Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mission Impossible - Update (Books - The Spoilt City by Olivia Manning)

Count down!

Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy is such a vivid account of what it must have been like, I imagine, to be an ex-pat during the beginning of World War II. Manning is particularly insightful about her characters. I enjoy watching the young couple, the Pringles, getting to know each other better through their travails:
She sighed, feeling in the gummy September heat all the tedium of the year repeating itself. Guy, thinking she was bored, said: "Nearly finished," but she was not bored. Becoming conditioned to Guy's preoccupation, she was learning the resort of her own reflections. With him, in any case, talk was too general for intimacy. He despised the metaphysical and the personal. He did not gossip. She was beginning to believe that what he had lacked was a fundamental interest in the individual - a belief that would astonish him were she to accuse him. But she did not accuse him. Once she had believed that finding him, she had found everything: now she was not so sure. But here they were, Wrecked together on the edge of Europe as on an island and she was learning to keep her thoughts to herself.

Manning seems less observant of the little physical details of life - the physical attributes of the apartment where the characters live, she will say that a meal on a train was terrible, but won't say what precisely was terrible about it. The political events, however, are very excitingly drawn. The abdication of the king of Roumania, the economic situation, relationships between the fascists, the peasants, and the Jews. The rude awakening of the chief British bureaucrat of Bucharest that his days are numbered there. He is truly that breed of man who "knew his place"
"...London office must be told that we face a final break-up here. It's only a matter of time. We should be instructed where we're to go, what we're to do when we get there. We don't want to become refugees without employment.
The second volume ends on a real cliff-hanger! I'm now on to volume three - Friends and Heroes. With any luck, I can complete it tomorrow. Time is of the essence.

40. The Spoilt City - Olivia Manning
41. Friends and Heroes - Olivia Manning
42. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
43. Tell me Everything - Sarah Salway
44. Experiment in Love - Hillary Mantel
45. The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
46. The Last Town on Earth - Thomas Mullen
47. Lisrael - Garth Nix
48. Abhorsen - Garth Nix
49. Across the Nightingale Floor - Lian Hearn
50. Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks


BooksPlease said...

I finished The Spoilt City about a week ago and haven't got round to writing about it yet. I felt it didn't quite match The Great Fortune and I got a bit lost in the Rumanian aristocracy. I agree about the cliff-hanger ending. I haven't got volume 3 yet so they're suspended until I do!

Ted said...

I felt that in the beginning too, but then I thought that Yaki's venture into enemy territory was an amazing scene. I just wanted to kill him for his betrayal. And the last hundred pages around the revolution made up for it all. I thought she used the character of Bella really well. I'll try not to spoil volume 3 for you.