review: miss pym and maisie dobbs

24 07 2008

I’ve purchased a Table Topics Book Club cube.  It is basically what it sounds like – a little cub filled with cards that have questions for a book club on them.  I thought it would be good for my classes, but I’m also going to try using it for my reviews.  My plan is to pull a card at random and discuss it in relation to the book or books I’m reviewing.  I thought it might help me focus my thoughts a bit more.  I’ll start with a brief overview or summary of the book and then launch into the question itself.

Last time I wrote, I wasn’t overly optimistic about Miss Pym Disposes.  I like my mysteries with a body quite soon on and then all the unraveling.  It took some time to get to the body in Miss Pym, but even before the victim was discovered, I found that my mind had been changed about Tey’s novel.  I slowly came around to Miss Pym and her analysis.  The ending, which I half expected, was still surprising and I felt the jolt that Miss Pym herself feels when she finally sees that she has not been quite as clever as she has thought herself throughout.

After Miss Pym, I returned to a favourite: Maisie Dobbs in Pardonable Lies.  In this novel, Maisie is balancing three cases, one of those which leads to attempts on her life.  In this third novel in the series, Maisie also returns to France and faces some of the demons of her past.  I didn’t find this novel as engaging as the other two and the resolution to most of the mysteries too obvious.  I also found all of the connections and coincidences a bit too convenient and I was not convinced by the justifications that Winspear gave (through Maisie) for all of this overlapping.

And the card asks – which aspects of the setting are most interesting to you?

With Miss Pym Disposes I would have to say it is the physical setting.  The novel takes place in an all-female school that focuses on physical education.  Miss Pym is drawn to the youthfulness of the girls in the environment, and as an outsider, an adult who is not a teacher, the girls also immediately bond to Miss Pym.  I think it is Miss Pym’s love of the place and the way in which that love blinds her to some of the realities and the ultimate outcome is one of the most interesting aspects of Tey’s novel.  I found myself wondering over and over again why Miss Pym remains, what is lacking in her own life that she feels compelled to stay at the school and become involved in these girls’ lives.  Loneliness is certainly suggested, as is the admiration that the girls show for her.

In Pardonable Lies, the time period is most interesting to me – as it is for all the Maisie Dobbs.  Winspear focuses on the lives of ordinary people post-WWI and she examines how devastating the conflict was.  In this volume, there were references to the coming of WWII and it was nice to see that Winspear is moving forward in time.  I didn’t feel as much a sense of place in the novel.  Winspear seems to give distracting descriptions of people at points, but I didn’t feel as if I had enough of a sense of place in this novel.

Next up: The Gathering.

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28 10 2008
review: brat farrar « still waters

[…] wasn’t sure that I would be going back to Josephine Tey’s work after my experience with Miss Pym.  As I said before, I like my whodunits with a body quite early on, not the building and building […]

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