Sunday, August 25, 2019

Recent Reading

Bruno, Chief of Police

First: for this month's culinary reading group, we chose the initial book in Martin Walker's long series: Bruno, Chief of Police: A Mystery of the French Countryside.  Everyone enjoyed reading it, and I was glad to have recommended it: one participant enjoyed it so much that she's reading the entire series.

Briefly: Bruno works in St. Denis, an idealized French village, where all problems can be resolved, even very deep issues left over from the divided loyalties of resistants and collaborators in World War II. There's a lot of good food, and much about local food production. From Walker's introduction to the town:
"From the secretaries and social workers to the street sweepers and tax assessors, the staff of the Mairie would also be at Fauquet’s, nibbling their croissants and taking their the tartes aux citron and the millefeuilles they might take home for lunch along with the essential baguette of fresh bread and scanning the headlines of that morning’s Sud Ouest. Alongside them would be a knot of old men studying the racing form and enjoying their first petit blanc of the day. Bachelot the shoemaker would take his morning glass there, while the neighbor he despised, Jean-Pierre, who ran the bicycle shop, would start his day at the Café de la Libération. Their enmity went back to the days of the Resistance, when one of them had been in a communist group and the other had joined de Gaulle’s Armée Secrète..." (Bruno, Chief of Police, p. 7). 
 I've written about this series before, especially about the most recent one titled The Body in the Castle Well.

Stone Cold Heart

Second: this weekend I read Stone Cold Heart, a police procedural by Caz Frear, sequel to Sweet Little Lies (which I wrote about here). I didn't like it quite as much as the first in the series, though it's not bad, just a little too long-winded. I found the character development in Sweet Little Lies to be more effective as well.

In the first book there were a lot of good wisecracks and punchy observations. This one: not quite so much. But here's one that I liked, a quote from a conversation with the police department shrink:
“I took Gill to Paris last year and she dragged me to the Louvre. Do you know what we saw there? People— and I’m not just talking kids, grown-ups too— taking photos of themselves in front of the Mona Lisa. The most famous bloody painting in the world and folk think they need to put their ugly mugs in front of it. If that’s not narcissism, you tell me what is.” (Stone Cold Heart, p. 240). 


My third recent book, earlier this week, was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, an account of one family's experience during and after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The hurricane hit the city at the end of August in 2005, and the book was published in 2009.

Zeitoun is a very painful book to read, because the central character, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, was unbearably abused by the FEMA authorities. Jailed for no good reason, he and many others were held without trial and without respect for their constitutional rights. Although his status as a Syrian immigrant was part of the reason why he was so badly treated, many other people of various origins received equally horrible misuse.

The pain and humiliation of Zeitoun's experience was all too real, and the resonance with our current arbitrary imprisonment of immigrants was all too clear. I don't feel like writing more about the details, except to say that it's an extremely well-organized and readable book.
Text copyright © 2019 Mae E. Sander for maefood dot


Nil @ The Little House by the Lake said...

Just today I downloaded the latest Bruno book ‘The Body in the Castle Well’.

Thank you again for recommending this series, Mae. I read all previous books, including short stories. 😁

Abbe@This is How I Cook said...

Zeitoun was a very powerful book that I read awhile back. It is one that is not forgotten. Can't wait to check out your others.

Jeanie said...

I just bought a new Martin Walker and I really have to go and read them in order -- but this one isn't. Thanks again for the good intro. I love this series!

Kitchen Riffs said...

I love the quote about people taking pictures in front of the Mona Lisa. Gotta prove they were there! Click the selfie and move on -- no need to actually LOOK at anything. :-)

Carol said...

Bruno's been on my list to read for a while. Maybe I should just buy a copy and have it on my shelf - that way I'll be more likely to pick it up.

Sherry's Pickings said...

I gave Bruno a go recently but i guess the whole French thing just didn't grab me. I have a french brother in law, so that's maybe why i am put off:)