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Scan 7I absolutely love HP Lovecraft; I gave a bit of background to my adoration when I reviewed one of his short stories during an ill-fated challenge to read 100 short stories in a year, and that still stands. He got to me young and I haven’t even tried tear myself away from the eldritch world of Cthulhu and the Elder Ones.

At the Mountains of Madness is probably my favourite Lovecraft novella and I was excited when the Book God pointed out that a graphic novel of said tale had been published and of course I had to get it. Rather good it is too, capturing the horror of the ill-fated Miskatonic University expedition of 1930 without being too gruesome.

At the same time I came across a short e-book called Ice Cores, a set of essays on ATMOM which look at the influences on Lovecraft which may have had an impact on his writing of the novella , as well as the context in which he wasIMG_0064 writing, and a bit on the story’s publication history. The author links fascination with the polar regions right back to Frankenstein, some of Poe’s stories (Arthur Gordon Pym for one) and in turn some works that Lovecraft himself influenced. An interesting diversion, though much of what he covers is necessarily speculation. Gets you thinking though.

All of this makes up a tiny bit for my disappointment that, for the moment at least, it doesn’t seem the movie version of ATMOM planned by Guillermo del Toro and set to star Tom Cruise will be made. Let’s hope that changes soon; I would love to see what he might do with this atmospheric tale.

Scan 4I don’t always remember exactly when I bought most of the books in my collection but that’s not the case with When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones. The cover caught my eye as I ambled my way out of Waterstones in Piccadilly after an evening with Ben Aaronovitch when I got my copy of his book signed. Didn’t know anything about the novel but after reading the inner cover flap (is that what its called?) I was keen to read it. And it’s only taken some seven months to do so, which isn’t bad for me (I have unread books that are decades in the waiting – yes Stanley Weintraub’s Queen Victoria, I am looking at you).

So , this is the story of Grace Farringdon and her (not giving much away here) rather dysfunctional family and obsession with Antarctic exploration. Which would be interesting at any time but Grace is an Edwardian woman, so the idea of trotting off to the Antarctic (actually, the idea of doing anything other than getting married or, if that can’t be arranged, staying at home to look after her parents) is ludicrous to almost everyone. But with the help of a relative she manages to get off to college against her parents’ wishes where she meets Cicely Parr, Leonora Locke and Winifred Hooper, and all four of them form the Antarctic Exploration Society. Parr (they all address each other by their surnames) is already a reasonably experienced mountaineer and that’s the interest they all take up, eventually climbing without a guide in the Alps. This is where the tragedy that defines them all, but Grace in particular, takes place.

This is all told in the first person many years later (on the cusp of WWII), so of course the tale unwinds slowly as Grace, now a recluse after being hounded by the press, unpicks her memories and tries to tell her story. And of course there is a final revelation which doesn’t really come across as much of a surprise if you have been paying attention.

I don’t mind first person narration as long as I don’t think about it too much (and its interesting that as I was reading this Jenny posted on similar issues); and I enjoyed this novel very much, although the ending would have made more sense in a more traditional narrative I think. I also think it’s a shame that the blurb and cover quotes give the impression that this is a thriller with “unexplained menace”. Instead, I thought this was a psychological study of a woman who had been thwarted in life, surrounded by tragedy and trying to explain herself, though clearly her view of events us unreliable at best. I thought in many respects that it was all rather sad, in a slightly Gothic way.

Sufficiently compelling that I sat up until the early hours of the morning to finish it. Well worth a look.

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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February 2023