Sunday, 13 April 2014

Tea and books on a mid-April morning...

I’m enjoying a cup of tea with the back door open, allowing the pleasant sounds of birdsong to filter into the house, accompanying my typing – what a joy!  All the wonderful pleasures we forget during the cold, insulated winter months, like the smell of freshly laundered sheets sun-dried on the clothesline… mmm!  I thought it was supposed to rain all day today, but the forecast has changed and so things are looking up!

Early last week I finished listening to an audiobook, The Shanghai Moon:  A Lydia Chin and Bill Smith Mystery by S J Rozan.  Set in New York, this novel begins with Private Investigator Chin being contacted by friend and colleague Joel Pilarsky to help with a case he is working on, assisting Alice Fairchild with an Asset Recovery Project.  The assets in this particular case involve a collection of jewellery lost or stolen in the Shanghai Jewish ghettos during WWII, and which may include a famous broach, the Shanghai Moon, rumoured to have gone missing during a robbery in the ghetto in the 1940s.  The owners of the jewellery were Rosalie Gilder, a young German Jew who escaped Hitler’s camps with her brother, Paul, in the late 1930s, sent to Shanghai as refugees after other countries had closed their borders, and Wan Kai Ran, the Chinese officer Rosalie met on the ship headed to Shanghai (any errors with the spelling of names is entirely my fault, as I did not see any printed pages of this book, so I can only go by my recollection and the narrator’s pronunciation).  They fall in love, marry and as a symbol of their undying love, have a broach made by combining the gems of two precious family pieces, a broach which, supposedly, Rosalie never took off.  Joel asks Lydia’s help because, as a Chinese American, she has the right connections and behaviour to access the Chinese community without being immediately dismissed.  When things get out-of hand and people start dying, Lydia realizes that there is more to the search for this broach than she has been told, and she calls on her sometimes-partner-in-crime, Bill Smith, to help her piece together the complex investigation.  This is the eighth or ninth in this series featuring Chin and Smith, but the first I have listened to, and I’m thrilled to discover a whole series of mysteries I can now download and enjoy.  Lydia is smart, but not too smart, sassy, but not too sassy, and this novel had just a hint of sexual tension without dwelling on the theme or offering explicit details.  It was a delightful listening experience, and not just because it was an interesting story (I’ll admit that I lost track of the details by the end, but it all worked out alright, so that was great).  I particularly enjoyed the narrator’s style, especially when she did the voices of Lydia’s mother and Shanghai Police Department Detective Wei.  If I download others in this series, I will have to check to see if the same narrator is used.

I’m nearly finished reading The Ever After of Ahswim Rao by Padma Viswanathan, which I’m reading for my committee.  The story is narrated by Ashwin Rao, an Indian-Canadian therapist who, twenty years after the Air India bombings, returns to Canada to interview some of the people who had lost family or friends in the attack, with the intent of writing a book using his Narrative Therapy technique, which he hopes will, in turn, help others who have faced similar loss.  As two suspects stand trial in Vancouver, Ashwin is unexpectedly moved by the news updates.  He becomes particularly close to the husband and family friends of a mother and son who were killed in the bombing, and finds that he can identify with their loss as well as the methods they use to cope, and thus begins to chip away at the walls he has built around himself.  This novel sounded really interesting to me for a few reasons.  I know almost nothing about the Air India bombings, but feel that I know so much more now, including the responses, or lack thereof, from the Canadian government at the time.  I also enjoy novels that look at psychology and the psychological responses of characters.  I plan to finish this today, but have found that it was a slow read, and not quite as interesting as it sounded to me at first.  The narrative seemed to wander quite a bit, and it was often difficult to know where or when some events are taking place, and who is narrating at that time.  Having said that, Viswanathan is clearly a talented writer, and I’m curious howI will feel after reaching the end of the book.

Time to get outside in case it decides to rain!


Bye for now…
Julie

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