Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bleeding Heart Square

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here. The holiday season bustle kept me busy and very soon I will be in the unenviable position, along with millions of other folks, of being unemployed. And that means without benefits and, well, at my age that’s a huge anxiety producer.

My escape - and my blessed joy - is reading. Reading keeps me sane. Truly. And these wonderful, exciting authors have brought balance to this auldanxiousannie.

I have four book reviews here for your perusal. I’ve been trying to come up with a linking theme for them all, but they are disparate not only in theme but place in time. The first is a mystery with a missing woman and a burgeoning fascist party complicating the life of a young upper-class woman separated from her beastly husband that takes place in 1930’s England, the second a rollicking, swashbuckling romance in Florida of the early 1800’s, the third a How-To for finding balance in our current global consciousness, and the fourth is the last in a beloved series about a wilderness family in upstate New York of the 1820s-30s.


Bleeding Heart Square
by Andrew Taylor
Published by Hyperion

Copyright 2009

“It’s 1934, and the decaying London cul-de-sac of Bleeding Heart Square is an unlikely place of refuge for aristocratic Lydia Langstone. But as she flees her abusive marriage, there is only one person she can turn to... Legend has it that the devil once danced in the square - but is there now a new and sinister presence lurking in its shadows?”
(from the back cover)

Perhaps it is just me, but does anyone else always envision the 1930s in black and white? I have a very difficult time adding color to that era in my mind. My parents were young people at that time and the pictures I have of them are in black and white. Films from that era that I watched and loved as a child (and now - I recently caught Cary Grant and Jean Arthur in “Only Angels Have Wings” on TMC) were in black and white. Black/White photos of the WPA at work during the Great Depression and Okies barely surviving in their tent villages. No color, and the images seem even more intense for the lack of it.

There’s a line in Taylor’s Bleeding Heart Square that perhaps gives us an explanation for this intense lack of color: “He had tried to write a description of her one evening but was unable to get much beyond a list of cliches.” Indeed. There are times when color becomes very limiting and shades of gray are the only way we have to define a thing. Taylor very accurately draws Lydia Langstone’s reserved personality and her cool approach to moving from a life of garish entitlement to living in those shades of gray.

I was fascinated and drawn in by this mystery of the waning of class distinctions, murder definitely most foul, rising fascism in the political miasma of 1930s Britain, and nascent love over kippers and a boiled egg at a neighborhood tea shop.

Miss Penhow’s letters and the unattributed comments regarding same kept the story going when, at times, I felt bogged down in what seemed like too many red herrings and coincidental characters thrown at me. However, all was satisfactorily tied up at the ending.

Definitely recommended to mystery and historical fiction lovers.

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