Book Reviews for June

(Marlene is on a trip! These are some of her older book reviews – Enjoy)


Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. We are in India again (surprise!) but back in the 1830s and the opium trade headed for trouble. The characters each start with their own story that get you hooked as you know that they will end up interacting with one another. It’s another good look at Indian customs and the diversity of the culture but also a good entertaining novel.

 A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon Interesting story of a retired man who is quietly going mad with his misconceptions about his health. There is the whirl-wind actions of the grown children’s lives as well as his wife’s less than honorable actions. Haddon really gets into the minds of his characters and you will love them while at time wanting to shake their bones. It is a light, fast plot, with great chuckles and an ending that’s a little contrived in that all turns out well. A recommend

The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre Whew! Here’s a heavy read. I saw the movie ages ago but decided to read the book. The story takes place in the most poverty-stricken section of Calcutta with all the horrors, ills, tragedies and violence. This slum is called the City of Joy for the indomitable spirit of people who are living on the edge and the joy that they wring out of their existence. There seems to be too much detail in the tragic descriptions (almost reminds me of torrid sex scenes…too much information!) and there is a definite lack of a defined plot. One also has to remember that Calcutta isn’t the only city with smog (hello LA and Beijing) or slums (hello every big city) or that Indians themselves were doing charitable work there. It is still worth a read as it does celebrate the dignity of the human spirit in overcoming amazing odds.

Death of a Chimney Sweep by M. C. Beaton. Our dear Scotch village constable, Hamish Macbeth uses his wily talents to solve the murders, that keep happen at an alarming speed with not always much rational. This is not one of the best of the series and if you are a Hamish fan, you will be disappointed as her characters are worn-out and her descriptions of the highland lack the usual spark. If you are new to this series, choose one of the earlier ones (not last 3 for sure). I was disappointed but still it was good escape reading while doing chores! Too many good books for our limited time to give it much of a recommend. You won’t hate it though. (Just a note from Robin – I loved all of them, including this one.)

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee. Here’s a delightful assortment of short stories, many will captivate your emotions, while some may be trite and thus disappointing but this is still a recommend. Banerjee is Indian and the stories take place stateside as well as in India and it’s a marvelous peek into the effects of immigration on Indian families, from the female point of view. Although many of the issues are universal (like generational gaps!), the clash of the traditional in India and modern in America is wrought with excellent writing. I usually am not drawn to short stores as there seems to be too little time to get you to care for the characters but in several stories, Banerjee does manage that.

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