Tandia

Courtenay, Bryce. Tandia. London: William Heinmann, Ltd., 1991.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

This starts off as the story of Tandia Patel. Like Peekay in The Power of One, Tandia’s life begins with violence, prejudice and corruption. Her father, a famous Indian boxing referee, fathered her with his African American mistress. A racially mixed offspring in hyper color-sensitive South Africa is only asking for trouble. While Patel was alive, Tandia’s identity was one of confusion – going to school as Indian but coming home to be a black servant to her father’s household. After his heart attack and subsequent death, Tandia is predictably banished from his household and must rely on the kindness of strangers, much like Peekay did when he was a child. And speaking of Peekay, his life story continues in Tandia. Fans of Peekay’s character will not be disappointed. He only grows more and more admirable as he moves from boxing champion to lawyer, champion to the black community.
Other Power of One similarities include the kindness of an obese and jolly woman, the loyalty of a devoted and deformed servant, and the hatred of a powerful bigot and bully.

It is not a spoiler alert to warn readers of the horrific violence Tandia suffers at the hands of white policemen. I had a hard time reading those early scenes.
As an aside,like some other reviewers, I was disappointed by Courtenay’s ending. It was almost as if he didn’t know how to end it and I have to wonder if he was leaving himself room for another sequel.

Author fact: Courtenay died in November of 2012.

Book trivia: settle in to read Tandia as it is a healthy 900 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy said Tandia as the sequel to The Power of One is, “just as good” (More Book Lust p 3).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: a Reader’s Itinerary (p 2).


Finding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Finding the Dream. New York: Severn House Publishing, 1996.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of dream month.

Finding the Dream ends the Templeton trilogy.  Just to recap: In Daring to Dream flamboyant Margot Sullivan found love. In Holding the Dream Serious Kate Powell found love. In Finding the Dream finally, it is practical Laura Templeton’s turn in the spotlight. Would she find love again after all she had been through? Here is my favorite part of the entire series: throughout the pages of Daring to Dream and Holding the Dream, Laura’s bad marriage and equally awful divorce had been playing out. It’s the one story line that successfully weaved its way through the entire trilogy (aside from the cheesy Seraphina treasure hunt). Peter Ridgeway, a Templeton employee, seduced Laura when she was a teenager. He only wanted to marry her so that he had a permanent “in” with the family hotel business. But after cheating on Laura and stealing their two daughter’s inheritance he flew the coop, marrying a Templeton rival. (Another story line that ran through all three books but was unsuccessful.) Now, it is time for Laura to climb out of the ashes of a failed marriage and find a true love for herself. Just as Margot and Kate had climbed out of the wreckage of their own personal traumas. And just like Margot and Kate, Laura finds a love interest who is wrong for her in every way. True to the Nora Roberts formula, refined Laura and rough-around-the-edges Michael Fury clash at every turn. How will they ever fall in love?

Author fact: Roberts has written as J.D. Robb for her Death series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


The Chronoliths

Wilson, Robert C. The Chronoliths. New York: Tor, 2001.

Reason read: October is “Star Man” month and The Chronoliths is sort of about time travel…

Scott Warden as an old man is writing his memoirs about his involvement with the Chronoliths. When he begins his story the year is 21st century. The place is Thailand. Scott and his family are hanging out in a beach side town “busy doing something close to nothing” when a huge 200 foot structure in the form of monument appears in the jungled interior. This is no ordinary monument. Its arrival changed the climate, destroyed acres worth of trees and spewed ionizing radiation. But even more curious is the inscription, commemorating a victorious battle sixteen years into the future. Then, another monument appears in downtown Bangkok, killing thousands. Again it commemorates a victory years into the future. Because Scott and a friend the first ones to arrive on the scene of the original monument, they are irrevocably linked to the phenomenon. A scientist from Scott’s past recruits him to study the structures in an effort to thwart a future warlord from destroying society.

The Chronoliths is futuristic enough to acknowledge the world had progressed but not so much that it wasn’t recognizable to the reader. Some examples: Scott lived in a society where smokers needed to hold an “addict’s” license. Wilson makes some interesting predictions about human behavior and advances in technologies. Portable communication technologies are very similar to what we have today but were virtually unheard of in 2001.
But interestingly enough, the world had also regressed (the draft was introduced in 2029).

As an aside – I wish the editor had done a little better job of catching inconsistencies. Adam on page 146 was eighteen but by page 149 he was seventeen.

Quotes to quote: “But what the hard admits isn’t always what the heart allows” (p 60) and “Adulthood is the art of deceit” (p 153).

Author fact: Wilson is an American-born science fiction writer living in Canada. Given the climate of today, lucky him.

