I’ve always read a lot of books. I’m a slow reader but I’m an efficient reader, meaning that I find time to read when most others don’t. From age eleven to age 24 I always had a book with me where ever I went. Then that book became a knitting instead but I still read a lot. The past two years that hasn’t really been the case though. I haven’t really felt the serenity to read mostly because my demands on a book, that were always high, became even higher. When I say that I have high demands on a book I don’t mean that it has to be a classic or whatever, I’m a pretty shallow reader in the sense that if a book is good I’m reading it no matter who wrote it or when he or she wrote it. Life’s too short for bad books. But a couple of years ago it became harder to concentrate on a book and there were a lot of topics that I just couldn’t stand. I’m gradually coming back from that and I have noticed that I have a lot easier to read during holidays when I have more spare time. Of course I still read but not as much or as naturally as before.
A week or so ago Julle bought me a book – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal – that I started reading right away and kept on reading. It’s about a young MI-5 agent, Maggie Hope, in England in 1940, who is a math tutor for Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle at the same time as she, Maggie, is trying to uncover a plot to kidnap the princess. The agent is delightful of course and the book was quite exciting but it also had a few flaws.
For example, I was a keen reader of Nancy Drew novels when I was a kid but I always wondered why she let herself be captured in each and every book. Nancy Drew has solved over a hundred mysteries and I figure she should know by now that things can get tough and that she should plan accordingly. In one book it even said that she had taken some self-defence classes but not enough. Why, I thought, why haven’t you taken more of those classes? (I also thought that hopefully this would teach her to take more classes for the next book but no, she was still getting captured.) Also, why doesn’t she always bring a kit for opening doors and why does she never tell the police where she is going? Classic horror movie mistake – if it’s a windy, dark night and you are all alone, don’t go down to the basement. With Nancy Drew, or Kitty, as she is called in Swedish, I can understand that the books aren’t that well written and that capturing Nancy is an easy way to keep the books entertaining and exciting for young readers. Since all books have different writers I understand that continuity from previous books isn’t the first thing on the list when a new one is in progress. Again though, this annoyed me when I was a kid.
Nancy Drew is an amateur detective after all but Maggie Hope is supposed to be a trained agent for MI-5, why is she behaving like Nancy Drew? I must say, if all MI-5 agents were like Maggie Hoppe, the British would never have been able to conquer anything or anyone, so poorly are the planning and the spying executed in this book. How a trained agent can let her feelings get the best of her judgement – she was mean to me, she must be one of the bad guys although there is no evidence to proove it – is incomprehensible. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have been as good a plot (to break the case and save the kidnapped princess on an enemy U-boat is probably much more interesting to read about than if the princess in question is never kidnapped at all due to good intelligence and quick reflexes) so I can live with that.
What I really don’t like though, is the continuity problems. Things like “this thing happened on a Thursday, now it is Sunday but we still refer to the events from Thursday as if they happened last night”. On one page someone throws a bottle in the sea and four lines later he throws the same bottle in the sea. Small things like that doesn’t really disturb the plot even if it interrupts the reading but when the main character decrypts something, saying that a U-boat is involved and tell people about this, and then 20 pages later has no recollection of said U-boat and is really surprised that a submarine is involved and so is apparently everyone else, it makes me start to question their intelligence. How can the commander not remember this U-boat when the question of nation security and the order of succession are at stake? It feels like someone should have read through this novel at least one more time before it was published.
Despite this, and I totally had to wake Julle up early one morning so I had someone to discuss this with, the last chapters were so thrilling I had to have more. So I ordered more, the prequel and the sequel. I have also bought another pair of books and, while waiting for my books to arrive, I started re-reading another book, which is also a great one. This weeks Book Club book is already a favorite and it seems I have gone from having nothing to read and being in between books to having so much intriguing stories around me that I don’t know what to do. Luckily Christmas is coming up and when all the knitting is done I will have some days off when I can just relax on the couch and read whatever I want. We’ll see if Maggie Hope has gotten her stuff together for the next book. One can always Hope.