Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | April 30, 2011

More books at Molly’s Cafe Apr 2011

My television is not working, so I am reading more.  That is probably a good thing, though I read in the cafe when no one is here and I read before I go to bed.  I am just reading more at home. Check these books out and then come buy some!

Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. This book of short stories features mostly characters who are Indian in India or America. At first I was wondering how I would relate to them, but they are human stories, albeit with some quirky traits in some stories. One story was about an American Indian family being tourists in India and their Indian tour guide making observations of them (mostly how they were more American than Indian) and then fantasizing about staying in contact with the woman. I think this is a common story for immigrants who return to the home country to find themselves out of sync with that culture. A few stories deal with arranged marriages with the couple living abroad, with a similar result. One story I particularly liked was about a woman who had some kind of condition where she had seizures and was therefore considered unavailable for marriage. Over the years many healers offered conflicting therapies, but finally one suggested that marriage would solve her problem. Her women neighbours got her cleaned up and had her photo taken and circulated, but there were no takers. Eventually her brother kicked her out of the room he had provided for her and the locals stopped buying in his shop as a protest. Eventually she takes the leftover stock and sells it and then secludes herself in her room. Eventually the neighbours learn that she has a baby but no one knows by whom– and she is cured of her illness. So, some quirky stories here, which made it a fine read.

The Boleyn Inheritance by Phillipa Gregory is a historical novel about two of Henry the 8th’s wives. I expected it to be a bit fluffy but I enjoyed it and at times it kept me on the edge of my seat. The story was told in the voices of Anne of Cleves, who was brought to England to marry Henry and eventually was put aside by him, though miraculously not killed. Another voice is Jane Boleyn, who testified against her sister and her husband, partly through jealousy of their love that excluded her. She is quite the schemer but got her just desserts, though she is a sympathetic character. The third voice is the queen who came after Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, a very young flibbertigibbet who also was put to death for adultery. I am sure that a lot of the details were made up, but they seemed to be made up in a sympathetic way. There is love, sex, and intrigue, as well as some horror at the madness and ruthlessness of Henry. It is a good read and is now back on the shelves.

A book of short stories that I quite enjoyed was Last Night by James Salter. Truthfully, I had never heard of him before, but I lived his stories. Many of them were about people who were out of sync with life, as many real people are. The situations are varied, such as the woman who was followed home by the dog of a man who had come onto her. She didn’t like him, but she liked the dog. Her husband did not like the dog. Another story was a man who gave his wife a fatal injection, with her agreement, because she had cancer, and then spent the same night with his young lover– only to be found out when the wife came down the stairs, since the injection had not worked. How do writers come up with these kinds of stories?! They were very well crafted and I enjoyed reading them. This book too is back on the shelves.

Another book I enjoyed was The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif. It was set in both the early 1900s and the 1990s in Egypt. An American woman, Isabel, finds a trunk with letters, journals, and various pieces that belonged to her great-grandmother. She meets Omar, an Egyptian conductor in the U.S., who suggests she take it to his sister, Amal, in Cairo. They go through it together, but it is mostly up to Amal to unravel the stories. Meanwhile, Isabel and Amal become good friends and also learn that they are relatives. The time in the novel alternates between the early 1900s, when Egypt was unwillingly occupied by England, and the late 1990s, when there are still troubles in the area. The main character in the past is Anna, an Englishwoman who lost her husband and went to Egypt to sort of regroup. Eventually she meets Sharif Basha and they fall in love and get married, much to the dismay of the other British people there, who felt she had decamped to the ‘Natives’. Throughout the book you get a sense of the troubles under the Occupation as well as the personal relationships over time. It was an interesting way to set up the novel and certainly the troubles of that time colour the recent events in Egypt as well. I highly recommend this book and it is back on the shelves, so come get it!



  1. Nice to know you Molly
    Wish I lived in İstanbul and visited you cafe..
    love from Bursa

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