I wish I had the skill to truly analyze what makes the difference between a book where the author tries to manipulate the reader’s emotions and only gets an “hmm how sad” from me, or worse, eyerolls, and a book that has me glued to the pages and leaking tears. All I know is that this is one of the latter.
In spite of a story that is almost all character, with almost all events taking place within those characters’ thoughts and emotions and in their interactions with one another, and in spite of a present-tense, stream of consciousness writing style that might have annoyed me in another author’s hands, this story of a family fragmenting and reforming in the aftermath of tragedy absorbed me completely and wrung my emotions inside out. It’s been a while since I had a good cry over a book, and it was deeply satisfying.
Vintage paperback, picked up from my public library’s gimme shelves, where they make unusable donated books and culled books available to the public in return for a suggested monetary donation.
I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, square 4: Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what). In this book, members of a family are struggling with their sense of guilt or failed responsibility in the aftermath of tragedy
(Con over surviving when his stronger brother drowned and Cal over somehow failing his son when he attempted suicide).
Athens,461 BC. A young man comes to Athens only to find that his uncle has died under mysterious circumstances. Pretty soon it is clear that murder is the keyword and the hunt for the culprit(s) starts in earnest. Athens is in turmoil, two factions,the radicals,with Pericles as a leading figure(who believe in a distribution of power among the entire population, except slaves(!)...)and the aristocrats,heads of military families and so on..(who believe that only a very few, and very well connected, are entitled to lead,to take decisions. ..)are at daggers drawn. History,of course,tells us which faction did eventuality win and consequently led to Athens Golden Age and to something called democracy.
The historical aspect of the story is very well researched. But,because it is such a dominant part of the story,the mystery story tends to be put aside. After a while one is no longer sure there is a mystery at all and it becomes a tad long winded. A firmer editing might have been a good idea.
Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR– Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.
Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:
Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.
OK, here we go:
נ (Nun) = James D. Doss: The Shaman Laughs
ג (Gimel) = Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
ה (He) = Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World
ש (Shin) = John-Henri Holmberg (ed.): A Darker Shade
Alright -- Ishiguro it is. And this will also give me my book themes for St. Martin’s Day (square 3): Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job. –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).
This was a fun read. And I might just have found my favorite literary monk in Brother Cadfael.
He is a man of the world, who turned to priesthood in his later years, he isn´t the most pious monk, he is keenly aware when one of his brethren is full of BS, he is a topnotch matchmaker, he is an amateur sleuth and on top of it all he is Welsh (don´t ask me why, I really like that about his character).
So in this novel there is a small town in Wales, a murder, a lot of monks and relationsships are at stake or are formed and Cadfael is in the midst of it all, trying to untangle all the mysteries and problems that arise on this journey. And I enjoyed every second of this book and I can´t wait to read the second novel in the series.
16 Task of the Festive Season: Penance Day (Square 4): Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher, priest or other representative of the organized church as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).