Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | May 20, 2011

Molly’s Cafe: Books for May 2011

My television is still not hooked up, so i am reading more.  these are what i have read so far this month.  and, i am moving the cafe (more on that later), so come by and get some books so i don’t have to move them!

The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck was not what I expected it to be. I expected a rather fluffy story, but actually it was quite interesting and a good story. Ella Lynch, an beautiful Irish woman, meets Francisco Solano in Paris in 1854. He is quite smitten with her and she goes with him to Paraguay, where she bears him quite a few children. During her time there she sees the rise and fall of her paramour as dictator. Some of the characters are kind of funny, like his fat sisters, who have clothes made from curtains seized from a rich home. They don’t like Ella, and of course ‘society’ tolerates her only because she is close to the dictator. Men of course are quite taken with her. The characters are based on fact but I think the story is filled in quite a bit; nevertheless, it is certainly a good read.

Sometimes when you read a book, you are taken right into it. I found that with Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, She is a Haitian writer who in this story is writing about four generations of Haitian women. The daughter of one woman is sent to New York to be with her mother and we learn that the daughter is the product of a rape, which still causes her mother to have nightmares. Back home in Haiti, she tells us about her Tante Atie and her grandmother. Along the way she meets a man, gets married, and has her own daughter. The story is written simply but it carries a lot with it. You really get a sense of the daily lives and sort of other-worldliness of these women. This is another book I didn’t expect to like because I didn’t think I could relate, but I recommend it, especially for women.

I whizzed through the Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap. It struck me that perhaps it was for young adults, especially young women. It is about a young woman in Hungary who is trying to find out why her violinist father was killed. Along the way she becomes friends with some gypsies (even though all mothers threatened their children that if they weren’t good the gypsies would kidnap them and sell them to the Turks) and then finds out that her father had been active in a reformist movement. Her disgusting rich uncle tries to pimp her out and she has many other adventures. Of course there is a love interest, Zoltan who it turns out is part gypsy. It’s a light story, but fun to read.

Walking on Glass by Iain Banks came into the cafe recently, so I gobbled it down. Banks writes under another name too, Iain M. Banks. In both names he writes fantasy or science fiction. This was more in the fantasy vein, though without the unicorns and fairies, etc. In this novel, there are three separate stories that come together at the end. One is about Steven Grout, who is a paranoid eccentric who always wears a hard hat and is sure the Tormenters are scheming against him. One is about Quiss and Ajayi, who are trapped in a mysterious castle and have to play difficult games in order to have the chance to answer a seemingly unsolvable question. The third is Graham who is on his way to finally, he hopes, make love to the woman he has fallen in love with. The novel goes through the various stories and at the end we see how they come together. I would say the writing is a bit dated (some characters complaining about Margaret Thatcher, for example), but it is a good story or stories.

Another book I just finished is What Was She Thinking? by Zoe Heller. I sometimes wonder that writers are thinking to come up with stories like this. An older woman teacher has set about writing about a younger (but middle-aged) teacher’s affair with a student. She records how the younger teacher, Sheba, comes to the school to be an art teacher and seems to be a sort of free spirit. She is married with a rebellious teenaged daughter and a retarded son. Little by little the older woman becomes friends with Sheba and when the proverbial shit hits the fan, the older woman is positioned to take care of Sheba and basically control her. As the story unfolds we see how lonely the older woman is and so understand better how she manipulates the friendship. It reminded me of a famous case in the U.S. of a teacher who bore a child with a student. It is an unusual story and I don’t think I would have actually bought the book, but it has good insights and is worth reading.

Someone brought in a police mystery, which I am usually too snobby to read, but sometimes it is good to just blast through a story. This one was Cold Case Squad by Edna Buchanan. It was fairly formulaic– the cops having relationship problems, random clues coming up, seamy sides of society. This story was set in Miami, with a foray up to Maine. I used to watch CSI and Cold Case on television, so I often thought of what those people would do, as these guys did not seem to have as many high tech gadgets to help them along. It was published in 2004, which is not so long ago. Nevertheless, it was a good story and it is now going on the shelf.

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