Book trivia: the disclaimer reads, “This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.”

Nancy said: The Chronoliths is included in a list of other books about time travel that might be enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220). As an aside, I should note, humans do not time travel but monuments celebrating military victories twenty years into the future randomly appear, at first across Asia and then North America.


Always a Distant Anchorage

Roth, Hal. Always a Distant Anchorage. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.

Reason read: October is Library Friend month. I had to borrow this book from Byfield, Massachusetts; a town I have never heard of before.

Hal and Margaret Roth had an epic mission to sail around the world. Good thing they had the kind of relationship that could withstand being trapped together on a boat for nearly two years (46 months)! Their boat, Whisper, was a 10.7 meters long, black hulled fiberglass vessel that weighed 7.2 tons.
Their journey took them from the coast of Maine to Bermuda and the Virgin Islands, though the Panama Canal, across the South Pacific, winding through Tahiti and Fiji, crossing the Coral Sea and Australia, Bali, Africa, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and finally back through the Atlantic and the Caribbean, ending in Somes Sound, Maine. The amazing thing is, Roth did not come from a sailing background. Luckily, he was a gifted writer and this is his account of that epic journey (with excerpts from Margaret’s journal thrown in). Weather, fishing, the mechanics of boats and sailing, the culture and customs of each community and port, getting to know and establishing relationships with other sailors, even being shipwrecked on coral reef and observing drug runners. Everything Roth writes about is fascinating. He loves the word “squally.”

As an aside, Roth’s description of Greece makes me want to visit even more.

Quote to giggle over: from Margaret’s journal, “I don’t know why men have to swear when they fix things” (p 81).
Another quote, “I don’t mind the prayers and the ritual washing that used up my buckets of fresh water, but I wished the pilot had made some sign to me that he was giving up steering” (p 219). One last quote, “What was life anyway but a collection of new timbers, the seasoning and shaping into a useful hull, the long voyage, a gradual collapse, and the final rotting away (p 303)?

Author fact: Roth also wrote We Followed Odysseus which I will be reading a few years.

Book trivia: the hand drawn maps are fantastic, but the photographs are great too! I wish there had been more of the couple. On the back cover there is a photograph I must describe because it is so intimate and lovely: Margaret is cradled between Hal’s legs. She is clutching his bare foot while he has one arm casually slung over her shoulder. His hand barely brushes her breast…

Nancy said: Always a Distant Anchorage is “the perfect choice for those who dream of one big voyage” (p 201).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “See the Sea” (p 201).


No Villain Need Be

Fisher, Vardis. No Villain Need Be. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, & Company, Inc., 1936.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in memory of Butch Cassidy robbing a bank in Idaho in August 1896.

Confessional: I could not wait for this series to be over and done with! I found Vridar a very selfish and troubled man throughout the earlier books. He pushes his wife to suicide at the end of We Are Betrayed and then spends more of No Villain Need Be trying to sort out his guilt. Another trait of Mr. Hunter’s that I could quite reconcile is his lack of parenting. True, those were different times but when he moved to Baltimore all I could ask was, what about his sons? This does not get any better in No Villain Need Be. His common law wife at one point asks him if he is going to see his children and he replies that he is “not ready yet” to face them. In case, you are wondering – his parents have his two sons back in Idaho.
But, back to the plot. Vridar is now a so=called grown up. He keeps gin in the bathroom, has written more than half a dozen books and is teaching at a college. He has obtained his doctorate in philosophy and even has a common law wife, Athene (whom I’ve already mentioned). Athene is an admirable character. She seems the most honest, being above the game playing. She helps Vridar behave as a more mature adult. Despite all the drama in the earlier installments, the series ends without much fanfare.
A curiosity: Vridar teaches philosophy while his brother, Mertyl, teaches Psychology. Even more curious, Mertyl lives and teaches wherever Vridar happens to end up.

Spoken by Vridar, these statements have some truth to them – “Love sets out to lick the world and ends up by pushing a baby-buggy to Mobile (p 40) and “I don’t believe in legislating people into heaven” (p 93). Amen, brother. Earlier in the tetralogy I agreed with Vridar’s opinion of Greek life. Now in No Villain Need Be I applaud his stance on academic commencement ceremonies. We both think they are silly.

Another quote I liked, “Pleasure as a manic depressive, asylumed in Manhattan” (p 210).
Finally, I want to thank the University of Massachusetts (Amherst campus) for sharing Vardis Fisher’s tetralogy with me.

Author fact: so far I have told you this about Mr. Fisher: he was born and raised in Idaho and that he was married three times. Last fact: Mr. Fisher wrote a great deal more beyond the life of Vardis Hunter. Sadly, I’m not reading any of it.

