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Book Souk

A bazaar crowded with random offerings. William Gibson/Henrik Ibsen. Zafon, Murakami, Van Gogh. A table of well-thumbed Louisa May Alcott. Shiny Urban Fantasy and an aromatic clutter of cookbooks.

Always meant to read...

Sinister Street (Complete) - Compton Mackenzie

You know all those books you always meant to read?


One of mine was Compton MacKenzie's Sinister Street.Decades (!?!!) ago, I was intrigued by reading two consecutive social histories of early 20th century England that referenced this novel. At that time, it was out of print; and it never showed up in the library or the second-hand bookstores I regularly prowled. I never found it, and never quite forgot about it.


A few years ago, getting all excited about digitized versions of "lost" books, I thought to look for it and, wow! There it was! So I downloaded both volumes. But my to-read pile is gigantic and digital books, being out of sight, tend to fade.


A couple of weeks ago, I was on the subway when I abruptly finished the digital copy of the novel my book group had selected for this month's meeting. So I flipped through my device & picked out....no, not Sinister Street, but Julian May's The Many-Colored Land, because I was in a scifi-ish mood. it was a choice that made me very happy, btw. So happy, I didn't notice the progress thermometer running out and, once again, ran out of book on the subway.


This time, I did click on Sinister Street. Nice thing about books you always mean to get around to: when you finally do get around to them, they're still there and no worse for the wait.


In this case, I'm kicking myself for having waited so long. I'm having such a good time that I had to post about it (not a common occurence). I went straight from the first volume into the second, and am now trying hard to dawdle through Michael's Oxford years. Sinister Street is a detailed telling of a young man's life, from early childhood through University (I don't yet know how far beyond, if at all). Published 100 years ago, it feels so modern to me. Okay, there are far fewer brand names than you'd find in a book by one if our current bright young things. And technology stops at trains and gaslight. Thing is, I had to think hard just now to come up with those differentiators. Michael, despite his attraction to the 17th century, feels more like a protagonist from the 21st. He is endlessly self-examining while endlessly curious about the lives of others. And MacKenzie had him observe place and sensation and ceremony -- not to forward the plot, but to bring us into his world and live it with him.


So yes, it's looking like my favorite book of 2015 might have been written in 1913.