Mini-reviews are how I catch up!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – A very popular book about fifteen-year old Christopher and the mystery surrounding the death of a dog called Wellington. A friend of the family gifted this book to my 9-year-old son and we read it together almost every evening from the first day that we opened the book. Christopher has an Autism spectrum condition, probably Asperger’s, although the writer, Mark Haddon, said the book is more about “being an outsider”. The mystery is well-told, well-paced, includes Christopher’s thoughts on math equations, colors, logic and his own analyses of his behavioral problems. Plus, there’s the added bonus of some family drama tossed in to heighten tensions. I marveled at the depth of Haddon’s portrayal of Christopher, at Christopher’s clarity in describing his experiences, at how strong a boy he is. My son was utterly hooked on Christopher and still is months after we finished reading the book. Curious… is the type of book that provides many talking and learning opportunities between a parent and a child. We had a really good time reading this together.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – I will pick up any book, with a quickness, that is a story within a story. I will take the book home immediately if the writer has created a fictional writer whose voice is heard and whose story is told in the book. Afterall, AS Byatt’s Possession, a superb example of this literary device, is on my list of favorite books. What drew me to The History of Love is Leo Gursky, a Holocaust survivor who has traveled from Poland to New York in search of Alma, his childhood sweetheart.
Leo wrote a novel in Poland and gave the book to his friend for safekeeping. Leo believes his novel is lost. But the novel, like Leo, survived and was published in Chile as “The History of Love” by Zvi Litvinoff. Litvinoff is, you guessed it, Leo’s friend. The second plot centers on 14-year-old Alma (she’s named after the lead character in Leo’s book) whose mother is translating “The History of Love” from Spanish to English. There are other characters connected to both Leo and Alma and other minor plots – the book is loaded. The two main plots converge when Alma decides to search for the author of “The History of Love”.
Leo is a lonely old man who yearns to be seen, to be acknowledged. Alma is a sweet girl who’s preoccupied with her brother and wants to find a partner for her widowed mother; she also yearns to be seen. There are passages from The History of Love, the novel within. Influences from other writers – Issac Babel, Bruno Schulz to name just two – are evident. All of this framed by the horror of the Holocaust, of having survived yet not living. I should have really enjoyed this book. I should be thinking more about it. But I didn’t and I’m not. To quote someone on Twitter, Krauss’ writing feels too “workshopped”, uncluttered, clean. Nothing raw or messy for a story of such emotional magnitude and depth. It’s a pity (for me) because The History of Love is original. I like the writer’s imagination.
The Justice by Boakyewaa Glover – The Justice is a political thriller set in Ghana. I think this book might just be the first of its kind, at least for me anyway. At the center of three interwoven plots is the powerful Annan family. The patriarch, former Chief Justice Annan wants more power, desperately so. He will do anything to ensure a bid and a win for the presidency of Ghana. Caleb Osei, a returnee from the halls of American political power, is the aide to Justice Annan and is also in a relationship with Abby, Annan’s daughter. The steaming goings-on in Abby life is the second plot. A family mystery is the third but I’ll stay mum on that.
Ghana’s political system, its media, its religious establishments and all things power frame this story and Glover does a superb job portraying all the shenanigans, confirming for some of us how utterly sordid the entire “system” is, deliciously so. It’s a page-turner! Oh, and the sex scenes. In most African fiction, the characters have children, perhaps by spores? Because who knows how Africans have kids; there’s hardly any sex in African literary fiction. And where there’s sex, it’s so poorly described that I tend to just skip those parts to avoid ruination. Ms. Glover, the author of Circles, has talent in sex scene writing and that’s a very good thing.
In all, good pacing and character development. A compelling mystery and suspense. The book could have benefited from more editing. Plus, there are instances of foreshadowing which aren’t necessary at all. I would see The Justice, a movie in one part (not parts 2-10, which is the prevailing practice in West African film making). We should applaud Boakyewaa Glover for this political thriller. We need more genre fiction in Ghana.