Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Rossetti Letter

In The Rossetti Letter, Claire Donovan is a Ph.D student at Harvard finishing her dissertation on Alessandra Rossetti and the letter she supposedly wrote to the Venetian officials warning them of the so-called Spanish Conspiracy.

Narrative shfits between present day Venice with Claire and her research and 1618 Venice, where Alessandra is a young single woman and one of Venice's most popular courtesan's. The two narratives, from two different eras is still an exciting tool for any author trying to make history come alive. But in The Rossetti Letter it feels too familiar. Nothing about the characters, setting or theme is original. As a reader, ther are two things I ask of from a book: something original and a protagonist I like. The protagonist may be a killer, see Edward Glyver in Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night, but I have to like the protagonist enough, to care enough to take time out of my day and follow them as their story unfolds.

On the advice of her best friend, Meredith, Claire is chaperoning a 14 year old, Gwen, on a week long trip to Venice. This gives Claire the opportunity to attend a conference and conduct some much needed research. However, Andrew Kent, famed historian from Cambridge, is giving a lecture at the conference that could possibly debunk Claire's dissertation.

Though the paperback copy I read is 434 pages long, I read the book in about three days. That's both good and bad. Good because it was a quick, effortless read. Bad because I didn't want to spend anytime with the book or the characters...for a number of reasons.

What threw me right away, was Claire's lack of knowledge about the competitive field of history that she was working and studying in. How could Claire not know who Andrew Kent is? He's a famed historian and he's writing a book on the same subject as her. Once she found out that he was speaking at the conference, wouldn't she have gone on-line to try and find out about him? Nope. She actually thinks he's a woman, named Andrea Kent. Great research from a Harvard Ph.D candidate.

The rest of the story falls in place like every other cliche book or movie. In fact, I saw this more as a movie than a book. The same feelings I had after reading The Da Vinci Code or any Steve Berry book. Cliched themes, cliched writing, cliched characters. The paperback copy has a good cover design and it the back cover copy makes the book sound interesting enough...but don't judge a book by its cover.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Redeemer redeems itself

My initial reaction to Jo Nesbo's The Redeemer, was disappointment. I had liked The Devil's Star so much, but the seemingly disjointed narrative of The Redeemer, was off putting. I like novels that attempt to take on a new narrative thread, creating narrative forms to add dimension and a story. Life isn't linear. Life, like dreams, does not follow a straight line and I appreciate narratives that don't follow in line. However, Nesbo's narrative was confusing. There wasn't enough separation in the narrative breaks. It took me a full paragraph or page to realize who the narrative was following.

But then all my initial problems with the style faded away. I became engrossed in the story and the cast of characters. I like thinking while I read, but I don't like trying. And for the first half of the book, I had to try and follow the leader. Once I got past that point and just read and enjoyed, I started to fly through the book.

Croatian hitmen, Norwegian Salvation Army intrigue, Harry Hole, alcohol and women. Great story.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Cleaned the pantry and kitchen and bought some books

After breakfast, I cleaned our kitchen and pantry. Reorganized. Then did lots of nothing. It was a gorgeous day, so my wife willingly went to the book store with me. Traded in many; purchased some more.

A Drink Before the War Dennis Lehane The first in the Kenzie/Gennaro series.

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane Epic. Boston.

Venus in Copper
Lindsey Davis Can never get enough of our man on the case, Marcus Didius Falco.

Deadwood Pete Dexter Called by some the best Western ever written.

The Rossetti Letter Christi Phillips Mystery and intrigue in 17th Century Venice.

No Name Wilkie Collins Dickens called it his best.

Armadale Wilkie Collins Two men. One name.

Remembering Laughter
Wallace Stegner Stegner's first novel.

Joe Hill Wallace Stegner Hero of the people or murderer?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Nearly another year has come and gone

Nearly a full year has past since I last posted on this blog. And although I've still been reading many of your blogs, I haven't been too active in the blogging community. With a one year old running around, my time management has been a bit one-sided. I've been reading, and reading a lot, over the past year. Mostly mysteries still, but littered with some history, travel and a couple bios. I'm still on a Sherlock Holmes kick (just finished A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullum,) but have also tasted my first Jo Nesbo, the entire Stieg Larsson trilogy and today I began Nicola Upson's An Expert in Murder. I can't wait to begin sharing my thoughts on my daily reads and hope that you'll attempt to tune in again.