Monday 28 February 2011

February Reads

February has been another good month for books.  It has had a Spanish/Russian feel to it and about half the authors were new to me.  I finally made a start to the Eastern European Reading Challenge with two books, both by Russian authors.  First up was The Turkish Gambit by Boris Akunin, which I have already reviewed here.  The second was Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of the great classics of Russian, indeed world literature.  I’m pretty sure that this was the first time I have actually read, or in this case, listened to the novel all the way through.  All 21 CDs, and well worth the effort.  The novel is much more than the trials and tribulations of Raskolnikov the main character.  A wonderful description of Russian society the novel deals with all kinds of crimes and punishments, not merely the legal kind.  The audio version was very well read and helps you out with just how to pronounce all these Russian names.
The Spanish connection came in the form of two new authors to me.  Teresa Solana’s Un Crimen Imperfecto is a charming first novel set in Barcelona which I reviewed here.  Carnen Posada’s LIttle Indiscretions I listened to in its English translation.  A revelation of a novel.  Though the starting point of the story is a death, this is much more a witty and satirical look at the little secrets which so many people would rather keep hidden away, no matter what the cost.  I will definitely try and read more from both of these authors.
During the month I re-acquainted myself with some old favourites, including a couple of Scandinavian crime novels.  Jo Nesbø’s The Redeemer is now the fourth of his Harry Hole detective series which I have read.  All of them very good and this one no exception.  Once again some pretty nasty things are going on in Oslo.  Håkan Nesser is another Scandinavian crime writer, this time from Sweden.  I first came across Nesser with his Woman with a Birthmark, which features detective Van Weeteren.  A very impressive novel and I was keen to read more of the series.  I decided I would go back to one of the earlier books and chose Borkman’s Point, which was published in 1994 and is the second or third of the series.   Unlike most Scandinavian crime novels this series is not set in a real place.  Rather Nesser has created an imaginary country which sounds, judging by the names, a lot like the Netherlands, but could be anywhere in northern Europe.  From the two I have read, the series is not quite as dark and menacing as some other Scandinavian series.  Not that there are less murders or hidden secrets to unearth, but rather that the tone of the writing is a bit lighter and humorous at times.  Well worth giving a go if you are unfamiliar with his work.  I intend to work my way through most of the series.  The other well known author was Isla Dewar, a Scottish writer who specialises in witty and funny tales of the trials and tribulations that face women.  The Woman who painted her Dreams is slightly different in that it encompasses more of the key character’s life than usual and it is also not quite as sharply funny as her best work.  Still a good listen.
I’ve ended the month reading The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation by Israeli writer Shir Hever.  He came to Dundee recently to give a talk about the subject of the book.  His talk and explanation of the most important facts behind the occupation was excellent, both informative and enthralling.  So much so that I decided to buy the book.  And very good it is too.  The nuts and bolts of the occupation and the ways in which it, by design, condemns the lives of Palestinians to one of deprivation and underdevelopment is lucidly laid out.  It is only 200 or so pages and is written in a well structured and easy to read style.  So if you want a short, but succinct introduction to the whys and hows of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, this is the book to go for.

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