August books 2023

I got a lot of reading done because I was sick all of August. Out of these books, I enjoyed two. For one I can’t really say if I liked it or not because I overestimated my comprehension of the French language! The others were, sadly, a let-down even though I was interested in the premise or loved other books by the same author.

27. Death Comes to Pemberley – P.D. James

This book was such a disappointment. Usually I love genre mixes. This is why I thought Jane Austen meeting mystery would be fun! However, this book ended up doing both parts of the mix a disservice. The mystery was uninteresting and honestly fairly obvious. The characters of “Pride and Prejudice” merely happened to be present, and didn’t really do much but watch the plot happening. The worst part is how Lizzie, a multifaceted and clever woman in the original, was relegated to the sidelines as dutiful wife and mother. Ugh.

28. Nachmittage – Ferdinand von Schirach

I love von Schirach’s early short stories that focus only on crime, guilt and the duality of human nature. “Nachmittage” is the first book I read that’s also partly autobiographical. There are also stories about crime in it, and I still feel they’re the strongest of the bunch. His concise writing style draws out the irony of his character’s fates, and von Schirach doesn’t shy away from the brutality and sadness of their lives.

29. Im Angesicht des Feindes (In the Presence of the Enemy) – Elizabeth George

I’ve read many complaints that George’s mystery novels are too long, but that is precisely why I enjoy them. Give me all the exposition, details and descriptions! This installation of the Lynley series is about the mysterious disappearance of a young child. It’s a difficult case because she is the result of the secret affair between an ambition conservative politician and the editor-in-chief of a left-wing tabloid. This obviously gives George ample material for her deep dives into the unsavory depths of her characters’ psychology in this novel. Needless to say, I enjoyed it! I don’t particularly care for Lynley, her head detective, his upperclass shenanigans, or his love story with Helen. However, his sidekick Sergeant Havers with her fierce and stubborn sense of justice, might be one of my favourite female detectives. Poor, poor Sergeant Havers, who always seems to get the short end of the stick …

30. Das Feld (The Field) – Robert Seethaler

This book is a collection of short stories. The protagonists of each story have two things in common: they all lived in the same small town, and they’re all dead and buried in that town’s cemetery, called “the field”. You meet a colourful cast of characters, who tell you their sad, aggravating, and darkly funny life stories from beyond the grave. In the end, their stories combine to a picture of a typical small country town, full of lies, love, hatred and longing.

31. Le Père Goriot – Balzac

I found a French edition of this book in the local open bookcase, and took it on a whim because I thought it’d be fitting to take a French book to read in France. To be honest I kind of struggled with it. I got the basic story – Goriot gets financially exploited by his daughters who climbed up into the upper echelons of Parisian society by marriage – but I could just guess at the atmosphere and nuances of the novel because I lacked the vocabulary. On the other hand, I learned English by just consuming English language content, so I hope it will work as well with French some day.

32. Ruhm. Ein Roman in neun Geschichten (Fame) – Daniel Kehlmann

This is another collection of short stories that are connected by their characters weaving in and out of each other’s lives. It was my first book by Kehlmann, who is one of the biggest contemporary German authors, so I had expectations that weren’t met, sadly enough. I just thought it was written in such an unpleasant way, trying to hard to demonstrate how it was uppercase LITERATURE, YOU GUYS. Seethaler’s “Das Feld” had plenty of dark humour and unsympathetic characters as well, but it went about it in a much more laid-back manner.

33. Kaffee und Zigaretten (Coffee and Cigarettes) – Ferdinand von Schirach

I felt pretty much the same way about this book as about “Nachmittage” by the same author, see above. Von Schirach is a gifted storyteller, and that shows when he writes about other people. The autobiographic details just stuck in the craw. I just don’t want to know about your nostalgia for the country estate you grew up in, dude. Honestly I get that childhood, however lonely and sad it seemed to be, remains connected to the thought of home and belonging. I just couldn’t help but remember that the money and privilege he enjoyed is inextricably tied to the horrible crimes his grandfather Baldur von Schirach committed every time he mentioned the estate. It’s not Ferdinand von Schirach’s fault, and he has worked tirelessly to keep up the constitutional state in his work as a defense attorney, but … gah. Just stop with the estates.

Interested in my reviews of the other books I’ve read this year? Check out my posts on them below!

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