Saturday, January 07, 2006

Schoolteacher noir

doesn't exactly sound like a compliment, and yet I've just read a great female noir novel that will delightfully define that subgenre for me henceforth--it's Megan Abbott's absolutely brilliantly well-written Southern California 1950s noir, Die a Little. Cool, clinical, dark, and really exceptionally well-put-together sentences. Also a really vicious ending. Great stuff.

Then I read a book by an author I am PERPLEXED I have never heard of, it is so much the kind of thing I like; I think it must be one of those weird US/UK publishing/taste divides. In Your Dreams, by Tom Holt. It's a bit Neverwhere-ish (now THAT was a book that just blew me away, I grabbed it at the public library--must have been in New Haven still at that point--without really looking at it, not knowing who Neil Gaiman was at all, then sat up STARTLED once I'd read the first page at how good it was and raced through it poised with delight), this is more whimsical and gentler in its funniness than either Gaiman or Terry Pratchett (or Diana Wynne Jones, it's got a bit of that feel though), but I was definitely won over after initial wariness-of-whimsy phenomenon & have just stayed up till all hours to finish it. It's a sequel, and there's a new one about to come out that makes up a trilogy; good near-future light reading....


  1. Jenny, I loved Die a Little. Megan is very, very talented and this book is so subtly nasty with all the unstated incestuous overtones laying under the surface. I was very impressed with how she starts it out as a 50s melodrama and the story, as well as the prose gets progressively hard boiled as the story unfurls. One of my very favorites from 2005.

  2. Have you--it's not entirely in the same vein, but of the same ilk by some measure, I'm sure--read Philip Larkin's Trouble at Willow Gables? It's his half-parodic/half-infatuated take on 1940's British girls' school stories? It's delicious. Decidedly light reading, though not noir by any stretch. A memorable treat and far superior to the originals on which he based it (Nancy Brearly's "Two Thrilling Terms" etc, though those are a kick too, of sorts).