Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman

47. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax - first in the Mrs. Pollifax series
by Dorothy Gilman
mystery, 1966
library book
unabridged audio read by Barbara Rosenblat
finished, 8/18/10


49. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax - second in the Mrs. Pollifax series
by Dorothy Gilman
mystery, 1970
library book
unabridged audio read by Barbara Rosenblat
finished, 8/25/10



Before I begin my rave review of the Mrs. Pollifax books, I'd like to take a minute to explain how my reading situation is different in the summer months. One of the interesting features of our homestead is that a few years ago we began getting no-see-ums; little tiny bugs that come right through any screens. They have a terribly itchy bite. They are present mostly when the sun goes down and are attracted to light so over time we have learned to keep the lights off in the evening. The television seems to be okay and there we sit in the evenings, watching our Netflix dvds. What this means is that I don't read print books after dark, but what I can do is listen to audio cds or tapes. It may well be that the reason I stayed with The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is the fact it was an audiobook. I often stick with an audiobook longer than I would a print version because I don't have a lot of choice at the libraries I visit. I am simply not interested in many of the books they offer so that I continue with one that is even mildly appealing just to have something to read. I have had times when I've rented from Recorded Books, a great source of unabridged audio, but the cost is steep, and again they don't always offer what I want to read.

This summer I revisited my beloved Mrs. Pollifax books. I have probably listened to the whole series three times already but it never ceases to delight me. Barbara Rosenblat is such a gifted narrator. I loved her as Amelia Peabody and I love her as Mrs. Pollifax.

When we first meet Emily Pollifax, she is quite depressed. Her husband is dead. Her children are grown and live far away. She lives in an apartment in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She is active as a volunteer but she feels unfulfilled. One day when she goes up on the roof to water her geraniums, she almost takes a step off. She realizes she must do something about her life, and recalls that as a child she wanted to be a spy. She heads off to Langley, Virginia to the Central Intelligence Agency to apply for a job. She accidently gets that job when she is mistaken for an occasional courier. She does her assignment so well in her first adventure that she is hired by the CIA.

In the course of the books, she visits Mexico, Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Africa, and many other places, some real and others fictional. The landscape details are so precise, so well-written that the reader can really visualize her surroundings. Various people appear in all, or most of the books: Carstairs her boss, his assistant Bishop, and a free-lance, field operative named John Sebastian Farrell.

Mrs. Pollifax is not simply a cute older lady off on adventures or mis-adventures. These books are spy books, with real bad guys who do serious harm. Emily is a believable character who works very hard at her job. She is truly kind and caring. She learns karate to help her in difficult encounters. She grows with each book, and even remarries and moves to a house. Cyrus, her husband travels with her occasionally.

I so recommend these books. They are excellent spy stories, travelogues, mysteries, and character studies. There is occasional humor but for the most part they are serious adventures for Mrs. Pollifax and her readers. I was thrilled that Dorothy Gilman was the Grand Master at the Edgar Awards this year, a well-deserved recognition of her work.

I wrote about one of my favorite books, A Nun in the Closet here, and intend to read all the other books which Dorothy Gilman has written.

12 comments:

  1. Audio books are good for so many situations; I have a colleague who visits our customers all over Germany, and so he has to spend long hours in the car. He has a very impressive library of audio books and in this manner accesses literature he would otherwise never bother with.
    My grandmother was blind for the last 11 years of her life. My mum signed her up at the audio book library for the blind; grandma learnt to use a tape recorder (she'd never owned one before she became blind) and soon started to anticipate the sound of the orange plastic boxes from the library landing in her mail box.
    Personally, I am too impatient to just sit and listen; and if I'd listen to a book while doing other things, I'd be too distracted.
    But you never know; I might change my habits over time :-)

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  2. I have read all the Mrs. Pollifax books in years past! What a delight to have them recalled to memory by your post today!

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  3. I loved the Mrs. Pollifax books when I first read them a few years ago. Maybe it's time for a reread. I think I'd like to try the audio books this out since the reader is Barbara Rosenblat who is fabulous. She reads the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters and totally embodies the wonderful Amelia. Nan, have you ever checked into www.audible.com? It's a great source for audio books and the prices, especially for the first three months trial period, are excellent when compared to what these books cost in stores.

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  4. So, you are an Emily Pollifax fan, and I seem to remember that you like Elizabeth Goudge as well. We really should get together for tea sometime. How about the next time you are passing through the Chihuahuan Desert?

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  5. I love this series so much! My favorites are the one where she goes on safari and the one set in China. Well, and the first one as well. They are all wonderful though. I've listened to them too and Barbara Rosenblat is so gifted. I can read about Mrs. Pollifax again and again.

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  6. Librarian, these are such good examples of why audiobooks are so important. I can't sit in a chair and listen either. But lying in the dark, with headphones/earbuds makes that book come alive to me.

    Staci, they are fun, and also very interesting and suspenseful.

    Sherri, hi to you, too!

    Linda, isn't Mrs. P. just the best!

    Yvette, I have looked into Audible but I prefer tapes over cds, and either of them over mp3s (is that the right usage?). I don't like an iPod for books.

    Clair, you've got a date! Oh, and have you read the Chet and Bernie books by Spencer Quinn yet???

    Kay, my very favorite book is the second one because it introduces my very favorite character, Sandor. If you haven't listened to this one, you will love it. I laugh everytime BR says, whatdahell. He is a gem and she captures him perfectly.

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  7. Nan, I think that you must have made those Chet and Bernie books famous. I am waiting for them to be on the shelf at my library. I guess I'll have to break down and get myself on the list.

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  8. Clair, you will love them for the dog but also for that locale! I'll be really interested if you write about them in relation to where you live. Both Chet and Bernie love their home.

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  9. I stopped by your blog via Rachel at BookSnob and just had to tell you how much I enjoyed my little trip here on your site. I love Mrs. Polifax! She is my audio of choice when I'm on a road trip. I find it hard to listen to books when I am working around the house and NEVER while gardening, a place I just like to "be" when I'm outdoors, but, my car, ah my car and the books I have read. Mrs. Polifax in Bulgaria is my all time favorite.

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  10. Life on the Cutoff, I had just written to Kay that my fave is the second one when we meet Sandor - 'whatdahell!'

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

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