Reading Reflections (Jan 3, 2018)

Current I am reading Rumpole a La Carte and murder on the Orient Express.  The story in the Rumpole book has Rumpole reflecting on the rude French Irish cook while Orient express has Poirot reflecting on a rude Englishman, who does not consider foreigners worthy society.

Most Agatha Chritie stories start with the murder scene. In this one, they are traveling on the train and so far nothing has happened as yet. We just have Poirot travelling with the Englishman and Englishwoman for company.

The Rumpole book of course is a complete laughing riot with Rumpole being dragged to a fine dining restaurant by his wife where they are offered a treat by one of her high and mighty cousins. Rumpole has fun asking for mash and potato spuds, earning the ire of the chef. Though I do not know what is potato spuds, kidney and cabbage taste like against fine wafer of duck meat, I could get the general idea. I do not know if Michelin 2 and 3 star restaurants exist in India and they would be affordable. But I have at least tasted a few gourmet dishes - one place I remember is Masala Library. They had a 7 or 8 course meal with all fancy dishes - foreign delicacies made with Indian vegetarian items - a culinary Jugalbandi of sorts.

The Chef's tirade is upset by the appearance of a mouse at one of the customer's table and the mouse becomes the case in the story. The chef approaches Rumplole to get him off the case health department slaps on him. While it may seem trivial compared to murder mysteries, the heady mix of humor and deduction make it a highly engaging read. I feel the deduction process more interesting that the magnitude of crime. And the humor keeps you laughing all the way to the end. And there is some kind of warmth to these stories. The same characters appear over and over in the stories and you begin to get used to them after a while. The friendly and sometimes unfriendly banter between the characters  makes you feel very much a home. You know like those Enid Blyton school stories. You know if you walk into a random Malory Towers books, you will run into Alicia, Mary Lou. Gwendoline, Sally, Irene, Belinda etc. In some stories they may be of importance. In others they are just side characters. Similarly if you step into a random Rumpole story,  you will have 'the one who must be obeyed', 'the Portia of the Chamber', good old Uncle Tom who visits the chambers to play Golf than to take up cases, Erskine Brown with his philandering ways, Soapy Sam Ballard with his overbearing ways, the radically left liberal Liz Probert etc. The characters just grow over you from story to story. And often incidents from earlier stories are referred to in later stories giving a feeling of continuity.

In addition to these 2 books, also making my headway with the Tamil Book Parthiban Kanavu. One thing I find here is even the simplest of events are described. I wonder if it is the way of Tamil stories or the way narration used to be in ancient times. You know current writing manuals talk about show and tell, avoiding redundancy etc. This book describes all trivial things such as she walked, she laughed etc. I wonder if modern day Tamil authors write like this or have they also adapted to the newer style like their English counterparts. But for a new person trying to learn the language, redundancy helps so that even if one misses something, one can continue to follow the story. So far, all that has happened is the Chola King is on his way to fight a battle with the Pallava Emperor to avoid paying him tribute and all the public is devoutly loyal to him and are all ready to fight cheek by jowl with their king. We have the boatman wanting to join the army but King tells him to stay back because he has to teach his son to swim is the King falls in battle. The boatman's wife's grandfather is a blacksmith and all excited about fashioning weapons. These scenes are good in the sense that they show the reader the public sentiment.

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