Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | May 26, 2012

April May 2012 book report

This time I will start with a book called The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It is all told in the first person, a Pakistani who is talking to an American man. They happen to meet at a restaurant in Pakistan. The Pakistani proceeds to basically tell his life story. He came from a family that had been well off but was now in poorer circumstances. He went to Princeton University in the U.S., did well, and then was hired by a well known firm that ‘valued’ investments for their clients. Around this time India and Pakistan were rattling sabres and our narrator became uncomfortable with his life in America. There was also a girl he had met and fallen in love with, but she was still in love with her dead boyfriend. It was a very well written story, smoothly told, not strident at all as he makes various points about America, mostly that the country takes upon itself to make trouble – and war– in other countries but has a fit if someone attacks the U.S. itself. It was a very thoughtful story with an interesting ending. I recommend it.


A lighter read is The Silent Lady by Catherine Cookson. I don’t recall reading anything else by her, though she was a prolific writer. This is the story of a woman in the first half of the 20th century who was abused terribly by her husband to the point where she lost her ability to speak. By then she was supposed to be in an asylum but somehow ended up on the streets. She then was found by a kind woman, Bella, who had a place where she let homeless men stay. Her core team of men and Reenee, the silent woman, set up the place to where more homeless men could stay. It was a story of the downs and out but of course they all turned out to be good people. The silent woman by a turn of fate finds her now grown son and they are reunited. It is a bit of a tear jerker book since everyone is so good or so bad. A light read.


Alastair Campbell was a British politician, but now he is also a novelist. I read All in the Mind and I did so, I wondered, of course, how much of it was from personal experience. It was about a psychiatrist who secretly suffered from depression, even as he counselled his patients how to deal with it. We meet his patients and follow his suffering with the ultimate end. It was a fairly good read.



People love or hate Charles Bukowski. I enjoy his writing, as it is gritty and right out there. The latest book I read by him was Women, which seemed to be one endless fuck with a whole lot of women. Henry Chinaski, the quite clearly autobiographical narrator, just could not seem to keep his pants zipped. He was quite frank in how he was an overweight middle-aged man, but because he was a published writer, women literally knocked at his door or wrote or called him to invite him in, so to speak. It was interesting to read about just plain sex from a man’s point of view. At times it was almost pornographic, but it was also his real life. He really was a good writer, no pretensions. On the shelf until it flies off.


A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby is the story of four people who climbed Toppers’ House on New Year’s Eve in order to throw themselves over the edge. Martin is a has-been television host just out of prison for having sex with an under-age girl, Maureen is the mother of a severely handicapped son, JJ is a musician who has lost his band and his girlfriend, and Jess is an annoying teenager. They end up being a sort of support group. The story is told in each voice. Apparently the book was a best-seller, though I wouldn’t have pegged it at that. It was an ok story, but perhaps I was not in the mood for dealing with depressed people. On the shelves.


Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray was a sort of feel good family book, but what I liked was that the narrator, the wife and mother, loved to make cakes and what cakes! Finally she goes into business making them after her husband loses his job. Throughout the book I was thinking about a woman I know here who is a pastry chef and makes fabulous cakes (check out her blog ).




A book that a friend gave me saying it was a book to read on the plane was Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I think it was a plane book because then you would be a captive reader. I read most of it but then gave it up, as I absolutely do not like his smarmy humour, making fun of everyone and everything in a ‘smart’ way. I didn’t find it funny and finally I decided not to waste anymore time on it. Each to her own– you might enjoy it.



A popcorn book to follow that one was Simon Brett’s Death Under the Dryer. It was a mystery solved by a new agey healer and her stuffy retiree neighbour. It wasn’t thrilling, but it was a relaxing read. On the shelves now.





A more substantial book was Black Sea The Birthplace of Civilization and Barbarism by Neal Ascherson. It looked at the history of settlement around the Black Sea, though the writer mostly concentrated on the part around the Crimea. In a way it was personal, as his grandfather had been on a ship there during the First World War and had written a little about it. One of the things the author was looking at was how the various groups that settled the land there got along. It was for a long time a far-flung ‘colony’ of the Greeks and got the literati there thinking about barbarism, which was mostly ‘the other’, something that strikes me as being very human. Part of the story too was about the struggle in Poland to make it independent, with one of its famous writers, Adam Mickiewicz, was involved in intrigues there. At the end of his life he lived in Istanbul and died of cholera here. I learned just recently that there is a museum about him here. The book was well written and I enjoyed it. I borrowed it from John Ash, who made liberal notes in it (most of them like ‘utter rubbish’ ‘no!’), which made me laugh at times. If you come across a copy of the book, give it a read.


I like Faye Kellerman, so when a copy of Street Dreams came my way, I read it. This time the main protagonist is the daughter who has become a cop. She also falls in love with a tall Ethiopian Jew, for added sizzle. It was a good popcorn book and is on the shelves now.




There are lots and lots of books on the shelves now, so please come and buy some! 5 lira each!


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