On this hot, humid Sunday morning, I’m thankful for a/c as I sip my steaming cup of chai tea and enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit (my favourite thing about summer!), and a slice of freshly baked banana bread. Since I last wrote, I’ve enjoyed an interesting Canadian novel and finished an excellent audiobook that I would like to tell you about.
I read Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin last week, about women, friendship, and the restorative powers of music. Mahsa was just a young girl growing up in Karachi when her loving parents, one American and one Afghani, were killed and she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle. There, under much stricter conditions, she discovered the love of music and the escape this could give her. She also discovered Kamal Jamal, a young man with whom she fell in love. Katherine was born in Toronto to a mother who was sent away to a reformatory because she had relations with a Chinese man, and was only reclaimed once her mother was released and had rented a small basement apartment, where Henry, her Chinese husband, was not allowed to live. Shortly afterward, Henry returned to China, leaving Katherine fatherless and her mother stranded. Katherine, too, discovered music, and love in the form of jazz musician T Minor. Both girls find happiness, one in the form of marriage and children, the other in the freedom of university, but life for both presents difficulties as they struggle to get on with their spouses, raise their children, and also strive to attain their musical dreams. When they encounter each other at a chance meeting in New York, they form an immediate bond, a friendship and musical partnership that sees them through the toughest times in their lives and helps them achieve their musical goals. I know nothing about this author, but I was immediately drawn in by the smooth writing style, and was intrigued by the parallel stories, wondering if and when they would meet. But after a few chapters, I was feeling that the story was too much about jazz name-dropping, and the writing was too surface - the author spent quite a lot of time describing the circumstances surrounding the girls when they were young, but then the descriptions of the later stages of life, young adulthood, marriage, and middle age, are barely touched on - at one point, she says of Mahsa, “Fifteen years passed”. I felt that maybe she was trying to cover too much in too short a book, but it was still a worthwhile read, especially of you are a jazz lover.
And I finished an audiobook last week, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. It was very long and I was happy to finally reach the end and find out “who done it”, but it was excellent. It begins with Robin, newly engaged and recently moved to London, going to another temp job and nearly careening down the metal stairs after colliding with the boss in the doorway. But, with crisis averted, she settles in at her desk, where she has a placement for a week as a secretary for Cormoran Strike, Private Investigator. She can’t believe her luck - not only did Matthew propose to her the night before, but she has, since she was a young girl, dreamed of becoming a private investigator. In the dingy office, with little reception and no hospitality supplies, she manages to provide tea and biscuits for the first client of the day, John Bristow, brother of famous supermodel Lula Landry, who fell to her death from her balcony three months earlier. John wants her death investigated, not convinced that she killed herself, despite the police's ruling, but sure rather that it was murder. Strike, who has just that morning been chucked out by his longtime girlfriend Charlotte, is not entirely convinced that John’s suspicions warrant an investigation, but when John pleads with him and offers to pay him double his fee, first month in advance, he relents and takes the case. Thus begins Strike’s lengthy, detailed, multi-layered investigation into the events surrounding Lula’s death, aided considerably by Robin, who turns out to be an excellent asset to the investigation. Having just read The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s first adult novel, I couldn’t help comparing it to this one, and found the writing in The Cuckoo’s Calling to be more polished and smooth than the earlier novel. The Casual Vacancy was very good, but this one was amazing - I guess it could have something to do with the excellent narration, too. The main characters were fully developed, the minor characters were interesting and varied, the story was compelling and multi-layered, and the use of language was brilliant. I loved it, and have placed the audiobook version of its sequel, The Silkworm, on hold. If you like British mysteries, I would highly recommend it.
That’s all for today. Enjoy the afternoon, whatever you’re doing!
Bye for now…