Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | March 17, 2011

Books at Molly’s Café: Berlin Hotel, the Bride Wore Black, After Such Pleasures, Play it as it Lays

Sometimes I am looking for something to read and find something random. These are some of the random ones I have read recently.

First, I want to say that I just galloped through the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I won’t go into detail, as many people have read them, but I sure enjoyed them. Since I knew the author had died I was afraid to finish the last one, as I wondered if there was some kind of closure. There was, so if you have not read this great story, I strongly recommend it, much as I hate to be going with the trend of the day.




Ok back to the others. These are not famous books, nor are they trendy.

Berlin Hotel was written by Vicky Baum, first published in 1944. It is a novel set in a particular hotel in Berlin as the Germans were starting to lose the war. Much of the higher officers from the Gestapo and the military stayed there. Other characters include a young actress whose main lover is one of those military officers, a has-been floozy who had been punished for sleeping with a Jew she loved, an ill English writer who was made to read propaganda by the Germans aimed at the British, and a fugitive young German who had seen through the propaganda of the Hitler regime and wanted to work with others to take back the country. As a sort of historical look at the situation at the end of the war, it was an interesting book. It wasn’t a great novel, but it was a quick read and a good story. I wonder how it was received at the time.


I had not read much Dorothy Parker, so I was glad to read her collection of stories (or episodes, as the blurb says), After Such Pleasures. This also was sort of historical, as it was published in 1940. It was interesting to see the man-woman roles, as the women were often rather fluffy. They are often high society or wanna be high society people, finding surface pleasure – or not– in their lives. It was a good look at the vapid pleasures of the time before the second world war set in.




Kind of related to that was Joan Didion’s Play It as it Lays. It was published in 1970 and is centred on Maria, a messed up actress who we learn is in a psychiatric institute for killing one of her social friends. We also learn that she has a handicapped daughter in another institution. We are introduced to her former lovers and husband as well as some Hollywood friends. These are the late 60s when people are smoking dope and experimenting with sex, though those are not major parts of the novel. I am not a great Joan Didion fan, but I enjoyed looking back at those times through this novel.


The last book I want to talk about is The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich. It also was published in 1940– and someone paid 150 kurus for it many years ago. I am pretty sure this was made into a movie. As I read it I was thinking about how much detective work has changed, as there was little in the way of fingerprinting or DNA or any of the other nifty things you see on CSI, for example. It was much more putting random clues together. The story is about a woman who kills men and then disappears. The story has a twist ending which explains her motive. Again, it was sort of historical, as the slang and the relationships between men and women were so different from now. Baby, we have come a long way!


All these books are still in the café, so come buy them!



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