Saturday, April 17, 2010

Latest Reading

Well, I made a trip to the bookstore today, which means I have polished off the latest stack of books. So, without further ado, here are some thoughts on what I've read recently:
  • After Dark by Haruki Murakami - I previously read Kafka on the Shore and loved it, except for the ending, so I thought I would try some more Murakami. This book is hard to explain, but it weaves together the threads of several lives over an incident at a "love ho" in Tokyo (the kind of place where you rent rooms by the hour). The action takes place between the hours of 11:56 and 6:52 the next morning. The translation by Jay Rubin is excellent, and the prose is sparse and powerful. The story is mostly psychological, but in a way that feels natural and fulfilling. And the ending was just fine.
  • Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith - Set in Stalin's Russia, this book is going to make a really good movie. Gripping reading, the plot intensifies with each twist until by the end I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Leo Demidov is an investigator for State Security, the MGB, who stumbles upon what he believes is a string of child murders. He is strongly discouraged from the investigation--since no one could possibly murder children in the perfect society the Stalinists had created. Despite being a war hero, and highly successful investigator, Demidov learns that even the most trusted members of the security machinery are not trusted, when he is demoted and banished to Voualsk in the Urals, his wife Raisa accused of disloyalty. He finds himself unable to drop his search for the killer, and eventually convinces his wife and his new supervisor to help him as the number of missing children grows.
  • No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith - Meet Mma Precious Ramotswe, the only lady private detective in Botswana, in this charming first of a series I plan to make my way through, now that I've been introduced. Ramotswe's father worked in the South African diamond mines all his life, shrewdly investing in cattle along the way, until he left her a tidy sum upon his death. She invests it in a home and in a small office at the foot of Kgale Hill in Gaborone where she sets up her detective agency. She solves big mysteries and small, with keen observation and gentle humor that make me reminisce about the days when I lived in southern Africa.
  • Violin by Anne Rice - I loved each installment of Rice's Vampire series (though I haven't read Vampire Armand yet), but it's been quite a while since I picked up one of her novels. Violin starts off slowly, too slowly, so slowly I almost put it down. I'm glad I didn't, because after the first hundred pages it became more typical--lyrical, historical, supernatural in a way uniquely hers. Triana, chunky middle-aged widow, is visited upon her husband's death by a ghost who plays the violin of the title, a long Stradivarius he died for. The love-hate relationship they form, the human and the spirit, carries the story into the past, and also on a suspenseful round-the-world musical tour.
  • How Koreans Talk by Sang-Hun Choe & Christopher Torchia - This is a collection of terms, expressions, and proverbs used in Korean culture. It's more of a reference than something to read right through, but I found it quite interesting and very helpful. It is broken into categories, like Animal Kingdom, Tough Talk, Slang and Seoul, etc. Each entry has the Hangeul, Romanization, the translation and a paragraph or two (or even a couple pages) of explanation, context or history. For example: 모순 mosun means contradiction. Literally it is "Spear and shield". The story is told of an armourer who claimed his spears were so well-made they would pierce on any shield. Further, his shields could block any spears. A bystander quipped: "Why don't you try breaking your shield with your spear?"


John from Daejeon said...

Since you liked "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," you might want to check out the television series. I believe 7 quality episodes were produced before HBO decided to pull the plug due to the high costs of filming in Africa and the lack of viewers in the U.S. and England (BBC co-production) to justify those costs.

Tuttle said...

Oh, cool! I had no idea, John, thanks for the tip.