Reading Highlights – July 2013

Another interesting month reading wise, in which I managed to complete eight books. Though this time I did not succeed in adding to my list of non-fiction books. Must try harder! I only managed three crime mysteries last month. The first was one of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series – The Falls. Though I have seen a lot of Rebus on TV, I haven’t read many of the novels. I didn’t read this one either, but listened to an audio version. A good, solid Rebus mystery.
Special assignmemtsThe other two crime novels were by Russian master Boris Akunin. Both featured his 19th century detective, the dashing Erast Fandorin. As is often the case with Akunin, each novel is very different, not just in subject matter, but in style as he imitates or mocks some of the great crime writers of the past. Jack of Spades is about a conman who is also a master of disguise, while the Decorator is loosely based on Jack the Ripper. These two short novels are published together in English under the title, Special Assignments.

Two of the non crime fiction novels were in audio versions. Light on Snow was the third novel by American writer Anita Shreeve that I have read in as many months. Another haunting tale of grief, loss and love. This time the narrator is a 12 year old girl, whose mother and baby sister both died in a car crash some years earlier. Well the narrator is really the twenty something version of the 12 year old looking back on events that changed her life. An interesting and moving tale. The other audio book was Madame Bovary, which I listened to in a free downloaded version from LibriVox. Not a happy choice. Though free the version has several narrators from all over the world, so it is difficult to maintain focus while listening. The book was the choice for our reading group, otherwise I would not have bothered. I did not much like the novel as just about every character is a pretty unsympathetic boor.

As regards the printed books, this time I did manage to read a book in Spanish. Carolina Grau is a very strange and hard to fully understand novel by Mexican writer, Carlos Fuentes. Flits between time periods and fact and fiction. Not one for the collection. The other two novels were much more interesting and enjoyable. Andrew Greig is one of my 175px-AndrewGreigElectricBraefavourite authors and Electric Brae is one of his earliest novels. A strange and unusual tale of love and friendship in which two men love the same woman. For a short spell they even manage a kind of menage à trois. Which does not last of course. The woman in question is an artist and a bit mentally unstable at that. Which of course makes relationship building rather exciting and unpredictable and full of heartbreak.
radwa-ashour-spectres-the-independentThe final novel was something completely different for me. My first novel by an Egyptian writer, and a woman writer at that. Spectres by Radwa Ashour is a complex novel about the lives of two women academics in Cairo. The novel takes us through their childhoods to their lives working in corrupt institutions under oppressive dictatorial regimes. What makes the novel so unusual and interesting is that story is in part autobiographical, as one of the characters is Radwa herself. The book flits between her own history and that of the imagined story of Shagar who is researching for a book on the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948. Radwa’s story includes her marriage to Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti and the difficulties that ensued when he was expelled from Egypt. Very powerful stuff.

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