I am an artist first, a censor second.
Another recommendation from someone I don’t know. Short stories, which I don’t have the best track record on. But, USSR and Russia as the backdrop of all the stories, and stories interlocking in strange (and maybe amazing) ways. Alright, I’ll give it a try.
What had been the biggest draw remained the biggest plus: stories about Lenin and Stalin Soviet have yet to cease to amaze/boggle me.
As the back flap says: ‘Tsar‘ goes from a government censor to mine fields to space, and every sibling, child, friend ends up being connected to the previous one. It’s the family that never moved beneath the Arctic circle, the soldier, the criminal. All just try to live in the smallest matter, but the Soviet, and Russia, aren’t the creatures to allow that.
It’s neatly done, the connections reaching throughout the chapters, but I couldn’t muster the stranger’s excitement about his book. it’s nice, it baffles, it didn’t change my world.
The Tsar of Love and Techno, Anthony Marra, Random House Canada 2015
Late one evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.
This may be a period in which I unconsciously drift towards family dramas/stories. Or maybe I just want to find another Everything I Never Told You to blow me off my feet. And this is a Pulitzer Prize winning book, sign me up! Right? Sadly, there was no blowing here.
The reader jumps through the time line of the Whitshank family. It’s about Red and Abby and their children, and later their grandchildren, but it’s about young Red and Abby as well, and even Red’s parents. It shows how the most random (little) situations can grow into a family, and that family doesn’t always have to mean love, communication or living (close) together.
So what was lacking? For me, the tone used felt a bit fake to me. Too chipper, too “Here, luv, let me tell you the story of my family, dear.” Combine that with (some) characters that (sometimes) don’t move past twodimensional acting and it quickly falls back to a small town novel, instead of the grand and appealing.
I just didn’t discover the reasons for why I had to care about these people, why I had to support their frustrations (although one character gets a very short end of the stick). It’s a book for a rainy afternoon on your day off, but don’t expect any warmth to come off it.
A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler, Random House 2015
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there’.
For the category Classic with a capital C It took me a while to get into it, but I liked it tons better than my previous Classic, Despair. I think the very densely printed lines were the biggest struggle to get used to.
As the complete title says, it’s an account of multiple murder. But calling it just a detective, a chronological story of murder and murderers caught, wouldn’t be sufficient, nor complimenting. This is every piece of the puzzle, from the life of the victims to the trails of the murderers, the homes of the police men and the setting of the court.
Truman Capote calmly sets out the pawns and the play-field, sketching a situation only overlay it with ink later. The account is the main character and it all fits needly together. It’s a slow burner that you will keep close after entering the field.
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences, Truman Capote, Random House 1965
Place ten dozen hungry orphan thieves in a dank burrow of vaults and tunnels beneath what used to be a graveyard, put them under the supervision of one partly crippled old man, and you will soon find that governing them becomes a delicate business.
Part three of the Gentleman Bastard sequence. I’m pretty sure I’ve praised Scott Lynch’s world-building before (here and here) and therefore won’t repeat myself.
The Republic of Thieves is the fattest novel yet, very probably due to the flash backs that offer an “intermezzo” between every chapter. On the one hand it’s a nice way to know more about the thieves, it continues world building and gives everyone involved a more human and/or fallible face. It also creates a cliff hanger at the end of every chapter, like it’s a little advertising block intervening, keeping you from the main plot line. Locke and Jean have to make sure a political party wins, with any means necessary. Old friends turn out less-than-friendly and the ways of gathering votes can be called original, entertaining and lethal.
Again, Scott Lynch offers a can’t-put-it-down, silly, sweet adventure in a Mediterranean-inspired fantasy setting. I can’t wait for the final part.
The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch, The Random House Publishing Group 2013