Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Five Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart


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I am listening to Mozart's Die Zauberflote.  I am not a huge opera fan but I do love Mozart's operas because they're so witty.  Die Zauberflote is pretty out there and the production we watched was a modern take and maybe a little too over the top in some of its costumery, but the singing was superb, especially the Queen of the Night.  The above link is only for the overture since singing might be intrusive to your reading.




Five Passengers from LisbonFive Passengers from Lisbon by Mignon G. Eberhart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this out loud to my parents and to make the book more readable I skipped all the description of irrelevant detail. One thing I did learn is another lesson in good writing, but first the storyline:

WWII has just ended and Europeans and Americans are scrambling to get out of Europe to North or South America as fast as possible to bury the past and start over. We are introduced to five such people.

Luther and Daisy Belle Cates: millionaires who stayed in France throughout the war, even though they are American. Why? Will we find out?

Gili: A European woman from unsure origins and even less sure morals. We do not know what she did to survive the war but it probably wasn't pretty.

Mickey: A man who had a rising promising career as a concert pianist before the war. He became a part of the French resistance before getting captured by the Nazi's and held in a concentration camp until the end of the war. To torture him they mutilated his fingers.

And our protagonist who also serves as our third person limited narrator:
Marcia Colfax: Marcia is an American living in Paris and she fell in love with Mickey before the war. When he was captured, she was determined to wait it out until he was released, a big assumption on her part. She moved to Marsailles, and, when the war ended, she and Mickey meet up again, only now he is Andre Breton and she mustn't forget it, because his passport says so.

All five of our characters have purchased passage on a Portuguese carrier to South America which is where the story starts. Unfortunately for them, the boat is sinking and they find themselves on a lifeboat with three Portuguese sailors in the dead of night in the middle of the Atlantic trying to negotiate stormy waves, each of which threaten to overturn their boat.

Finally dawn turns the sky to gray and also shows an American Red Cross ship heading toward them. All is saved!

Except for one. One of the Portuguese sailors collapses after fighting the waves all night with an oar.

Or so it seems. After everyone boards the Red Cross Ship it is discovered that the Sailor is dead and not from exhaustion. He has been murdered and the knife in his back proves it.

Who on board the lifeboat murdered him? And why? That is what the rest of the story leads you to (um.. to who did it and why).

The mystery was good enough to hold one's attention but the unnecessary description of every item in a room, of how everyone was dressed, the color of the skin, how one always bit her lip, how the captain furrowed his white eyebrows or studied the painting across the room etc...

And the smoking! It seemed after every paragraph our characters had to take a smoking break and we get to read about it from the pulling the cigarette from the package to the lighting to the exhaling to the flinging the butt over the rails.

If what you're describing does not propel the plot forward leave it out. At least that is the most valuable thing I received from reading this novel.

This book was written in 1946 so the war was still painfully fresh in people's minds, and the characters, how each are revealed to be a certain type that existed during the war is interesting. Some are desperate to erase their cowardly acts, others are appalled to find themselves on the losing side after they invested so much in that side and others were just innocent victims that managed to weather the storms of war. I felt Eberhart could have done to develop these characters more rather than bore the reader with minutia.



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24 comments:

  1. From your review, I suspect the author was one of those who had not enough plot for the word-count expected by the publisher, so just like a middle-school student trying to complete that 500-word essay, all sorts of extraneous stuff gets thrown in. Well, how's that for a theory. BTW, I see proof of that theory in too many books. Even Dickens was guilty!

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    1. You're probably right, R.T. It really got on my nerves. I have the same theory about Dickens. His books were originally serialized in magazines and I think he may have gotten paid by the word.

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    2. Yes, Dickens, like other serial novel authors, received payment based upon number and length of installments. This publication method became popular in the 19th century with the rise of literacy, less expensive printing, and more people with time enough to read rather than only to work, eat, and sleep.

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    3. Now that is a history I would like to read about: how did the culture of reading arise among the masses. I am currently reading a collection of spooky stories called "Penny Dreadfuls" named after the cheap books that were published with scary, sometimes gruesome stories.

      I am also reading about the game of chess and how it became popular in the middle ages because it gave the nobility something to do.

