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So far in 2013

I've been reading absolutely HUGE books so far this year, and have kept my promise to myself to read at least one classic in 2013.
Russka by Edward Rutherford took me over three weeks to read.  It's  HUGE novel in a few ways. Firstly it's about Russia and it's progression from pre-medieval times into the vast country it was, and now the slightly smaller country.  It follows two families, or their descendants from AD180 right up to 1990.  Huge in another way in that it is over a thousand pages long.  The novel is built up of several shorter novellas to form a timeline which takes in some of the most important events in Russian history.  Russka is not a mis-spelling of Russia, it refers to two villages, later towns/cities where much of the action takes place.  Although it doesn't go into detail about the Russian revolution, it shows a very different perspective on the revolution than is commonly held in the Western Europe.  The one that the revolutionaries were all regicidists and had no respect for authority at all.  In fact the reasons suggested for the revolution were logically developed.  Mainly in that the "people" of Russia were treated with disdain by the ruling classes who had no compunction in doing what they saw necessary to do in order to get what they wanted, regardless of the effect it had on the majority of the population.  (Sounds like our present government.)
Anyway, it is a very well written book, and I might eventually tackle another of Edward Rutherford's epic books, but not for a while yet

Magyk by Angie Sage was the book I read between Yule and New Year.  It is book one of a series, a young adult novel about magic and underhand dealings by the "baddies" of the piece.  The bit that surprised me is revealed at the end of the novel where the "baddy's apprentice" turns out to be one of the main "goody" family, who had been removed from their family at birth by underhand dealings.  It was a fairly quick easy read, with pleasant twists and turns.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.
Well, I did promise myself I would read one classic this year.  The Woman in White is probably not one of the better known. Collins was a contemporary of Dickens, and for a period of time they worked together, but their books are very different from each other's.  I had previously read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and decided to read The Woman in White as it purported to be one of the earliest mystery novels.  Although the title might suggest it, the novel is not a ghost story, but a mystery that develops , and is solved by the main narrator, Walter Hartright.  It is told by several narrators, each giving their portion of the story.  Indeed if Hartright had not encountered the mystery Woman in White at the start of the novel, there would have been no mystery for him to solve, but as things happen in the novel, this woman becomes part of the fabric of the novel, even though she speaks very little.  A good book.

The City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris.  Set in Jeddah, this novel explores as one of it's themes the cloistered nature of women in Muslim countries, and how what we in the West take for granted is a rare privilege granted under strict rules.  American woman, Miriam Walker joins her husband in Jeddah, but soon afterwards he disappears, leaving Miriam essentially helpless due to the strict laws.  Unless with her husband, brother, father, or male family member to vouch for her safety, a woman is risking breaking all kinds of laws just by going onto the street to go shopping. A woman's body is found washed up on a beach, at first she is presumed to be a serving maid or some such, but it is revealed she is from a wealthy family. It might sound like this novel is set in years gone by, but The City of Veils takes place in modern Jeddah where most have access to mobile phones, computers and even "bluetooth" veils.  I won't say any more, it was an intriguing mystery, which I won't spoil for you


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