Friday, March 28, 2014

The Golden Triangle by Maurice Leblanc

"Don't thank me. It's a hobby of mine, saving people." (Arsène Lupin to Patrice)

What do you get when you take seven crippled men and a beautiful nurse, and mix them up with a broken rosary bead, a rusty key, and a rash of secret identities? The Golden Triangle is a rollicking good story! This was my third venture into Maurice Leblanc's mystery stories about gentleman thief Arsene Lupin and it was quite a ride. It takes place during World War I and wounded warrior Patrice Belval is in love with his nurse. There are multiple obstacles to their union, each more surprising than the first.

What really endeared Patrice to me was the Jane-Eyre-like speech he makes to Coralie. Just as Jane declared her equality to Rochester in spite of her looks and poverty, he gives a touching speech declaring his elegibility as a husband in spite of his war injuries: Because the war has deprived me of a leg, or an arm, or even both legs or both arms, does that mean I no longer have the right to love a woman save at the risk of meeting with rebuff or imagining that she pities me? We don't want women to pity us, nor to make an effort to love us...What we demand is equality. We all of us claim to be just as good, physically and morally, as any one you please; and perhaps better. What! Shall men who have used their legs to rush to the enemy be outdistanced in life, because they no longer have those legs, by men who have sat and warmed their toes at an office fire? What nonsense! There is no happiness to which we are not entitled and no work for which we are not capable with a little exercise and training. (from Chapter 2)

I can't tell any more without spoilers so I'll just leave it at that. The brilliant Arsène Lupin solves all the mysteries and irons out all difficulties.

Although I enjoyed the book, I was uncomfortable with the way the villain was finished off. And there was one aspect of the mystery that I found to be unbelievable. (Most of my early doubts were brushed away by Lupin's explanations.) Other than that this was a great way to spend two successive rainy afternoons.

According to Wikipedia a surprising number of films have been made based on this character. Be forewarned that Patrice has a close friend who is African and is referred to in stereotypical language of that time.

There are at least ten free Arsène Lupin titles on Kindle. Eleven are available as free audiobooks at Librivox.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Recommended Librivox Recordings

          Librivox is an online source for free audiobooks that I've used and enjoyed in the past few years. Their goal (which is commendable) is to make all public domain books available in audio versions. The way they hope to accomplish this is to let anyone volunteer to read a book. Of course, this leaves their vast selection in the hands of a mixed bag of excellent, mediocre and awful readers. Instead of complaining about the books that aren't worth listening to, I thought I'd post a list of the exceptional titles. The most satisfying listening experience comes when there is a single narrator, but occasionally I make an exception to this. Clicking on the titles will take you straight to Librivox.

Conscience Pudding - a Christmas short story
The Claverings by Anthony Trollope (multiple readers, my review here)
Confessions of Arsene Lupin by Leblanc (mystery, my review here)
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (my review here)
El Dorado (Sequel to Scarlet Pimpernel, my review here)
Emma by Jane Austen (Version 3 is by one of the best readers, Elizabeth Klett, my review here)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin by Leblanc (my review here)
Lady Audley's Secret by Braddon (narrated by Klett, my review here)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (Version 2 is narrated by Klett, my review here)
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster (Version 2 by Klett, my review here)
Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Version 2 by Klett, my review here)
The Virginian by Owen Wister (western, my review here)
The Warden by Trollope (some of the narrators are poor, but Minter makes it all worth it, review here)
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (Version 2 by Klett, my review here)
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (mystery, various readers, review here)

Have you listened to an especially good classic at Librivox? If so, please leave a note in the comment section.

(Part two of this post is here.)

Postscript: I recently stumbled upon Julie's (at Forgotten Classics) list of favorite Librivox readers here. I don't agree with all of her choices, but I look forward to checking out a few names that are new to me.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Enid Blyton Books

          Children's writer Enid Blyton (1897-1968) is a household name in Great Britain, but virtually unknown in the U.S. I discovered her when I lived in Singapore and Malaysia during my childhood. Many years later, on a return trip to Singapore, I combed the used book shops for her titles. The six books I found were read and re-read to my young sons. Our favorite was Mr Galliano's Circus, the story of a boy who finds that working in a circus isn't all fun and games. The Enid Blyton Adventure Series with the four children and their cheeky parrot, Kiki, was also a big hit.

          Although not classified as literature, her books are a lot of good, clean fun. Apparently some titles contain stereotypes of that era (1930's to 1950's), but I am not familiar with those books. has a nice article on Blyton's contribution to children's adventure stories.

          My knowledge of her books is limited to the few we own as a family. Anyone else know of her or have a favorite title?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bookish Quotes

Quotes collected by my bibliophile brother:

"My books have been part of my life forever. They have been good soldiers, boon companions. Every book has survived numerous purges over the years; each book has repeatedly been called onto the carpet and asked to explain itself. I own no book that has not fought the good fight, taken on all comers, and earned the right to remain. If a book is there, it is there for a reason. . . ." - Joe Queenan

"To a bibliophile, there is but one thing better than a box of new books, and that is a box of old ones." - Will Thomas

"Few pleasures, for the true reader, rival the pleasure of browsing unhurriedly among books: old books, new books, library books, other people's books, one's own books - it does not matter whose or where. Simply to be among books, glancing at one here, reading a page from one over there, enjoying them all as objects to be touched, looked at, even smelt, is a deep satisfaction. And often, very often, while browsing haphazardly, looking for nothing in particular, you pick up a volume that suddenly excites you, and you know that this one of all the others you must read. Those are great moments - and the books we come across like that are often the most memorable." - Aiden Chambers

"That I can read and be happy while I am reading, is a great blessing." - Anthony Trollope

"You are never the same person when you finish a book. . . ." - Philip Yancey