I Read Stuff

Finally finished John le Carre’s The Constant Gardener. Not on par with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Smiley’s People, but not bad for a le Carre’s book not starring George Smiley. What I will remember most years later about the story probably won’t be the perfidy of the phrmaceutical company at the heart of the novel’s plot, but Justin Quayle’s doubts and uncertainties about his wife, and his guilt about those doubts and uncertainties after her death.

“And you didn’t know anything about the great crime,” Lesley resumed, unwilling to be persuaded. “Nothing. What it was about, who the victims and the main players were. They kept it all from you. Bluhm and Tessa together, and you stuck out there in the cold.”
“I gave them their distance,” Justin confirmed doggedly.
“I just don’t see how you could survive like that,” Lesley insists, putting down her notebook and opening her hands. “Apart, but together – the way you describe it – it’s like – not being on speaking terms – worse.”
We didn’t survive,” Justin reminds her simply. “Tessa’s dead.”

Increased my Henry James’ count to a grand total of three with The Wings of the Dove (the other two are, predictably, The Portrait of a Lady and The Turn of the Screw). I saw the movie version starring Helena Bonham Carter years ago as a teenager and was not impressed with the story – a bunch of scheming, unpleasant people taking advantage of a wimpy sick woman, I thought. Maybe the book is just so much better, maybe it’s also partly a function of age, but I have a lot more sympathy for these people now, especially Kate Croy. She knows she’s lost Merton to Milly, he will never forget her now, and whatever she ends up deciding about Milly’s money is beside the point.

Strange it was for him then that she stood in his own rooms doing it, while, with an intensity now beyond any that had ever made his breath come slow, he waited for her act. “There’s but one thing that can save you from my choice.”
“From your choice of my surrender to you?”
“Yes”- and she gave a nod at the long envelope on the table -“your surrender of that.”
“What is it then?”
“Your word of honour that you’re not in love with her memory.”
“Oh – her memory!”
“Ah” – she made a high gesture – “don’t speak of it as if you couldn’t be. i could in your place; and you’re one for whom it will do. Her memory’s your love. You WANT no other.”
He heard her out in stillness, watching her face but not moving. Then he only said: “I’ll marry you, mind you, in an hour.”
“As we were?”
“As we were.”
But she turned to the door, and her headshake was now the end. “We shall never be again as we were!”

Reread Agatha Christie’s The Murder at the Vicarage (it’s been years). I’m definitely Team Miss Marple and NOT Team Hercule Poirot, heh. I’ve forgotten what a condescending a** Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond West is.

Currently reading David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I was really excited about this when it came out, but was waiting for the paperback version, and then completely forgot about it! I’m only about a hundred pages in, so far so good, historical fiction is not my favorite genre, but Mitchell has a way of making things come alive as if they are happening right this instance.

‘It is not even Miss Aibagawa after whom you lust, in truth. It is the genus, “The Oriental Women” who so infatuates you. Yes, yes, the mysterious eyes, the camellias in her hair, what you perceive as meekness. How many hundreds of you besotted white men have I seen mired in the same syrupy hole?’
‘You are wrong, for once, Doctor. There’s no -‘
‘Naturally, I am wrong: Domburger‘s adoration for his Pearl of the East is based on chivalry: behold the disfigured damsel, spurned by her own race! Behold our Occidental Knight, who alone divines her inner beauty!’

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The Constant Gardener and Page Eight

Currently reading John le Carre’s The Constant Gardener (trying to work my way through le Carre’s 21st century books, very, very slowly). I saw the film adaptation years ago, my memory of it is a bit fuzzy. The most blatant change the movie made is the age difference between Tessa and Justin. I’m not sure what’s the age difference between Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz in real life, but in the movie, they look like they are only a few years apart. In the book, people were making jokes about Justin marrying someone young enough to be his daughter, and whether Tessa had passed her A-Levels yet. I thought someone like Bill Nighy might fit the bill better, but alas, Nighy only rated a supporting part in The Constant Gardener. I’m reading along imagining how much better the movie would have been if it was Bill Nighy playing Justin. I mentioned this to my husband, and he pointed out that there is indeed a movie (Page Eight) starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz in the leading roles! And it even has Ralph Fiennes playing a supporting character! And it’s a movie about spies! (Sure, The Constant Gardener is not about spies, but there’s the spy connection with le Carre).  Feels so weird, like imagining something and it almost came true. Obviously it’s a completely different movie from The Constant Gardener, but still, serendipity. Page Eight is going on top of my to-watch list!