A Morbid Taste for Obscure Old Books

We’re nearly two months away from 2019 and while there’s still time enough for a last-minute upset it seems likely that my Book of the Year will be either Hilda Van Siller’s The Widower or Jennie Melville’s Nell Alone with Noël Vindry’s La Fuite des Morts and Charlotte Jay’s A Hank of Hair as possible outsiders.

This gives me pause, for two reasons.

The first and most obvious one is that they’re all old books and not very well-known ones to boot. It’s somewhat to be expected from me given my focus and preferences, but it feels rather odd sometimes to rave about books no one else or so has read while ignoring the popular or at least better known ones. The Van Siller book for instance is so obscure that I couldn’t find any review or summary online either in English or in French (the language in which I read it)

The second one is that only one of the four qualifies as a mystery in the conventional meaning of the word. Van Siller’s book is best described as a « crime novel » a la Symons; Jennie Melville’s is psychological suspense with strong gothic overtones and Charlotte Jay’s – well, it’s a Charlotte Jay book. It leaves us with La Fuite des morts which is, shall we say, the GAD candidate. If you needed another proof that I am not the GA monomaniac that people think me to be, here it is. 😉 The problem is, how do I reconcile my well documented distaste of « crime fiction » that « transcends the genre » with my no less well documented fondness for « crime fiction » that – « transcends the genre »? Someone please call a shrink! 🙂

The good news is that for once most of my picks are findable and affordable in both languages. The only exception is – of course – the Vindry and unless John Pugmire adds it to its roster the chances that a decent-priced copy comes your way anytime soon are extremely low. So if you are curious to know what kind of stuff I’ve been into lately, go chase them – if only because I’d like to have someone else’s imput before making my decision!

 

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