainly from broken homes. However, the supernatural element blends in; Eli is a victim also, turned into a vampire when a child, not really understanding how it all works but knowing what she needs to do to survive. It’s incredibly gruesome in places (which I don’t mind)  but also really affecting, and I found the end satisfying.

I’m not sure I’ve done this unusual story justice, but if you want something new in the vampire tradition then give this a try.

This is my third read for the RIP III challenge.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

The Sunday



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September 2008