Sunday, August 21, 2016

Current Books, Airplane Books

Again, I don't have time to write complete reviews even of books I enjoyed. However, here are my three most recently completed reading projects:

An early painting by Pissarro, before he
became firmly an Impressionist.
Alice Hoffman, The Marriage of Opposites, is historical fiction about the parents of Camille Pissarro, one of my favorite painters. His mother was born in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas in the 1790s, into a family of Jews from France (who had of course earlier been expelled in previous centuries from Spain and Portugal). Pissarro's father was born in France into a similar community. The love story of the parents, whose marriage was not approved by the strict rules of their local community, is a central part of the book. The artistic life of Camille Pissarro is presented in less detail.

By making up a number of fictitious characters that don't appear in the historical record, the author turns this into a nice novel, almost a romance. I suspect she used the artist's paintings like the one at right as inspiration for her inventions.

I'm fascinated by the historic time and place featured in the book, but a bit skeptical about the details of the author's research. Some of the descriptions of food and of Jewish practice seemed to me to perhaps be based on modern Caribbean foodways and religious traditions, not the result of thorough research. I may be wrong, and I may do some of my own research.

Peter Robinson's Inspector Graves is a nice British policeman like the ones on PBS Masterpiece, and his book Innocent Graves is a nice British police procedural with grisly victims' bodies, much suspense, several reversals of police hypotheses, a dramatic trial, and a satisfying conclusion. Great beach read! A few good police meals! Lots more books in the series!

S.J.Rozan's The Shanghai Moon is just as good as her three other books that I've read and reported at greater length. Her combination of setting in the New York Jewish community and New York Chinatown with background in the World War II Shanghai ghetto (where around 20,000 European Jews were saved from the Nazis) is really great. I know this history and I think it's very well represented here. Rozan devotes the usual excellent attention to what the detectives Lydia Chin and Bill Smith were eating and what it shows about their character and relationship.

And coming soon:

Next on my list -- this collection of essays about the Black community of the USA.


Amanda said...

I'm a big fan of Peter Robinson's book - once I get my nose in one, I barely come up for air. ;-)

Jeanie said...

The Robinson and the Hoffman are now on my must-read list!