london lavender

Musing Mondays (Aug.27)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

“This week’s musing asks…

What is the weirdest/strangest/craziest book you’ve read?”

Well actually two books come to my mind. The first one is London Lavender by E. V. Lucas. I expected the book to be a short story collection of some sort. But when I started reading it I was considerably taken aback. What was this? Shall I call it slice of life? Or is this another one of Lucas’ essay collections with a touch of fiction? I’m not even sure whether to call this fiction or non-fiction. But even though the book didn’t turn out to be exactly as I thought it would, I loved it! It was weird but very enjoyable.

The other one is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The narrative is sprawling, multi-layered and complicated which demanded my undivided attention. I at times struggled with its length but the experience was enjoyable.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Posts I Think Give You The Best Glimpse of ME

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created & hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top 10 is all about us, the bloggers. It’s about posts that showcase our true self, posts we would want people to read if they want to get to know us better, posts that we are proud of and posts that are close to our heart.

1. Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!: Agatha Christie is undoubtedly my favourtie mystery writer. Last year I did a post  celebrating her 121st birthday. What would have the world been like if she had never been born? For me, imagining a world without Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Parker Pyne, Mr.  Quin is impossible!

2. For the Love of Short Stories: Short stories are not popular with everyone. I for one love them! For me it takes considerable skill on the part of a writer to convey emotions that require a whole book to play through in just a few short pages. So, I did an entire post in praise of short stories.

3. What’s Your Literary Wall of Shame?: Every reader has books they want to read, books they are ashamed to admit they haven’t read yet. I opened up about my literary wall of shame and strangely had fun doing it!

4. Dickens and Collins: 7th February 2012 was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion I participated in  Charles Dickens Month and made Dickens related posts all month long. My favourite from these posts was a post called Dickens and Collins, contemporaries, friends and two of my favourite Victorian authors.

5. My Welcome Home posts: In these posts I discuss books that I’ve brought home. I’m a cautious book buyer. Most books that I read are borrowed from libraries and other sources. So, any book that makes my home its home is special to me. Among these posts one of my favourites is my Welcome Home post featuring books of September & October 2011. It contained some of my personal thoughts on reading and the idea of ‘fun’. It is a post that is close to my heart.

6. A Bookish Inheritance: The love of books runs in my family but only on one side. I did a post on this called A Bookish Inheritance which remains one of the very few personal posts I did in this blog.

7. London Lavender: I really love it when I don’t expect anything from a book but the book totally surprised me by becoming a favourite. London Lavender was one such a book. I loved reading it and reviewing it!

8. Girl in Hyacinth Blue: I normally don’t read books I don’t know anything about. I’m also not much of a fan of contemporary books. I picked up Girl in Hyacinth Blue rather reluctantly but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise!

9. The School for Scandal and Other Plays: I had never even heard of Sheridan when I chanced upon a collection of his plays and it took me less than an hour into the book to realize that I had found one of my all time favourite playwrights in him.

10. About Me: And of course the About page of my blog. It is not much but it does give everyone a pretty basic idea about me and what this blog is about.

Booking Through Thursday : Odd

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

“What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?”

London Lavender by E. V. Lucas. I expected the book to be a short story collection of some sort. But when I started reading it I was considerably taken aback. What was this? Shall I call it slice of life? Or is this another one of Lucas’ essay collections with a touch of fiction? I’m not even sure whether to call this fiction or non-fiction. But even though the book didn’t turn out to be exactly as I thought it would, I loved it! It was weird but very enjoyable.

30 Day Book Challenge

Day 29: Favourite Forgotten Classic

London Lavender by E. V. Lucas.

If anyone has read my About page, they should know that I love discovering forgotten classics and bringing them to everyone’s attention. I also love discovering old time authors on my own. Authors like Stanley Weyman, F. Marion Crawford, E.V. Lucas and W.W. Jacobs to name just a few. Discovering old time authors who are virtually unknown today and reading and reviewing their books is one of my favourite things now.

Over the years I have read a lot of books from the past about which nobody seems to know which is a crying shame really because a lot of these books are great fun to read! London Lavender is one such book.

I first came across E.V. Lucas while reading a collection of short stories. The short story was called The Face on the Wall. It created quite a deep impression on my mind and I’ve been on the look out ever since for the original collection from which this story came.

After a lot of searching I finally found London Lavender, published in 1912. But as it turned out it is not a short story collection at all but rather a series of very loosely connected vignettes. It turned All my expectations upside down and I loved it!

London Lavender by E. V. Lucas

I first came across E.V. Lucas while reading a collection of short stories. The short story was called The Face on the Wall. It created quite a deep impression on my mind and I’ve been on the look out ever since for the original collection from which this story came.

After a lot of searching I finally found London Lavender, published in 1912. Now, I expected this to be a short story collection of some sort. But when I started reading it I was considerably taken aback. What was this? Shall I call it slice of life? Or is this another one of Lucas’ essay collections with a touch of fiction? I’m not even sure whether to call this fiction or non-fiction. One thing is for sure, this book is definitely not what I had expected.

E. V. Lucas (1868-1938) was an English essayist, biographer, novelist, and journalist among many other things. He was a successful writer of light-hearted non-fiction. His subject matter ranged from sports to paintings to family life. One of his most noteworthy contributions was a series of scholarly works on Charles Lamb. Lucas was known for his easygoing style of narration. But unfortunately his reputation has gone downhill since his own time. Modern readers have mostly rejected his writings as dull. He has been criticized for being impersonal. His biographers maintain that he was very different from his writings and was a bitter man with a taste for the obscene.

In London Lavender a very loosely co-related series of narratives are recounted by the narrator of the story, Kent Falconer. He is the one thing that is common among the various vignettes. The stories are weird if not unrealistic. But of course some of them are not stories at all. There is a peek in to the development of early cinema. A holiday in Italy. At least three evenings spent at the drawing room of a gentleman discussing contemporary politics, literature and supernatural experiences in real life respectively. A day is spent at the races. Various folk songs and dances are recorded. And then there are the various stories recounted by the characters themselves. Of course there are proper conclusions to some of the stories in the end. The readers are not left hanging. But most of the vignettes do not need a conclusion at all.

And then there are the characters. What a vast array of people! Most of them are so interesting. There is a zoo keeper who is unnaturally attached to ‘apes’  (not monkeys, as he firmly states), a family of delightful young girls (I did not know young women in early 20th century were ever allowed to behave that way),  a reluctant ‘Knight’, a couple of  ‘modern’ young men and women, a movie director/scriptwriter at the dawn of ‘moving pictures’, a man who becomes a thief by stealing his own property and of course the narrator and his wife.

The writing I found very easy to read. I practically flew through the book.

Lucas’ witty insights and often unorthodox way of looking at things really entertained me. In some places I laughed out loud. Like when the narrator asks a young aviator about his experiences while flying (which was, without a doubt, a very novel experience in 1912),

“What is it like in the air?” I once asked him.

“Ripping,” he said.

“But the sensations?” I continued. “How do you feel?”

“Ripping,” he said.

“And what does the world look like down below as you rush along?”

“Ripping,” he said.

Lucas seems quite liberal towards women. Most of his female characters are strong persons with opinions of their own.

I have only a few complaints about this book. It contains some mild racism and some dull patches. Nothing else really bothered me.

London Lavender was a rather surprising experience for me. Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers  is the only book I can think of that comes close to the structure of this book. It certainly left me with the same contented feeling that The Pickwick Papers did.

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