Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Great reads for July 2010

Stone’s Fall, by Iain Pears

John Stone, an immensely wealthy and powerful Industrialist has fallen to his death from the second- floor window of his home – everyone believes it to be an accident except his wife, who knows of his aversion to heights and his care never to be near an upper-floor window: she is convinced he was murdered and turns to a young journalist for help in her quest for answers. Thus begins one of the most intriguing mysteries I have read in years, told in a series of flash-backs which cover several fascinating periods of 19th century history. No-one is what they seem, particularly Stone’s lovely wife Elizabeth, an elegant, titled and fiercely intelligent woman who bewitches effortlessly every man she meets, including the hapless journalist. Her origins are cloaked in mystery; is she truly Hungarian Nobility – or could she be a clever guttersnipe, whoring her way to a position of great power? Iain Pears draws us inexorably into the convoluted pathways of his plot; he is a master of lucidity, and offers a fascinating study into the nature of finance and the great global power of money as a backdrop to the machinations of his unforgettable characters, both real and fictional, for the consequences of Stone’s fall could also lead to the fall of the European banking systems – and Governments. FIVE STARS

Noah’s Compass, by Anne Tyler

Liam Pennywell is 61 years old and has just been ‘downsized’ from his job teaching a Grade five boys’ class at a second rate Baltimore Private School; he’s a widower from his first marriage, divorced from his second wife, and regarded with tolerant exasperation by her and their three daughters. He’s not exactly a loser, but loserdom is closing in fast, especially when he downsizes himself into a cheaper apartment in a poorer area, then is attacked and concussed by a burglar. (He forgot to lock his door.) The memory-loss of the event distresses him more than his family thinks it should; why does he try so obsessively to recall a traumatic experience that any rational person would strive to forget? Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Tyler explores Liam’s search for his memory and himself, the young philosophy student so full of hope and promise, with great subtlety and wit, peopling this gentle, funny novel with characters and situations that we can all readily recognize, and the realization that no-one can remain a spectator to the drama of their own lives; one has to become involved eventually, whether they like it or not! This was a great pleasure to read, as are all of Ms. Tyler’s novels.

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