Drum roll please. I am officially past the halfway mark of Anna Karenina! As this is a nice, chunky book this pleases me to no end and makes me feel like I am actually making serious progress. (A couple possible spoilers coming up, beware). Kitty and Levin are finally getting together and I am reading about their wedding at the moment. I love all the little cultural details that Tolstoy includes and should be marking pages with little post-it notes, but I never seem to have them when I need them. Anna, however, has run off with Vronsky after giving birth to their daughter and nearly dying. Strangely I've become quite sympathetic towards Anna's husband who has redeemed himself somewhat--my first impression of him was very poor. Now I'm not sure what to feel and think about Anna, but I reserve judgment until I have more facts.
I've been wondering about an author's intentions towards his characters. Do you think he might make them (perhaps) immoral or selfish or whatever, and pass judgment on them and therefore make them "pay" in the end? Or might he be sympathetic towards them, yet still make them "pay" in the end as that is what society expects? I don't know enough about Tolstoy, and maybe it is unfair really bringing him into the equation and not letting Anna stand on her own, but I get the feeling sometimes that he doesn't like Anna. I'm not quite sure where my thoughts are going with this, but it seems like there is a double standard going in the story (Anna's brother very happily and without any repercussions has been unfaithful to his wife), which has bothered me from the start. Perhaps it's a case of my own modern perception of things.
And for something entirely different, though maybe not considering my recent proclivity towards Scottish crime novels, I've been reading Karen Campbell's The Twilight Time. I've moved from Edinburgh to Glasgow in this first Anna Cameron mystery. I'm not entirely sure what I think, though it has nothing to do with the writing, which is very good, and everything to do with the characters. They are portrayed in a very realistic light, which means warts and all. Sometimes they're not especially nice or likable--including Anna. And I wonder about police protocol as well (are the 'polis' really like this? Maybe.), but maybe I'm being too judgmental (ahem, what was I saying about judging characters in just the paragraph above?) and more importantly I might be lacking in humor, though the humor here is on the dark side. Maybe police officers are every bit as crass as some of these characters. Despite my occasional misgivings, I want to keep reading and when I set the book down, it's not long before I pick it up again. In its own way it is a compelling read and in many ways surprising compared to other books I've been dipping into lately. By the way, any idea what a 'ned' is? I'm thinking it must mean a criminal. And a 'gaffer'? Am thinking some sort of boss. There's lots of slang and colloquialisms, which is certainly giving me a taste for what must be the seamier side of Glasgow. Has anyone read Karen Campbell? I'm curious to know what other readers think.
I'm also quite close to finishing Cathi Unsworth's Bad Penny Blues, which I've greatly enjoyed. It's definitely not your normal take on everyday crime fiction, but Unsworth gives the story her own spin. It's wonderfully atmospheric and you feel as though you've stepped back in time to the swinging sixties. I wouldn't mind getting ahold of a few of her other books. I've finished several books now and will hopefully be writing about this and the others soon.
One last note. Tove Jansson's The Summer Book has been chosen as the next Slaves of Golconda read. We'll be discussing it at the end of January, and you are welcome to join us. I've had this book on my bookshelves for some time now, and I expect it will be a welcome read in the middle of winter! I can already imagine the sand between my toes and the sun beating down on me. Bliss.