Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault ****

I was really surprised by this book. It is the fictional memoirs of the eunuch that was one of Alexander the Great's closest companions & servants. Basically, it chronicles Alexander's movements across Asia Minor as he expanded his empire. But more importantly, it gives us a wonderful idea of who Alexander might have been. Mary Renault used many historical & first hand accounts to write this wonderful book, & by doing so she paints a picture of a person that was larger than life.

When you look at a map of the territory conquered by Alexander it can truly blow your mind. Add to that the fact that he never lost a battle-never-& you realize why he was worshiped as a god after his death.

Mary Renault is also the author of another book I highly recommend & have written about on this blog before: The King Must Die. She had a great talent & an obvious fascination & knowledge base of ancient Greece.

The only thing that may offend or upset some readers is her descriptions of homosexuality. I think it is amazing & so very accurate how she describes the relationships between the men in her books, & it also makes you realize that homosexuality is such a part of being human also. I'd venture to guess it's been around almost as long as human heterosexuality. It's interesting also how our current ways of thinking have colored how we view that kind of lifestyle.

I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks ***

I haven't read anything else by this guy, though I know he wrote some popular mushie stuff, like The Notebook & A Walk to Remember. This is pretty mushie too, though he tries to throw a psychotic stalker into the mix. It ends up rather weird: a scene of love & romance on a boat with all the mushie stuff that goes along with it, then some freaked out dude on the shore with binoculars watching everything the gal does. Oh yeah, there's a lovable Great Dane in this too.

Bottom line, it wasn't a horrible read. It just didn't have a whole lotta depth or angst to it, other than the poor bastard with the binoculars.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Small Town in Germany by John LeCarre *

I hate to do this, I really do.

You see, Dog got me this book after hearing about it on NPR one day & thought it sounded like something I'd like. And the premise is great--it's about Bonn in the '60's. I thought it would be informative & exciting, in a spy & espionage kind of way.

But instead, it was incredibly boring. So boring, in fact, that I couldn't finish it. So boring, I couldn't finish Chapter 2. So goddamn boring that even though my beloved Dog bought this for me as a gift, I couldn't painstakingly claw my way through it.

When I mentioned this to some of my reading pals at work, they informed me that John LeCarre (sorry Mr. LeCarre, I don't know how to put that little accent above the "e" in your last name) sucks. He's one of those guys that likes to get all technical on you, meanwhile he didn't notice you aren't reading his god-forsaken book anymore.

In his defence, this is the first John LeCarre book I've ever attempted to read. It was originally written in the '60's, which might explain a lot of the "WTF is he talking about?!?" factor.

Or, he could just suck.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth ***

The idea for this book had a lot of promise: what if, instead of Roosevelt winning his third term as president in 1940, Lindbergh had run against him & won instead? As many people may or may not know, Lindbergh thought Hitler was pretty neat & that the Jews were running the world. So what would the US have looked like if he'd been in charge?

Like I said, sounds like a neat idea, especially when it's written in the first person as a memoir of...Philip Roth! Roth grew up in New Jersey during WWII in a predominantly Jewish town with his parents & older brother. So he just flips everything on it's head when he acts as though he's writing his autobiography from the early war years. Except in his book, we don't go to war with the Axis in December of 1941, since there is no Pearl Harbor. This is because Lindbergh had signed a treaty with Japan earlier in that year.

But what starts out great & hard to put down becomes mired, for me, in symbolism. Had it been a little more straightforward, I might have enjoyed this book more. But by the end I was just glad it was over. I'd have to say it was very disappointing that way: started with a bang & ended with a groan of relief.