January 18th, 2014

Dead Dog Cat

#10

It's been busy. Thus, this book was done a couple of days back and I'm just posting about it.

Anyhow...

I burned through yet another little history book, this one being Osprey Men-at-Arms #429: Napoleon's Mamelukes, which talks about troops that Napoleon got from his excursions into Egypt. Nice bit of history here, something of an East meets West sort of thing. I enjoyed reading it.
exotic, turkish woman

Book 16: The Father of Locks by Andrew Killeen

Book 16: The Father of Locks (Father of Locks #1).
Author: Andrew Killeen, 2009.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Spy Fiction. GLBT characters.
Other Details: Paperback. 332 pages.

Ismail is a thief who dreams of being a poet. He is drawn to Baghdad, the capital of the world, and on its turbulent streets falls in with the notorious poet Abu Nuwas: the Father of Locks. Ismail’s new master is not only a decadent drunkard, but also a reluctant agent of the scheming Wazir, who now assigns them to investigate reports that the Devil is stalking the city. Together the poet and the thief encounter a hidden world, of forbidden cults, foreign spies, and a mysterious Brass Bottle. When children start to disappear, it seems that there must be substance to the dark rumours of evil spirits and human sacrifice that haunt the city; but the secrets that Ismail and the Father of Locks uncover are more shocking still. - synopsis from author's website.

Last year Andrew Killeen gave a talk at our local library and I quickly fell under the spell of his story-telling skills. As with The Khalifah’s Mirror (2013 Book 196), this is structured as stories within stories in the fashion of The Thousand and One Nights though without fantasy elements. In this début novel by Killeen there is more of the back story of its narrator, Ismail al-Rawiya, who had been born in Cornwall but kidnapped by pirates as a boy and sold into slavery. There is also a much appreciated listing of historical characters at the back that I accessed often.

I enjoyed this very much and feel that Andrew is one of those rare story-tellers who can with a few words conjure a world in all its aspects and transport me there.

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miranda_colour

#4-5

#4 Eleanor Catton. The Luminaries
Around Christmas time, if you were to ask a New Zealander, what he or she was reading, the answer would have probably been "The Luminaries". A mystery taking place on the New Zealand gold fields, which has got the Booker's Prize last year. It's starts rather slowly but then gets more and more elaborate and fast-paced. One of the few books, I will actually consider rereading a bit later.

#5 Kathleen Grissom: The Kitchen House
In "The Help" we were talking 1950s. Here is it is 1790s and the main protagonist is a little Irish girl, whose parents have died on the ship, en route to the New World, and so she ends up indentured and sent to work in the kitchen house with the black slaves. So again, the book is about the slavery and racism and humanity. Unfortunately, this book is a bit harder to take seriously, because whereas the events and people in "the Help" were mundane and commonplace - and therefore all the more outrageous, here incredible things keep happening all the time. An evil overseer, a lecherous old fiance, a crazed drunken husband (outwardly beautiful but rotten inside), endless tragic misunderstandings, a grand plantation house burning on the hill... It really felt like a mosaic of old Hollywood movies. The unhappy marriage reminded me for a bit of my favorite "Dragonwyck" (nice and hopeful neighbor included), but the latter gothic novel pales in comparison. And to top it off there was no happy ending, however unbelievable. Rather disappointing.