Sunday, 25 April 2010

Andrea Camilleri: Die schwarze Seele des Sommers

Es ist August, die Sonne brennt, alle sind im Urlaub - bis auf Commissario Montalbano. Und nun soll er auch noch eine am Meer gelegene Villa suchen, weil Freunde aus dem Norden dort ihre Ferien verbringen wollen. Das ist schnell erledigt, alle sind zufrieden - bis zu dem Tag, an dem der Sohn der Urlauber plötzlich spurlos im Innern der Villa verschwindet. Als Montalbano sich auf die Suche begibt, stellt sich heraus, dass sich unter dem Fundament des Gebäudes ein zweites Haus befindet, von dessen Existenz niemand etwas wusste. Während der Junge bald wohlbehalten wiedergefunden wird, findet Montalbano die Leiche einer Frau, die seit sechs Jahren als vermisst gilt. Doch das ist erst der Anfang einer dunklen Reise in die Vergangenheit...

Camilleris Geschichte ist ein sehr kurzweiliger und spannender Krimi, der das sommerliche Sizilien bestens vermittelt. Als Leser fühlt man mit Salvo Montalbano, wenn er versucht das Böse zu bekämpfen, aber dabei selber immer wieder an die Grenzen des Erlaubten stösst und diese auch überschreitet. Die Beschreibungen von Montalbano, der den Strand, die Villetti am Meer und die vorzüglichen Speisen genießt, lassen den Leser selbst auf Reisen gehen und machen zudem die Hauptfigur besonders liebenswert.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Masha Hamilton: The Camel Bookmobile

Once a fortnight, the nomadic settlement of Madidima, set deep in the dusty Kenyan desert, awaits the arrival of three camels laden down with panniers of books. This is the Camel Bookmobile, a scheme set up to bring books to scattered tribes whose daily life is dominated by drought, famine and disease. Kanika, a young girl who lives with her grandmother, devours every book she can lay her hands on. Her best friend is Taban aka Scar Boy, a child who was mauled at the age of three by a hyena. They are joined by Matani the village teacher, his alluring wife Jwahir and the drummaker Abayomi, as well as Mr Abasi, the camel driver, who is convinced that one of the camels is possessed by the spirit of his dead mother-in-law. The only condition of The Camel Bookmobile is that every book must be returned or else the visits will cease. Then one day a book disappears...

This is an interesting story about assumptions and learning and teaching. Although Fi is very enthusiastic about bringing literature into the desert, she is also ignorant about how much she needs to learn herself rather than teach others. In their own nomadic lifestyle the villagers of Madidima are more civilised than Fi in her New York style will ever be. I loved the book although I found that it ended too quickly. It would have been great to go on for some more. However, the ending was very plausible anything other than Mididima "disappearing" would have been cheesy...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Donna Leon: Brunetti 16 - Suffer the little children

When Commissario Brunetti is summoned to the hospital bedside of a senior pediatrician whose skull has been fractured, he is confronted with more questions than answers. Three Carabinieri have burst into the doctor’s apartment in the middle of the night, attacked him and taken away his eighteen-month old baby. What can have motivated such a violent assault by the police? But then Brunetti begins to uncover a story of infertility, desperation, and an underworld in which babies can be bought for cash, at the same time as Inspector Vianello uncovers a money-making scam between pharmacists and doctors in the city. But one of the pharmacists is motivated by more than thoughts of gain - the power of knowledge and delusions of moral rectitude can be as destructive and powerful as love of money. And the uses of information about one's neighbours can lead to all kinds of corruption and all sorts of pain…

This was a quick and interesting crime story although it was not in the typical fashion of Donna Leon. There were many sections where Brunetti and Paola or Vianello are discussing ethical issues relating to having children illegally and then having those taken away to orphanages.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Sarah Dunant: Sacred Hearts

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara, and the convent of Santa Caterina is filled with noble women who are married to Christ because many cannot find husbands outside. Enter sixteen-year-old Serafina, ripped by her family from an illicit love affair, howling with rage and hormones and determined to escape. While on the other side of the great walls, counter-reformation forces in the Church are pushing for change, inside, Serafina's spirit and defiance ignite a fire that threatens to engulf the whole convent. This is a novel about power, creativity and passion - both of the body and of the soul.

Although the storyline did not sound gripping, this novel has been one of my most favourite reads ever. The personal stories around Suora Zuana, novice Serafina, Suora Umiliana and abbess Madonna Chiara and the other members of the convent are well interwoven with the church reformations outside the convent walls. I would not have chosen to read this book had it not been featured on the book club. Also, the references to the bible and the fact that the psalms used have been chosen to match the stories make this book an irresistible read.