The Mapping of Love and Death is Jacqueline Winspear’s latest Maisie Dobbs novel. I’ll admit at this point that this series isn’t wowing me, exactly, although I do want to keep reading the latest installments, just to see where it goes. The Maisie Dobbs books are good ones to turn to at this particular point of the year, when I’m tired and busy and ready for the end of the school year, but the end of the school year is still so far away. At this point I need something familiar and absorbing and not terribly challenging, and Maisie Dobbs is just the thing.
The series doesn’t wow me for two reasons, basically, one of which is that the plots have begun to feel lackluster. I’m not one to read much for plot, though, so this is okay. The historical context and the character development are more interesting, so that’s good. The other problem, though, is that I get irritated by the way Maisie uses her unusually strong powers of intuition to figure out who committed the crime. This feels too much like cheating. Yes, Maisie is smart and has the powers of deduction we would expect of a detective, but still she relies too heavily on feelings of foreboding that come over her whenever something significant is about to happen.
But, on the other hand, I do want to know what happens to Maisie, having followed her story this far, and the book is satisfying in that regard. Significant things happen to her, and I’m glad I know about them. For a much better, much more thorough review, read Danielle’s thoughts here.
On to other bookish things: I finished Balzac’s novel Cousin Bette and never wrote much about it, and at this point, I’ve forgotten too much about the novel to have much to say. I’ll just say that I didn’t like it much and move on. I’m not ready to give up on Balzac entirely, though, as surely I’m missing something? I’m not one to dismiss a classic author quite so easily just because I failed with him once. So some day perhaps I’ll pick up a shorter novel of his, if there is one, and see if my mind has changed.
I just now finished W.G. Sebald’s Vertigo, but more thoughts on that later, as the Slaves of Golconda are discussing the book this Wednesday. I am also in the middle of David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I am enjoying it immensely. I have read five of the book’s seven essays (many of them quite long), and I think every one of them is great. Wallace is a writer who can make any subject interesting. I just finished an essay on the film director David Lynch and I loved it, even though if I’ve ever seen a Lynch film I don’t remember it. There’s another great essay on the Illinois State Fair and another one on tennis, math, the midwest, and wind. The other two I’ve read are more literary in nature, one of them a pre-Infinite Jest essay that shows Wallace thinking through some of the ideas that made their way into the novel. It’s all excellent, and I haven’t even gotten to the title essay yet, probably his most famous essay of them all. It’s crossing my mind now and then that I might want to reread Infinite Jest soon. I don’t know if I will, but I am tempted. It’s just such a fabulous novel.