October Reading Plans: R.I.P. and More

For the first time I’m joining in with the R.I.P. challenge (that’s “Readers Imbibing Peril,” if you’re unfamiliar) – a spur to read the dark fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror and suspense books I own during the month of October. None of these are go-to genres for me, but I do have some books that fit the bill. To start me off, I set aside this pile early in September. I’m not sure how many I’ll get through, so I’m not committing to a particular number.

Several of my review books for the month also happen to be appropriate, beginning with one of my current reads, Little by Edward Carey, a delightfully macabre historical novel about the real-life girl who became Madame Tussaud of waxworks fame. I hope to review it here soon. I also have Deborah Harkness’s latest and an upcoming fable by A.L. Kennedy. Continuing last month’s focus on short stories, I’m going to start on Aimee Bender’s 2013 volume soon; it might just be fantastical enough to count towards the challenge.

I’ve never read anything by the late Ursula K. Le Guin, so Annabel, Laura and I are embarking on a buddy read of The Left Hand of Darkness this month, too.

And then I may cheat and add in these two ‘blood-y’ nonfiction books since I’m going to be reading them soon anyway.

My other goal is to read more of the print books I’ve acquired over the past year, including some of 2017’s birthday and Christmas hauls and the books I bought at Bookbarn and in Wigtown. My birthday is coming up in the middle of the month, so it would be good to start chipping away at these stacks before the new acquisitions pile up much more!

 


I got a head start on a month of spooky reading with Sarah Perry’s new Gothic tale, Melmoth. It seems to have been equally inspired by Charles Robert Maturin’s 1820 novel Melmoth the Wanderer and by Perry’s time in Prague as a UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence. The action opens in Prague in 2016 as Helen Franklin, a translator, runs into her distressed friend Dr. Karel Pražan one December night. An aged fellow scholar, Josef Hoffman, has been found dead in the National Library, where Helen and Karel first met. Karel is now in possession of the man’s leather document file, which contains accounts of his Holocaust-era family history and of his investigations into the Melmoth legend. She was one of the women at Jesus’s empty tomb but denied the resurrection and so was cursed to wander the Earth ever after. As Hoffman explains, “she is lonely, with an eternal loneliness” and “she comes to those at the lowest ebb of life.”

Is this just a tale used to scare children? In any case, it resonates with Helen, who exiled herself to Prague 20 years ago to escape guilt over a terrible decision. For most of the book we get only brief glimpses into Helen’s private life, like when she peeks into the under-the-bed shoebox where she keeps relics of the life she left behind. We do eventually learn what she ran away from, but by then I was so weary of dull found documents, irritating direct reader address (“Look! It is evening now … Reader, witness, here is what you see”), and toothless Gothic tropes that the reveal was barely worth hanging around for. Alas, I found the whole thing pretty melodramatic and silly, and not in the least bit frightening.

I truly loved The Essex Serpent (), but I think Perry is one of those authors where I will need to skip every other release and just read the even numbers; After Me Comes the Flood, her first, was one of my lowest-rated books ever (). I recall that when I saw her speak at Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature in 2016 Perry revealed that Novel #4 will be a contemporary courtroom drama. I’ll try again with that one.

My rating:


Melmoth is released in the UK today, October 2nd. My thanks to Serpent’s Tail for a proof copy for review. It comes out in the USA from Custom House on the 16th. Sarah Perry has written an interesting article about being on strong pain medication while writing Melmoth.

 

Will you be reading anything scary in the month ahead? Can you recommend any of the books I have coming up?

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16 thoughts on “October Reading Plans: R.I.P. and More

  1. Very interesting news about Perry’s fourth book – I cannot imagine her writing a “contemporary courtroom drama”, although I can (just) imagine her writing something technically not historical (like After Me Comes the Flood, which seems to be set in the present day, albeit a very unmoored version thereof).

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  2. October is always a big themed thing in our household, from movies to books to board/card games, and this year is off to a great start. Although I also know that I won’t be likely to finish either of my creepy reads this month (mainly thanks to Giller Prize distractions – not that I’m complaining – they’ve been very good so far): Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and Charles Palliser’s The Quincunx. Although I can’t recommend, personally, any of the books you’ve mentioned (other than the Left Hand of Darkness, which isn’t creepy, and is a real favourite – I would have loved to join in, in a quieter month) but they all sound very good and I do really want to read that A.L. Kennedy fable. Have you read her book on writing?

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    1. How fun! I have a copy of The Quincunx, but it’s such a great big thing that I feel I’ll have to find the right time to fall into it.

      I’ve only ever read Kennedy’s The Blue Book. TBH, I wasn’t planning to ever read any more of her fiction, but this turned up unsolicited from Canongate and is so short that I might as well give it a go. I am definitely interested in her book on writing. My library has a copy.

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  3. Thin Air is terrifying – good RIP choice! I also strongly disliked After Me Comes The Flood, so I’m now hesitant about Melmoth – especially as I failed to properly adore The Essex Serpent (I liked it a lot, but was frustrated with Cora and William throughout).

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    1. Good to hear — I’ve never read Paver but like the eerie song the Bookshop Band wrote about Dark Matter.

      Hmm, I’d say it’s not looking good for you and Melmoth … but you could always give it 20 pages or so and see if you like it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d had my eye on Bodies of Water for a while, so made it my purchase to support Salt Publishing over the summer. I can’t remember, did you read The Essex Serpent? Miles better than her other two if you ask me 🙂

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