Wednesday, October 8, 2014

All The Tea In China - Kyril Bonfiglioli

If it seems like a while since I wrote about a novel it's probably because it took me the best part of two weeks to wade through 'All The Tea In China'. I read a couple of Bonfiglioli's Mortdecai books years ago (when I did let the third in the trilogy defeat me) but as Penguin have reissued them all again and Waterstones kept piling them up where I could see them it seemed like time to have another go. Both times I was pulled in by Stephen Fry's endorsement, in this case ''You couldn't snuggle under the duvet with anything more disreputable and delightful".

Now I've actually finished it I'll be passing this book onto my partner who I'm reasonably sure will love it, he enjoys the Flashman novels and from what I've read of George Macdonald Fraser they share the same spirit. Theoretically a book full of adventure, art, wine, food, and jokes should work for me and separately the bits about wine, food, art, and some of the jokes do work for me so I was happy enough whilst I was reading, but when the characters are for the most part a means of furthering a joke it's hard to care enough to pick the book up again if the humour isn't quite in tune with your own.

From what I know of art and wine Bonfiglioli knows his stuff, what he says about clippers in the opium trade sounds like he knows about that too. The boat stuff comes alive which is a testament to how good a writer he is, but to really enjoy this and not feel overly prudish about some of the more disreputable jokes I would need to be holed up somewhere warm on a cold winters day. So basically a curates egg of a book for me, to good to dislike but just not quite my cup of tea.



  1. Ah, these have been impossible to find, so good news that they're reissued. It's a pity that I now can't remember what spurred me to look for them the first time!

  2. I think Penguin reissued the lot this year. They're well worth a read but I'm not always in the mood for his humour, mind you if you are in the right mood he's very good indeed.