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This is part of the Treasury of Victorian Murder series, and was the one I was always going to get first simply because I have been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper, and indeed serial killers of all sorts, since I can remember, all the way from Gilles de Rais to Ted Bundy.

A bit morbid, I know, and the sort of admission that immediately gets you marked as the obvious suspect in any decent American crime series. Especially when coupled with the kind of books on the subject that I have in the stacks.

Can’t explain it, just once of those things, no need to be afraid, honest.

So Jack; well, iconic killer largely because his murders not only remained unsolved but have spawned the wildest of theories about his identity, from the Duke of Clarence to Walter Sickert to Sir William Gull, which in turn has led to some great books, both fiction and non fiction. And of course the movies; my particular favourite being Murder by Decree with the great Christopher Plummer.

But I digress.

This is a great little book, which tells the basics of the story as it happened as if through the diary of a contemporary who had access to the police. I loved the artwork which managed to give a real sense of place and conveyed the gruesomeness without dwelling on it, probably helped by being in black and white.

A very nice addition to my true crime library.

So I am clearly the last person in the universe to have read this novel but I don’t care, sometimes it’s good to come at these things when everyone else has had their say and the initial fuss has died down, though I guess the film version had interest flaring up a bit and I must admit that it was the movie adaptation that got me thinking that I should probably have a go at this.

And breathe.

So this is the story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy and their special upbringing at Hailsham and how they find out what that really means. The story is told looking back by Kathy, who can probably be argued is an unreliable narrator but I’m not so sure that is the case here; we all look at the past from our own perspective and try as hard as we might we can’t help make others look worse and ourselves look better even while we think we don’t. I won’t say much more about the plot (such as it is) because you are either one of the few people still not to have read it in which case I don’t want to spoil it, or you have read it so you already know.

I rather like Ishiguro, though I’ve probably only read his first three novels, Remains of the Day being a special favourite. I know that he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; the Book God hasn’t had a go, and Silvery Dude found The Unconsoled so frustrating that he claims to have thrown it across the room. I’m not sure I can say that I enjoyed this one as the subject matter is such that enjoyment might not actually be possible, but it was a real reading experience and I did want to find out how things would work out for them all.

I found it terribly sad, I have to say, and it’s a sadness that has lingered with me several days after I finished the book. Thinking about what it must be like to effectively have no past and no real future except the one that is created for you, and no control over your destiny, just unbearable.

I always find it interesting when a mainstream author wanders into sci-fi, though I get the impression that Ishiguro wasn’t really interested in the detail of the world he created, seeing it presumably as just a useful backdrop against which to examine his themes. And that’s my only quibble with the book; as a lover of sci-fi I had loads and loads of things I wanted to know about this world, about donations and completion and how it all worked and what actually happened, which in the novel is unsatisfyingly vague.

But I’m glad I read it and as I said, it really stuck with me

(still thinking about it now…)

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.

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August 2011