Saturday, June 15, 2024

Books and Things


The Venetian Candidate

The Venetian books by Philip Gwynne Jones are entirely new to me, and I arbitrarily chose one of the last ones from the series to read first, as recommended by my friend Sheila. The Venetian Candidate (published 2023) seemed to me to be well-plotted, with interestingly developed characters and plenty of local color in Venice in January, 2020 — you can figure out the date because of several news items the characters see about a new strange virus threatening to break out. 

The principal character is Nathan Sutherland, who is the British Honorary Counsel in Venice. As such, travelers in trouble come to him for help and advice, which in this book involves a missing man who was searching for information about his great-grandfather who died near Venice during World War I. Not surprisingly, this bit of history turns out to have a lot of ramifications on the present day, particularly on the candidates who are running in an election for Mayor. It gets very involved, including some violence from a hired thug, but of course it all works out well in the end.

Any self-respecting mystery author today is aware that readers want to know what the protagonists are eating and drinking. Obviously, what they eat in this book is fabulous Venetian food — and frequent quick and easy meals of pizza, which takes on quite a lot of significance:

“Gianluca didn’t even look at the menu, but smiled up at the waitress. 
 “‘Pizza Margherita, as always.’ 
“He looked over at me. ‘Now, Marco and Alessandra here are just about to tell me how boring this is.’ The two professors nodded as one. ‘But,’ Gianluca continued, ‘they’d be wrong. Because the Pizza Margherita is like Hemingway’s prose. Simple, clear, direct – no messing about. Perfect as it is.’” (p. 142)

They also drink lots of mixed drinks like Negronis, but also wine when they mean to stay sober! For example, this interchange:

“‘Okay. And to drink?’ 
“He shook his head. ‘I’m on duty. Just a red wine, please. And a couple of tuna and egg tramezzini.’ 
“I made my way over to the bar and looked at the range of food in the cabinet. Meatballs, of course. Small octopuses. Fried crab claws. Sliced meats and cheeses. All of those would be good. But what would be best on a freezing cold day? I smiled, as I saw the rows of crispy orange arancini, fried risotto balls. Perfect for getting some heat back into me.” (p. 24)

I’m glad Sheila suggested this series, and I expect to eventually read some of the other books by this author.

The Mistress of Bhatia House

“Soon, the potato and fenugreek curry was steaming in front of them, along with a thick yellow dal, stewed green beans, puris, tomato chutney, pickled turmeric, yogurt, and carrot halwa.” p. 90

“The baked cake, wheat studded with dal, nuts, and raisins, sat resting on the kitchen table. John cut two pieces for her and she put them on a metal plate.” (p. 125)

The flavors of Indian Parsi cuisine are invoked in many of the chapters of the most recent Perveen Mistry novel by Sujata Massey: The Mistress of Bhatia House (published July, 2023). I enjoyed it very much, though the central subject is depressing. Perveen, the only woman lawyer in Bombay in the early 1920s, is faced with exonerating a young servant woman who has been accused of the crime of abortion. As she unearths many unfortunate truths about the plight of women of all classes in her society, Perveen struggles against the abuse of this one woman and against the total lack of reproductive freedom for all women in her society. She must deal with the anti-woman resistance she experiences in her own efforts to achieve professional success. She realizes how the British rule of India negatively affects the interests and opportunities of Indian women and men of all classes. 

Although life in modern America is nothing like this, the book does bring to mind a variety of ongoing efforts right now to deprive women of their reproductive rights! Perveen, influenced by a woman doctor who faces many of the same prejudices she is facing, is reading a revolutionary book by Margaret Sanger, the American who promoted birth control beginning in 1914. As Sujata Massey presents them, the social problems of India a century ago can really resonate with readers today.

Graphic Novels

I reviewed this earlier in the week.

One more graphic novel, Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald,”
in which Sherlock Holmes meets classic monsters.

Shared with me

Beautiful lunch in Washington, DC, sent by my family. I wish I had been there!
The cheesecake is especially enticing.

Finding Mona Lisa

Remembering Faith Ringgold (1930-2024). Her quilt:  “Dancing at the Louvre” (source)

This image of Mona Lisa as Medusa turned up in a review of the book My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Book 2) by Emil Ferris. I’m not really that fond of graphic novels so I didn’t read the book, though I looked through a short (free) sequel to the book with the same title. As it happens, I tried a few other graphic novels too.

First promised for this month, Lego has postponed the release of the huge lego Mona Lisa until October.

Blog post © 2024 mae sander
Shared with Sunday Salon at Readerbuzz


eileeninmd said...

Hello Mae,
The books sound good, I will add them to my to be read list.
The lunch looks yummy.
My nephew loves working on the Legos, but I am not sure if he would like the Mona Lisa lego. Have a great Father's Day weekend.

Rostrose said...

Dear Mae, the first two books you presented sound interesting to me - and not just because of the delicious food that is mentioned in them ;-))
All the best and happy weekend, Traude

Divers and Sundry said...

It is shocking that the decades-long efforts by the religious right wing have finally succeeded. And with the support for Trump still high because he gives them the judges they want I fear it'll only get worse

thecuecard said...

Sujata Massey's novels always look good to me ... and I still haven't read her! So she lives in Baltimore? It's interesting how she spins these immersive tales in India.

Book of Secrets said...

I love shout outs to Pizza Margherita, my favorite.

Cindy said...

Sounds like a busy time. Have a great weekend!

Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health said...

I pay attention to detail in the books I read, and reading about food in books entices me. Thanks for sharing that point in your book reviews.Reading a book now that takes place in Sicily (Palermo to be exact) and setting is important to me as well. Saw your post at Sunday Salon. Warm regards, Nancy Andres @ Colors 4 Health

Hena Tayeb said...

The book set in Venice sounds good.. we will be there in a few months.

Sarah said...

I read the first Perveen Mistry last summer and need to get back to that series because it was so good!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I keep telling my friends who are writing books with me that everyone wants to know about the food the characters are eating, and I especially remind my friend who is writing a mystery of this.

Pizza Margherita...and Hemingway's prose? Yes, good comparison.

A friend, who is a Jackie Kennedy fan, gave me a new picture book that includes a bit of the Mona Lisa. I'll send you a photo of the cover.

Jackie McGuinness said...

I can't find Philip Gwynne Jones at my library...
I added The Mistress to my TBR list.
Thank you.

Jinjer-The Intrepid Angeleno said...

Lunch in DC looks delicious and I love that Faith Ringgold painting so much!!!! I had to Google her and go down a rabbit hole looking at her other work. I want them allllllllllllll.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

The title of that Manga book is hilarious. I hope it is as funny inside as out. Enjoy! Have a good week!

Boud said...

I love Philip Gwynne but his books aren't available in my library at all. I did buy this one and liked it a lot. He has a blog I follow, too.

Rachel @Waves of Fiction said...

The Venetian Candidate looks good! Hope you enjoy your books!

Jeanie said...

What a fun post! I'll have to check out the Jones series. And I love your Monas!

Helen's Book Blog said...

I especially like the sound of the Venetian mystery; what a wonderful setting (food and all).

Literary Feline said...

I'm not familiar with the author of The Venetian Candidate, but you've piqued my interest in the series. Sujata Massey's book sounds good too. The “Dancing at the Louvre” beautiful! I hope you are enjoying week!