Archive | May 1, 2014

April reading

Two books finished this month, with one from my Reading Down the House list, here.

Unconditional Surrender is the last in Evelyn Waugh’s WWII series, The Sword of Honour. I read the two books earlier in July last year and January. This was not my first reading. I bought my copies when I was an undergraduate (paid $5.95 for each volume, fancy books being that cheap!) and loved his satire and style then.

Waugh does have a brilliant command of English and his style is, as Clive James says, so elegant. Yes, the ending is bleak with the loss of morality of the Allies, and, in particular, Britain. But there are still glimmers of hope – in individual acts of honour. If you haven’t read any accounts of WWII, this is the series to read. You can get a redacted version in one volume.

I’m going to borrow the DVDs of the 2001 series (which stars Daniel Craig, oh yummy). Would love to get hold of 2013 radio play.

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Next book is the June pick for my book club (I’m a goody swat, reading ahead), A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell. You may know him from the Wallander mysteries, dark, brooding, violent affairs. This is very different. A poor rural Swedish girl heads for Australia in the early 1900s, working as a cook on a Swedish boat laden with wood. She has no power or carriage over her life, being a woman and is first ordered to leave her home, then her country. She never makes it to Australia, jumping ship in a Portuguese colony in Africa.

Colonialism, violent treatment of Africans, powerlessness, and the oppressive heat are at play in this tragic tale. Scenes of violent racism are sickening. But so too is the racism taken as normal, everyday interactions. I couldn’t put this book down. I found the central character frustrating but no character from the early 1900s could have totally modern sensibilities.

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I always like to learn new things and learnt a lot about Portuguese imperialism from this book and the googling it prompted. Did you know the death penalty was outlawed, except for treason, in Portugal and its colonies in the mid 1800s?

This was a compelling book.