Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two Books - from England

An Academic Question - Barbara Pym - A woman supports her university professor husband, although she seeks some life of her own. She is the reluctant mother to a beautiful daughter (toddler) and she needs an au pair in order to maintain day-to-day sanity.

She eventually steals a research manuscript to further her husband's career. He, in turn, reciprocates by cheating on her. But this is academic England so there's no real need to blow up about it all. Our protagonist idly ponders old loves while weighing if it'd be proper to leave her husband.

Not much really happens in An Academic Question, so I can see why it eluded publication until after Pym's death. I would sum this book up as thus: entirely unlikable characters portrayed amid enormously likable writing.

Aiding and Abetting - Muriel Spark- Two men have entered the offices of psychiatrist Hildegard Wolf. Both men claim to be Lord Lucan, who in 1974, had brutally murdered his nanny thinking it was his wife. (His wife had also been attacked but survived and escaped). Lord Lucan escaped the scene, only to become the stuff of fugitive legend.
The murder itself is a true story, but Spark's brilliance is to place Lucen, and the Lucen impostor against this wonderful foil, the analyst Wolf. But here's the rub...Wolf herself is a fraud. She once fleeced pilgrims who believed she was a stigmatic phenomena. Just as the Lucens are on the is she.

This was a really well constructed fun read. A nice condemnation of the English aristocracy that (really, in real life) had probably enabled the real Lucen to elude capture.

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