Saturday, August 02, 2014

Shady Business

... was more like a shadow of a better play.

We used to be regular theatre-goers. Then the authorities realised that tribute bands and rude comedians brought in bigger crowds than plays did leaving us with a four-week summer rep season. We went along faithfully for many years until it all became a bit sameish. A lot of the plays were dated and the cast tended to be has-been soap actors.

And then we went to Stratford and saw Macbeth done proper like and that just about ruined the rep season for me!

The last couple of years we've only been on occasion but it seemed only fair to give a new play a go so off we trotted last night to see Shady Business by Robin Hawden. Disappointing is the best description. A lacklustre script relying on old jokes and acting of limited quality meant we came away feeling we hadn't got our moneysworth (£32). But I did enjoy the Maltesers and the interval ice cream. So not all bad.

A few months ago I said I'd let you know what I thought of a couple of library books I'd borrowed. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie turned out to a series of short stories about a vicar cum private investigator. I read the first one and didn't bother with the rest. the joy of library books - and getting older - is that I now know I don't have to feel obliged to read a book to the end if I'm not enjoying it.

The other was one of a series (actually they were both books in series) of books about private investigator Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear.

{There is an enormous fly buzzing around the room and I am sitting, fly swatter at hand, just waiting for it to settle.}

Set in London in the first half of the twentieth century the series revolves around Maisie Dobbs who is able to escape from a life of service thanks to her brain, a benevolent employer and a wise mentor. An interesting collection of characters and history make this an enjoyable read: I've read another in the series since. Maisie is a little too perfect for me - I prefer slightly flawed heroines - but likeable nevertheless. The author obviously did a lot of research into the period and is intent on including every detail, which is slightly irritating. It's not really necessary to know the name of every street or location of every tube station unless relevant to the plot. But I would definitely recommend this series. Try to start with the first one in the series as it explains Maisie's history.

Another recommendation would be for Provincial Daughter by RM Dashwood, a Virago Modern Classic. It's written by the real-life daughter of the author of Diary of  Provincial Lady in the same self-deprecating and amusing way so if you enjoyed EM Delafield's book you're sure to like this too.


Shirley Davis said...

It's good to read book reviews from you, written in your own voice! I can hear you telling me about the books as though we were sharing a cuppa on the patio - or maybe the sofa today. Ah, I wish...

Leslie: said...

I agree with Shirley. It's good to get a first-hand review of books.