Archive for April, 2011
Fans of author Joe Lansdaleâ€™s Hap and Leonard series will not be disappointed in the latest novel, DEVIL RED. For those unfamiliar with the series (and itâ€™s not necessary to read them in sequence in order to understand whatâ€™s going on), Hap and Leonard are two East Texas, tough working-class men who make a dubious living through various odds jobs. Hap, the narrator of the tales is white, and his sidekick Leonard is gay and black. Their friendship is firmly deep-rooted, and yet they often approach problems from different angles. Basically these are “buddy” books set against the backdrop of dark crime which is alleviated by outrageous humor. If Hap and Leonard ever tried their hand at show biz, theyâ€™d make great stand-up comics.
The year is 1932 and the scars of World War I are far from healed. The specter of Nazism has begun to cast its shadow, and England has its share of “homegrown Fascists” who enthusiastically promote the aims of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Government officials are even more leery of pacifists, whose desire for peace at any price could undermine the morale of “the men in the ranks.” Against this backdrop of political and social turmoil, Maisie Dobbs keeps busy running her successful private inquiry agency, ably assisted by the conscientious Billy Beale.
April 23, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· 2 Comments
Tags: 1930s, Jacqueline Winspear, Time Period Fiction, War Story Â· Posted in: Facing History, Sleuths Series, Thriller/Spy/Caper, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author
Itâ€™s a tough world thatâ€™s inhabited by Gin Boyle Toad â€“ an albino, a classical pianist, an unloved woman whose life has been reduced to freak show status with the indelicate stares, the gossip, the pointing. Although she was raised in Perthâ€™s wealthy environs and showed early and sustained musical talent, she is abused and ultimately institutionalized by her cruel and loathsome stepfather.
Her unlikely rescuer is Agrippas Toad, a dwarfish and crudely mannered farmer who happens to hear her play piano and immediately marries her. By doing so, he attempts to stave off the rumors about behavior that is deemed aberrant in his small-minded farm community. It is the â€śstrangenessâ€ť of these two that binds them together. Gin Boyle reflects, â€śIt wasnâ€™t happiness. It wasnâ€™t love. But it had been tolerable, so long as there was nothing else.â€ť
The title of this book alone drew me in; that and Iâ€™m partial to books about India. This is a fine book on many levels and I was not disappointed. Itâ€™s a multigenerational novel, a great love story, a cross-cultural learning experience, and a book about yearning, hope, loss, money and betrayal. It captures the big themes of life and does a great job of keeping the reader turning the pages.
The story starts out in 1907 when Amulya takes his family from Calcutta to Songarh, a small town on the edge of the jungle. He has a wife and two grown sons, along with one daughter-in law. He builds a house in the middle of nowhere. There are no other houses nearby except for one belonging to an English couple across the street. There is dirt, mud, the screech of monkies and not much else. Kananbala, Amulyaâ€™s wife, gradually loses her sanity from the loneliness and utters irrelevant profanities at the oddest times. Amulya confines Kananbala to her room so as to avoid embarrassment. There she languishes, for the most part alone and lonely. She takes to watching the comings and goings of the English couple across the street and is witness to a murder. Her interpretation of what she sees has a fascinating outcome.
There is a scene in the movie, The Social Network, where the Zuckerberg character sits down at his dorm room computer and plaintively declares, â€śI need an idea.â€ť It is a sensation I suspect many can relate to: that building up of energy, the antsiness and the creative urge which begs to somehow be addressed. In the movie, of course, the idea is big, world-changing big. Facebook is born. Most of the time, surety is lacking and the energy petters out, the idea half-baked and forgotten. There is a sense of that in this book, the feeling of an author in search of an idea. And even the author doesnâ€™t seem sure of its worth. Horan writes, early on: â€śMy cockamamie scheme, to restate it loosely, was this: I would go around the country collecting tree seeds at the homes of famous peoples I admired, grow them into saplings, then buy a cheap parcel of land and plant them there.â€ť
Vincent Van Gogh had lived only seventy days in the small community of Auvers-sur-Oise, Northwest of Paris, since arriving in early May. He had been released from an asylum in the South of France and come North to be nearer his brother Theo, who supported him financially. In an astonishing feat of creativity, he dashed off luminous canvases at the rate of one or more per day, until his darkness returned and he went out into a field and shot himself. Carol Wallace’s novel is an account of those seventy days, as told by the person who was the reason for Vincent’s choice of Auvers: Dr. Paul Gachet.