It has been a somewhat stressful few weeks, the details of which I (mostly) spare the Imaginary Reader. "Mostly," I say, because the two books I've read in the last few weeks were both pretty crappy and of them I shall write.
First up, the impulse buy of A Fistful of Collars which is really not a book I would buy in normal circumstances. But a friend wanted to go to the author's reading and I am, it has been demonstrated on too many occasions, incapable of not buying an author's book if I attend their reading. I have bought second copies of books I already own as a result of attending a reading. I have bought books I knew were awful just because I've been at the reading. At least in this case I opted to skip the newest hardback and bought a less-expensive trade paper title from midway through the series. The premise of this very successful series of mysteries is that the narrator is the detective's dog, Chet, who considers himself part of the "Small Detective Agency" team. Let's just say the dog isn't a very good writer and he makes the same stupid jokes about as often as you might expect a dog to do the same stupid thing.
While I was at Third Place Books for the Chet reading I naturally looked around the stacks and bought some other titles as well. One was an older Julian Barnes (copyright 1982). I've liked other Julian Barnes books I've read; some I've really loved. So I was unprepared for just how unpleasant I would find the experience of reading Before She Met Me. The premise of this book is that a nice mild-mannered academic finds out that his (second) wife acted in B-movies before he met her and he becomes obsessed with the men with whom, in the films, she slept and also the actors, from the films, with whom she may have had sex. The nice guy turns into a truly repulsive sort while his nice wife assumes that it's just a rocky period through which all marriages must pass and so she puts up with his increasingly disturbed behavior. I don't know what point Mr. Barnes thought he was making in this book but it was mostly just an icky read I was glad to finish. The NY Times review to which I've linked suggests that it's "darkly comic."
So now I have started A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, also purchased at Third Place, this time with a "money-back" recommendation from a usually reliable friend, and I am hoping, desperately, that the third title will be the charm. Otherwise, it's straight back to the safe world of either Mr. Trollope or Miss Thirkell's Barset(shire) from which I shall just never emerge.