Sunday 19 May 2013

Happy Victoria Day!!

It’s a sunny Sunday morning on this long weekend, and although I have seeds to sow and plants to dig into the garden, I wanted to take some time to write about books I’ve read or listened to, books I’m planning to read, and maybe a title or two about royalty on this weekend when we celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.

I mentioned in my last post that I was reading The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvaduria.  To recap, this Canadian novel tells the story of Shivan Rassiah, beautiful grandson of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese lineage who captures the heart of his wily, land-greedy, cunning grandmother.  Shivan grows up to become a handsome gay man and as the novel opens in the present day, Shivan, now living in Canada, is preparing to travel back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to bring his now elderly and ailing grandmother to Toronto to live our her final days.  It was a fabulous read, exploring issues of guilt and responsibility in an extended family in a culture which has very different norms, customs and expectations than the one I am familiar with.  It was most interesting to learn about the backstories of various characters in the novel, the grandmother and mother in particular.  I find that this is a common theme in novels set in countries such as India and Sri Lanka, something I always enjoy reading about.  I will admit that this novel dragged a bit near the end, but it was certainly well worth it to stick it out to reach the end.  It was definitely a satisfying read for me, and I may just go back and read some of this author’s earlier novels.

I also finished listening to Red on Red by Edward Conlon.  This novel tells the story of two detectives with the NYPD.  Nick Meehan is a recently separated man of Irish descent who cares too much about the job.  He is intelligent, melancholy and introspective, and he tries to always do the right thing.  His new partner, Esposito, is a wise-cracking, reckless detective who wants to achieve a result, regardless of the rules he has to break to get there.  When Nick becomes involved in Internal Affairs and is instructed to inform on Esposito, he is conflicted but does his job even while he is troubled by it.  Their investigation of a series of crimes, the apparent suicide of a Spanish woman found hanging in a tree in a park, the troubles of a man with his 13-year old daughter who is reported “missing” but is still attending school, and her subsequent “rape”, and the murder of a man who is thought to be a drug-dealing gang member but turns out to be his brother, are intertwined and interspersed with reflections on family connections and responsibilities.  As an audio book, I sometimes found it difficult to keep all the stories and details straight, as I did not have a physical copy to refer to if I needed to refresh my memory, and it was quite a lengthy read.  Having said that, it all came together in the end, and I realized that the details weren’t as important as the words used to express the characters’ thoughts and views, as well as the overall meaning of the stories themselves with respect to the individuals within society.  It was an excellent novel, although I’m not sure whether I would classify it as a crime novel or general fiction, as both the crimes and the explorations into friendship and family hold equal importance in the novel.  The author, a former NY detective, wrote a memoir of his time on the police force, Blue Blood.  This is his first novel.
PS The narrator, Mark Deakins, did an AWESOME job of narrating this novel - the characters really came alive with his skillful reading, and his various accents were spot-on.  I have downloaded a few more titles where he is the narrator.

I was thinking about the weekend, and was trying to come up with books I’ve read where members of royalty are the main characters, but I had a difficult time coming up with any titles.  Not that there aren’t many novels that deal with royalty, but I guess that I’m just not interested in that type of novel, although I definitely enjoy watching films about royalty.  The only book I could think of that I’ve read is Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie, an excellent non-fiction title about the last days of the last Tsar of Russia and the involvement of Rasputin in their lives.  It was an excellent book, reading much like a novel and exploring really interesting characters and situations within Russian history.  I have also put on my “to read” list The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, a novel of Catherine the Great.  It is nominated for the Evergreen Award this year, and I’m adding it to my book club’s reading list for 2014.  I’m just not a huge fan of historical fiction, which is probably why I haven’t read many novels that deal with royal figures, which is unfortunate, as I’m sure there are many great books out there that fall into this category, and many people love this genre of fiction.  Oh well, we can’t all enjoy everything.

And speaking of historical books, a friend of mine recommended Five Days in London:  May 1940 by John Lukacs.  This non-fiction title looks at the days from May 24 to May 28, 1940, which altered the course of the history of the twentieth century, as the members of the British War Cabinet debated whether to negotiate with Hitler or to continue the war.  These dates begin on Friday and end on Tuesday, which coincides with the days on which these dates fall this year, and my friend plans to read each day’s section on the date with which it corresponds.  I also plan to do this, and will read the section about Friday, May 24th,1940 next Friday, May 24th, 2013.  I’m looking forward to a unique, interesting reading experience.

OK, time to get out in the garden and do some planting while the sun is out and before the rain comes.  Happy Victoria Day!

Bye for now!

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