Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Mills of Love

Adore: A Novella by Doris Lessing

Lil and Roz have been best friends since they were little girls. Their respective sons have followed suit, and now it looks like their granddaughters are following the same path. All this sounds like the epitome of perfection, and that's exactly the exterior they want everyone to see.

I am ashamed to say that I never read anything by Doris Lessing before. This seems strange because, as a person and as an author, there was much I admired about her. Despite this, I failed at my attempt to read her "Diaries of Jane Somers," the two stories from the 80s she wrote under a pseudonym. That I never attempted to read Lessing again is to my detriment. Thankfully, this novella piqued my interest to try again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What is and what is not

This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle

The publishers of this book offer the following teaser: "This should be written in the present tense. But it isn’t. Dorte should be at uni in Copenhagen. But she’s not. She should probably put some curtains up in her new place. And maybe stop sleeping with her neighbor's boyfriend. Perhaps things don’t always work out the way they should." To this, I only would add "or do they?"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Protections and Professions

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

The Israeli Government has decided to pull out of a large block of West Bank settlements with the hopes that this grand gesture can kick-start the peace process. The famous refusnik and leader of the Russian Immigrant party, Minister Baruch Kotler, is adamantly opposed to this and refuses to keep quiet about his opposition, and even blackmailing him about his love affair won't shut him up. To avoid the onslaught of the impending scandal, he takes his mistress to Yalta in the Crimea. There he chances upon Volodya Tankilevich, the man whose betrayal to the KGB that led to Kotler's 13-year imprisonment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Precious... but that's about all

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

Mme Ramotswe is a female detective in Botswana, the only one there until Mr. Buthelezi arrived, claiming it as "man's" work. Mme Ramotswe isn't convinced and nor is her assistant, Mme Makutsi, who graduated top of her Secretarial College class. However, small towns don't have much call for private detectives, so when Mme Ramotswe gets a particularly delicate new case, the customer wants only Mme Ramotswe's help. That means Mme Makutsi needs to find other things to fill her days and increase her bank balance (which might also help her find a husband). Helping with the clerical work for the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the garage below their offices, doesn't earn her much, and so she establishes the Kalahari Typing School for Men. When another case comes to the "#1 Ladies Detective Agency" via the unhappy customer Mr. Buthelezi, things start getting complicated.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

That which was gone for those that remain

The Living by Léan Cullinan

Working on the website for the small publishing house Bell Books is hardly an exciting life. Even so, since it is Cate's first job after graduating Dublin's Trinity College, there is no reason for her to balk about it. She has her college friends and her choir - Carmina Urbana - to keep her busy and entertained after a boring day at work. Then Eddie MacDevitt's memoire manuscript comes in, and strange things begin to happen. Her boss is hiding the book from everyone, there's that dark car Cate keeps seeing, that new British tenor in the choir who is so secretive, and even her family are being unusually guarded. Surely, the meanderings of some ex-activist (who knew her uncle, and her boss, back in the day) can't be all that hush-hush, even if there are still people who want him dead. This is "The Living" by Léan Cullinan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best Laid Schemes and “Rancid Clichés״

The Escape of Malcolm Poe by Allison Burnett

Malcolm Poe is turning 50 and is unhappy, but this isn't a recent development. He's wanted to get away from Louise since very shortly after they met. Then she got pregnant and well, one thing led to marriage, four children, and the death of his only son along with everything else that got in the way of writing a literary masterpiece. Now that his girls are almost all out of the house, and he stopped taking his anti-depressants, he can finally plan his escape. To this, Robert Burns would have said, "The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!"