E- and audiobook reviews: Villa America by Liza Klaussmann; Tai-Pan by James Clavell; Delmelza: Poldark Book 2 by Winston Graham
by Liza Klaussmann
(read by Laurel Lefkow)
Liza Klaussmann made waves with her first novel, Tigers in Red Weather, a tale of 1950s New England wives. Villa America is the tricky second novel, and Klaussmann has gone even further back in time to the 1920s Jazz Age of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Gerald and Sara Murphy are socialites who know everyone and throw the best parties, a golden couple with three children and an enviable life near Antibes on the Cote d'Azur. Klaussmann writes vividly about the tetchy-witty socialising, but the real object is burrowing into the Murphys' marriage and digging out the bittersweet secrets: namely, Gerald's whispered attraction to men, which is dramatised by a fictional affair with a taciturn pilot named Owen Chambers. Klaussmann handles the complex relationship between Gerald and Sara with sensitivity. The ending is sad, as those of the Jazz Age tend to be. Whether we learn anything new about the movement is another thing, but you'll have great fun finding out.
by James Clavell
(read by Gildart Jackson)
New to audiobook download, Tai-Pan is the second of James Clavell's six-part "Asian Saga". First published in 1966, the novel traces the fluctuating fortunes of Dirk Struan and Tyler Brock, two wealthy traders whose rivalry comes to a head during the Opium War that concluded with the founding of Hong Kong. Struan is the titular Tai-Pan, the "supreme leader" in the South China Sea. Brock begs to differ. Despite possessing riches enough to buy and sell nations, he wants the title and the adulation it brings. Struan has more problems than Brock. His ships are set upon by pirates from the mainland and his character is set upon by his son, Cullum, who lands from Britain and promptly lays into his old dad about ethics and stuff like that. Gildart Jackson gives Clavell's blokeish prose some welly, trying out accents, rumbling through the melodrama and purring through the unsubtle and rather cringe-worthy affair with May-May. At 32 hours, it is long, but really - what else were you planning to do with your time?
Delmelza: Poldark Book 2
by Winston Graham
(read by Clare Corbett)
Apparently Winston Graham hated the way Delmelza, a heroine in his rampant "Poldark" series, was portrayed by the BBC in a massively successful 1970s TV adaptation. As his prime beef was her promiscuity, one can only imagine his response to this year's saucy reboot. Delmelza forms one side of a love triangle with Ross Poldark, swashbuckling adventurer turned tin prospector in Cornwall. Having begun as Poldark's servant, Delmelza becomes his wife by the end of book one. The third part of the amorous pyramid is Elizabeth, Poldark's ex-fiancée. Believing her betrothed killed in America's revolutionary war, she winds up with his cousin, Francis Poldark. Oops. Book two, first published in 1946, follows Delmelza as she gives birth to a daughter, Julia, and makes her mark in society. Clare Corbett's calm, clear reading brings out Graham's manly chasteness - "She didn't want a man about. It wasn't decent" - and her smooth tones make mincemeat of all the mining and the Cornish landscape.