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    4. FYI
      https://www.uvic.ca/library/featured/collections/serials/VictorianSerialNovels.php

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    5. More....
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_(literature)

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    6. Those articles were very interesting, R.T. Thanks for sharing. I did not know my favorite Russian authors' works were serialized.

      The Victoria U. site looks like I need to read more of their articles.

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  2. Pity about the minutiae - the book sounded promising in other aspects. Dickens can get away with it because he was such a good writer. I took my 12 year old to see Giselle on the weekend - do you have some favourite ballet music?

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    1. You can actually whip through the book pretty quickly and skim over the over-describing. It certainly had its merits. One of them is the time the book was written which gives one an insight into the forties and how men and women were depicted or viewed each other.

      Of course, I'm addicted to Foyle's War. Have you watched it?

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    2. Oh and as to ballet. I LOVE ballet. Giselle is lovely, a good classic ballet. Margot Fonteyn with Rudolph Nureyev did a breath taking job as did Gelsey Kirkland. You can find their performances on youtube. I haven't seen a live performance in years.

      Now I love anything and everything George Balanchine created, especially to Stravinsky's music-although not everyone is a 20th century fan, but I am. Bad sentence construct but I'm too tired to care.

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    3. I've never heard of Foyle's War!
      Thanks for the ballet tips. Will check them out.

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    4. Foyle is a police inspector who solves murder during WWII in Hastings, UK. The acting and storyline is very good.

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    5. Foyle's War is one of my favorites. I've watched the entire series at least three times now and, no doubt, will watch it again some time down the road when I have the urge to watch a superb mystery series.

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    6. HI Fred. I with you. Netflix used to have the series on their streaming and for some reason stopped. So now we have to wait until the disc comes in the mail.

      The last episode we saw Foyle had resigned so I'm looking forward to where they go from there. I know they go forward because there a few more seasons.

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    7. Fred I stupidly deleted your comment when I meant to publish it so I'll quote it here:

      Yes, he now moves into the Cold War conflict. But, he still manages to irritate and frustrate some of his superiors. His low key approach is just as effective in the new setting as it was in the old. I hope there's another one coming out, but I think it's over, sad to say.


      My answer:

      AAAAAhhhh!!! Don't give anything away!!!

      I do like Foyle's low key approach and also how he uncovers everything in a zinger of a speech at the end. That is very satisfying.

      Sam is a good supporting actor, too.

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    8. Sharon--you'll be happy to hear she's in the new ones too. There--no mas!!

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    9. I mean by the above statement that we just watched the latest and in it Foyle is back after a year.

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  3. I usually like a lot of description in a fiction, but this sounds like overkill. I think that RT's theory about the word count is plausible. I guess it is similar to students who pad essays in order to reach a minimum number of words.

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    1. Hi Brian. I think there is good descriptive writing and not good. This one was amateurish, which is why not many people have heard of Eberhart anymore.

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  4. i think writing styles change with the social environment, also... i've read some Mary Roberts Rinehart, in addition to a bit of Mignon, and found her to be very prolix... but i kind of like that, sometimes, when it it's well done... Helen MacInnes has a tendency toward that sort of style, but with her, it's submerged in the excellent plotting which is characteristic of her novels...
    these books were written in the midpart of the last c., and were representative of what was considered acceptable at the time...

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    1. Hi Mudpuddle. Most definitely. We can either cringe or be amused at how men and women were presented back then although there were some good points as well.

      Some of the women can be portrayed as silly or not quite as bright as the men, but the men and women also possessed an innocent dignity that is often lacking in many novels today in our jaded generation. I'm thinking of "Girl on a Train" as an example.

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  5. Bought the Kindle edition. At $2.51, I won't lose much if I don't like this book. However--Foyles War--awesome! I hated viewing the last episode because...it was the last episode! But we watch all the other mystery series on PBS. It would take too long to list them; go on Netflix and watch them. However, Season 6 of Father Brown is on PBS, as well as Season 3 of Pie in the Sky. Both good viewings.

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    1. Hi Joyce. I didn't know this story was on Kindle; it's an old book.

      The nice thing for us with Foyle's War is that Netflix instant streaming stopped showing it and now we have to wait for the disc to come in. That makes it stretch out longer.

      I will have to look up Pie in the Sky. Thanks!

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I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.