Posts Tagged ‘Roman Britain’

It is past midnight, and sticky as I sit here.  The helpful thermostat indicates the temperature is well past 80℉; how far I’d really rather not know.  My solution to (pre-)summer heat? Escape to the cool confines of the air-conditioned library whenever possible. I can’t possibly get much *less* accomplished than I do sitting here, wilting.  In honor of the library, a few things I have finished reading, which might possibly be of interest to you, Gentle Reader.

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark was indeed good fun.  The main character was lively and interesting, though flawed, which made him more interesting.  The historical aspects of the novel appealed to me, and the culinary focus certainly captured my interest.  The food is lovingly, thoroughly described in its preparation and as one observes its consumption.  I like the idea of a secret book, and how it was handled, but the addition of a secret society and their incorporation into the book I felt was weak.  If the secret society is responsible for the mysterious book of the title, and the main characters are involved in the society, it would seem to make sense to develop this theme, or in contract, merely allude to it, retaining the mystery of secret societies.  It seemed perhaps that the author was looking for a halfway point on that spectrum, and missed the mark. I love a mystery and would have been more than happy to see further depth added to this part of the story.

Rosemary Rowe‘s Requiem for  Slave was a dip into another world.  I am a fan of the ‘edge of civilization;’ where Roman civitas runs into a pre-existing culture, how prior culture folds into Roman ways or  the blurred lines where the Roman empire withdrew and left the inhabitants to themselves again.  This was a tale set in a Roman village, but there was still a touch of the Celtic way left.  I enjoyed the concept of the mosaicist, who would indeed need to know how to work with patterns, as a solver of mysteries.  This world was well-developed, and perhaps my error was reading a book from a well-developed series (this appears to be the eleventh in this series).  I have noticed that sometimes when an author plumbs a character or story arc for a number of books, the later ones can be, well, weaker.  This was a good read, well-paced and interesting, but I knew who the killer was virtually from his introduction, and became increasingly irritated with the main character as he failed to glean clues which I felt were all but flashing neon in front of him.  I, however, have read many, many books.  I am a bright child; literally, ‘card-carrying’ certified smart, as well as (generally) quick on the up-take, so perhaps, just perhaps I am a little harsh. 

Bordeaux, by Paul Torday was another book I hadn’t meant to pick up. Really, I have a house full of books, and half a dozen already from the library.  But the cover is so elegant in its simplicity, and I could still almost taste The Book of Unholy Mischief …  What was I supposed to do? The book did not disappoint.  It is about Bordeaux, and wine afficionados may recognize many of the names in the book – I think.  The descriptions of the wine made me wish I could afford to indulge and read with a nice glass of wine (assuming I had such a thing!).  The subtitle is A Novel in Four Vintages, and we are treated to the protagonists vision from four years/vintages.  Unfortunately for those of us in linear lives, the book gives us the vintages in reverse order.  It makes complete sense for the book, but it can be a little jarring.  The book asks us, even requires us, to question; ‘What is addiction?’ ‘What is important?’ and even ‘What is reality?’  It was an absorbing book; I finished it in under 24 hours.

What will I read next? I still need to finish Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France; Historical geography from the Revolution to the First World War, which fascinates me.  I also have books on fairy tales which I need to read, and at the book sale today I picked up a book on myth, The Cry for Myth, Rollo May, and one on language, The Language Instinct; How the Mind Creates Language, by Steven Pinker. Having started Bordeaux, I couldn’t stop myself from picking up Burgundy; The country, The Wines, The People by Eunice Fried. The fact that I’ve been there might have had something to do with it, possibly.