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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book Review June 2007

Daughters of a Coral Dawn - Katherine V. Forrest

Borrowed? No.

What possessed me to read this, I can't possibly imagine. I have a load of books by this author, all from a time when I was looking for books written by women, about women, preferably strong women. She's not a very good writer, but this was in the days before I discovered writers like Sandra Scoppetone, Sheri Tepper, and Sara Paretsky, and was looking for detective fiction to while away the time with. She is not a good writer at all, come to think of it. So why did I read this particular book? A thread over at Twisty Faster's turned into a discussion of feminist utopias in fiction, and this was one of the books mentioned in the thread. I thought it might provide good background for another project I'm working on. Suffice it to say that I've learned my lesson.

Recommended? Good Lord, no.

Reread? Perhaps I'll try again, if I get further on my project and get stuck.

Dictionary of Asian Mythology - David Leeming

Borrowed? No.

An excellent, handy little reference, very useful for looking up things that you kind of know, or ought to know, or vaguely remember, about myths and legends of China, India, and every country around and in between.

Recommended? Highly.

Reread? As needed.

Ethan of Athos - Lois McMaster Bujold

Borrowed? No.

I've always liked Lois McMaster Bujold as a writer of science fiction. She has a certain sly humour and charm. This book was lightweight, a quick easy read, and thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, it was part of the "feminist utopias in fiction" project. The project doesn't have a name yet, and it's not in any way related to "The Bobbed-Haired Girl" project.

Recommended? Light reading, yes.

Reread? Probably not.

Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens

Borrowed? No.

Although it was slow to start, eventually, as all Dickensian dramas do, this book gripped me, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happened next. As always, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good their just reward, and of course Dickens is exceedingly verbose, but it was some 800 pages of enjoyment. Verbose but talented. With what skill he describes each scene, each character, how well he delves, without heavy-handed framing, the depths and heights of emotion. Bit cloying in the approved manner of the time, at times, but nevertheless a good read. Most interesting of all is his description of America.

Recommended? Highly.

Reread? Not for a good while.

Palli Samaj (The Homecoming) - SharatChandra Chattopadhyay

Borrowed? No.

Reading another of this writer's works translated into English brought home to me the importance of a good translator. Regrettably, this translation was a bit too literal, and Bangla does not translate directly into English, so much of the beauty is lost, and the idiom is clumsy and ineffective. Nevertheless, as with all of SharatChandra's work, this novel deals with the mores of village life and the difference between the urbanized protagonist and his rural childhood companion, and the maze of relationships, customs, prejudices, and regulations that make up life in rural areas. The book would have been far more enjoyable in the hands of a skilled translator. I wish I could get a copy in the original!

Recommended? Only in the original, or in a better translation

Reread? Only in the original or a better translation

Pather Dabi - SharatChandra Chattopadhyay

Borrowed? Nicki.

The translator of this work is excellent, and this is one of SharatChandra's finest novels. Loosely translated, Pather Dabi means "Right of Way." The novel chronicles the awakening of a young man to the injustices imposed by the society in which he is raised. In parts painful, in parts filled with pathos, excitement, rage, this is a novel to stir one's soul. The British did their best to suppress this work when it was first published. Read it and you'll see why.

Recommended? Highly.

Reread? Whenever I can.

Tears of the Giraffe - Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed? Smokey again.

An amusing little work of detective fiction about the adventures of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana. I believe the first of those works is about to be turned into a film. The writing is good, the characters well drawn and textured, and the writer captures the sweetness of the native culture along with its suffering from change. Good pace, interesting occurrences. It left me wanting to visit Africa, notably Botswana.

Recommended? Yes, if you like detective fiction, light reading matter, and Africana.

Reread? Probably not. Once you've read a piece of detective fiction, you know how it ends, and then what's the point?

The Amber Spyglass - Phillip Pullman

Borrowed? K.B.

Oh, my. Phillip Pullman has written a fascinating trilogy, part science fiction, part fantasy, all thrilling. The writing was quite good, and although after the first book it became a little more predictable in parts, it was still a rollicking good read. It's being made into a film, and I saw the preview and felt as if I must read the book. The film is beautiful, if it all keeps the same high quality as the preview I saw. I can't wait for it to open. As for the books, I read all three volumes in a single night. So there.

Recommended? Yes, if you like science fiction, fantasy, or fast-paced adventure. Definitely light reading, though.

Reread? Maybe.

The Boss Dog - M.F.K. Fisher

Borrowed? Smoke, again.

I've always loved M.F.K. Fisher as a writer. There's a lyrical quality to her descriptions of scenes and people. Neither overly descriptive nor cloying, yet utterly sympathetic and very visual. This book, as you can tell from the title, is about a dog, and an excellent device was that dog as a way of describing the relationship between a woman and her two daughters and the time they spent living in France. As with all of Fisher's books, it was a veritable treasure of culinary and cultural information. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Recommended? Mais certainement.

Reread? Someday when I have some free time!

The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman

Borrowed? K.B.

This is the first book in Phillip Pullman's trilogy, and I think the most exciting. His portrait of the little girl who is the protagonist is very good, I think. An excellent writer with a vivid imagination, I blame him for my subsequent insomnia.

Recommended? Highly, for those in search of entertaining reading material.

Reread? Probably, but not for years.

The Subtle Knife - Phillip Pullman

Borrowed? K.B.

This is the final book in Pullman's excellent trilogy. I didn't like it quite as much as I liked the first, but it's still well written and well worth reading.

Recommended? Yes.

Reread? Maybe.

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