Friday, September 29, 2006

'Maisie Dobbs' by Jacqueline Winspear

ISBN: 0142004332
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Price: $14.00

Maisie Dobbs is the first in a series of private detective novels that take place after the First World War. This book takes place in 1929, with flashbacks to 1914 and the First World War. Maisie Dobbs is taken in by Lady Rowan, becoming a maid in her great house, setting the coal in the grates and polishing the mahogany until one day she is found by the mistress of the house reading in the library. She is a hungry learner and when Lady Rowan realizes it she finds her a tutor.

Maisie is at university when the war breaks. The people are hoping it will be over by Christmas, trying to ignore the horror of it all. Pricilla, Maisie’s school friend, joins the nurses who are going to be the ambulance drivers in France. She's leaving school early because she can’t sit at home when all three of her brothers are over there. She says, ‘Me too, me too.’

After a friend from working at Lady Rowan’s is killed when a munitions plant explodes, Maisie also signs up but then she falls in love with Dr. Simon Lynch. They have a few bright moments in the sun, glorious because you know they are so precious. He proposes and she asks him to ask her again when the war is over. Maisie just has this feeling that things might not go as planned. He says to her, ’I love you, Maisie, and I want you to be my wife. I promise that as soon as this war is over, I will walk across miles of trenches to find you, and I will stand there in my muddy clothes until you say ‘Yes!’.

Years later, after the war, Maisie has opened a private detective agency. She has a gift for reading people. She thus has to face the things from her past she has buried. The Great War and what the war left her with; she has to come to terms with what has happened to Simon and her love for him.

I enjoyed this book. It was well written and worth the read. It was a little choppy, the flow broken, but still well done, well researched, and I have to tell you I think I cried once every two chapters. It was very sad - the views of the war, the broken men with the broken families.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

'The Black Dahlia' by James Ellory

ISBN: 0446618128
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 371pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Price: $7.50

I have a writing teacher who tells me that the difference between a man's romance novel and a woman's is that in the end of the woman's the girl gets the boy and they all live happily ever after; in the man's, the woman dies. Yes, that's right, the woman goes toward the light leaving the man with nothing but the memory of her love to keep him warm at night. But on the bright side he doesn't get the nagging, closet-hogging, three-hour-bath-taking woman who will try to change him from the rugged man he is into a man who actually does dishes or brushes his teeth. So it's a trade.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a Man's book (with the capital M). It was really well written. Fantastic writing. You really got a feel for the era and how people felt about it all, he did a wonderful job on the slang. I enjoyed that part of it a lot. I learned a lot of derogative sexual terms for African-Americans as well as Mexican-Americans. I didn't know some of those words before.

When you pick up this book you have to keep in mind that this is a fictionalized version of events that happed out in California in the 1940s. The real Elizabeth Short was never in a pornographic film, was not a prostitute, and was just a young naive girl looking for love.

“I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them.” Bucky Bleichert narrates the story of his life before and after the murder case of Elizabeth Short, also known as The Black Dahlia because of her penchant for tight little black dresses. While on a case, Bleichert and his partner Blanchard find the body of a woman. She is completely severed in half, her legs spread wide, and her mouth split from ear to ear. The murderer has completely drained her body of blood and has washed and styled her hair.

Bucky becomes obsessed with The Black Dahlia and eventually he falls in love with her. Everyone wants what they can't have, right? He sleeps with a girl who looks like her, even imaging her to be Elizabeth Short. Even when Bucky finally does find a form of happiness in the end, he promises Elizabeth his love.

The Black Dahlia is haunting, incomplete, because you never truly know what happened or who the murderer is. It is peopled with very real monsters in people skin; rapists, pedophiles, druggies, prostitutes, and killers, all the horror of humanity paraded in front of the ever constant Elizabeth Short.