Happy Sunday everyone. We are still having hot weather but at least it hasn’t been ridiculous. Eldest went off to be a counselor-in-training at his annual summer camp. This year he will have to help teach Himself’s class on rockets due to some summer school overlap. Since the boys have been flying and building rockets forever this shouldn’t be a problem. Last year Himself had the kids build regular rockets out of tubes – this year they will be made with paper mache balloons (needless to say we have said balloons all over the house). Youngest has gone off on a road trip with friends taking a biography of Theodore Roosevelt with him. He is taking a break from Richard Nixon because “there is only so much Nixon I can take.” I have managed to read two books this week, How It All Began by Penelope Lively and The Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer Dubois. I also managed to make a sizable dent into the third volume of The Cazalet Chronicles and I can actually say I am getting tired of the family so I think I will take a break before going on to the fourth and final book. I started reading The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta for book group and I am finding it slow going so far. Hopefully it will pick up soon or it is going to be a slog for me.
Here is what caught my interest this week:
Historical novels generally make for good summer reads with long and involved plots that take you away from hot weather or children home from school. One that caught my notice was The Hand of Fatima by Ildefonso Falcones (reviewed by Jackie of Farm Lane Books) which is set in 16th century Granada, Spain just after the expulsion of the Moors. Unfortunately this book is not yet available in the US but Falcones’ first novel, The Cathedral of the Sea is available and some may find it somewhat similar to Ken Folletts’ The Pillars of the Earth as the main character is a stone worker for the building of the great cathedral of Barcelona in the 14th century. However, the Inquisition and its turmoil play a big part in the novel as well. Falcones’ debut novel won several prizes in Europe.
The second historical novel that caught my interest is set in 16th century Persia or the country we know as Iran. In Equal to the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani, Pari Khan Khanoom is a Safavi princess, the daughter of the Shah and trained by her father to be a powerful force in the court. When he dies, her position at court becomes precarious and she must manipulate and connive her way into safety. The story is told through the eyes of her servant, Javaher, a eunuch with an agenda of his own. Swapna, of S. Krishna’s Books that while the history in the story takes a front seat to some of the character development, if you like historical novels about strong women in difficult circumstances, then this may be the book for you.
Perhaps you are in the mood for a good laugh, then the 1930 novel His Monkey Wife (Or, Married to a Chimp) by John Collier may be for you. Reviewed by Stuck in a Book, the book is about Alfred Fatigay, an English schoolmaster in the Congo. Fatigay decides to return to London taking his pet chimpanzee Emily as a gift to his finance. Unbeknownst to Fatigay, Emily has become literate and civilized and is in love with him. She feels the finance does not have his best interests at heart and tries to save him from her clutches. With a plot that sounds completely improbable, the book also sounds completely wonderful with a well-mannered, bibliophile chimpanzee running around London. Stuck in a Book writes:
Collier really is quite an impressive prose stylist, finding that middle ground between modernist experimental and simple storytelling. There are loads of literary references throughout, from Virginia Woolf to George Moore: Collier clearly respects his audience’s intelligence
Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat has reminded me of a book I have been wanting to read when she reviews its sequel Tuesday’s Gone which is now out in England. Blue Monday is the first in a series by Nicci French (a husband/wife writing duo) with reclusive and intense psychotherapist Freida Klein at the center. In Blue Monday she discovers that the fantasies one of her patients is having may be tied to the real life abduction of a child. Drawn into the investigation, Frieda has to balance her duty to her client as well as her duty to the child. In the sequel Freida is once again involved in an investigation when the police ask for her help with an person who has an unusual psychiatric disorder and a dead man in her living room.