Book trivia: No Villain Need Be‘s title came from George Meredith: “Tis morning: but no morning can restore what we have forfeited. I see no sin: The wrong is mixed. In tragic life, God wot, No villain need Be! Passions spin the plot: We are betrayed by what is false within.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Idaho: and Nary a Potato to be Seen” (p 121).


I Will Bear Witness

Klemperer, Victor. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933 – 1941. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1998.

Reason read: Klemperer was born on October 9th in 1881. He started keeping a diary at 17 years of age. I Will Bear Witness was read in his honor.

No matter how you dress it up, this is a hard book to read. Mainly because hindsight is 20/20 and we know what a travesty the Nazi years truly were to the German-Jewish people. Today, more than ever, reading Klemperer’s journals are valuable lessons in fortitude, courage, and grace. Despite everything he remained committed to documenting his world around him…even as it slowly fell apart. I see similarities to modern day America. At first the indignity was small, a blip: the loss of admittance to his library’s reading room. No Jews allowed. Then, the indignities became too big to ignore – the loss of his teaching position at the university, then use of the beloved automobile, then they had to move from their new dream house. Every creature comfort was slowly stripped away. His typewriter, tobacco, even new socks. Can you imagine smoking blackberry tea or filling an application for used socks? What is so admirable is, in the face of all this humility, Klemperer still recognized and drew attention to the civility his enemy occasionally displayed.

From the very beginning, although he was only 52 years of age at the start of I Will Bear Witness, Klemperer was convinced he had not long to live. He made comments like, “I no longer think about tomorrow” (p 15), and “My heart cannot bear all this misery much longer” (p 17). He was sure his heart would give out any day. It was if each passing birthday came as a shock to him because he could see the future of Germany’s political landscape. How would he survive it? Yet, every day he strove to improve his life and that of his wife of 45 years. Buying land, building a house, learning to drive a car, taking Eva to her beloved flower shows, keeping a diary and continuing to write throughout it all. These are the little triumphs of Klemperer’s life.

Confessional: Because his sentences were so choppy, it took me some time to get into the rhythm of his words.

Favorite line, “The man is a blinkered fanatic” (p 41). One guess who he was talking about! Another line I have to mention, “I do not know whether history is racing ahead or standing still” (p 79). This, after Hindenburg’s death. The magnitude of the implications! One last quote to quote, “It cannot be helped, one cannot live normally in an abnormal time” (p 227).

Author fact: In the end Klemperer’s heart did betray him. He died of a heart attack in 1960 when he was 79 years old.

Book trivia: This is truly trivia, but I love, love, love the photograph of Eva and Victor Klemperer on the spine of I Will Bear Witness. Both are standing behind their beloved automobile with smiles on their faces. Victor is hunched in such a way he actually appears to be laughing. He has an impish look on his face.

Nancy said: Klemperer was “one of the best observers whose records we have of those terrible, and ordinary, years inside Germany” (p 131).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 130).


In the Valley of Mist

Hardy, Justine. In the Valley of Mist: Kashmir: One Family in a Changing World. New York: Free Press, 2009.

Reason read: the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 happened in October.

Just to orientate you: Kashmir separates India and Pakistan. Both areas had been warring over this beautiful area for decades. Meanwhile, a separatist insurgent group within Kashmir also sought independence. By 1989 rising tensions finally gave way to major conflict. Justine Hardy wanted to tell the story of the innocent families living within the conflict. With their blessing, via In the Valley of Mist, she attempts to expose the corruption and controversy caught between three very different worlds. Everything, from manner of dress to religious convictions, are examined.

As an aside, I tend to count things when I get annoyed by something. This time it was how often Hardy referred to the region’s beauty, calling it pretty or sweet or beautiful. I think she wanted to emphasize it’s attraction to starkly contrast it with the ugliness of war and the utter destruction after the 2005 earthquake.

Author fact: Hardy was a British journalist of over twenty years who has written six books. I am reading just this one.

Book trivia: In the Valley of Mist has a great collection of photographs, most of them include the author’s handsome face.

Nancy said: In the Valley of Mist “takes place against a backdrop of Calcutta and a sea voyage” (p 213). I think Pearl was reading an entirely different book. For starters, Calcutta is nowhere near Kashmir (Calcutta is south of Kashmir by nearly 1,700 kilometers) and I didn’t see any “sea voyage” as a focal point. The jihad, the insurgency, the oppression of women. Those were the main points of In the Valley of Mist in my mind. True, the family Hardy spent time with lived on houseboats, but they were on the Dal lake, not the ocean.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: India” (p 213).