Here are four books I have read, which I have enjoyed and would recommend to others. I have obviously read more than four books and these books are very different so you may enjoy one but not another. Sometimes I think the context of both time and place can make a book for me.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was a book that I started about four times, but it was only when I was sitting on the beach on the island of Zante, one of the Ionian islands of which Kefalonia is another, that I actually read and finished the book. I then re-read it the following year on a holiday to Kefalonia, which was an even better read than the first time. I think that being “there” soaking up the culture and the atmosphere, made the book and the story more real. So what is the book about, well through the novel is a love story, between an Italian Captain and a Kefalonian girl. Surrounding them is war, conflict, revolution, personal disasters and natural ones too. It isn’t just about the island, which is in many ways a character in itself, the story also reaches the centre of Rome and the horrible madness of that time.
I am not really a sports story person, and especially not an American sports story person. However back in the late 1980s I was introduced by an American to Baseball movies and as well as a story like Bull Durham, I also watched Field of Dreams, which I loved. When I found it was based on a book, Shoeless Joe, I decided to buy an read it. Though I love the film, I think the book is much better, it is darker and more realistic, well how realistic can a ghost story be. The story is about a journey, a personal journey that brings in dead baseball players, failed baseball players and family. It is a sad, yet uplifting. I think for me that being introduced to this kind of book by an American made all the difference to my expectations about the book. I seriously doubt I would have bought it or read it without that introduction. If you build it he will come.
The first version of Sharpe’s Eagle I read was the condensed version in Readers’ Digest. It was only later after watching Sean Bean in the ITV adaptation that I went out and bought the actual book. I then followed this up with every other book in the series. What I do like about Cornwall’s writing is how much is based on historical evidence and fact, to which he then weaves in the character of Richard Sharpe. The stories bring to light the massive class differences that existed at that time, the soldiers were common working men, whilst the officers were (upper class) gentlemen, who saw themselves as superior to the “lads” they believed they led and controlled. Cornwell doesn’t hide the horrors and atrocities that occurred during the Peninsular War by both sides and the suffering of the local Spanish and Portuguese populations on whose land the war between the two great powers of Britain and France was being fought.
Harry Turtledove takes the concept of what would happen if the parents of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin had moved the United States before Joe was born. In Turtledove’s alternative timeline, his name is changed from Georgian Stalin to Steele, and Joe Steele becomes a US political and eventually US president. This is a tyrannical America where the president is depicted as having the soul of a tyrant, with Stalin’s real-world career mirrored by actions taken by Steele. Reading this at the same time Trump was running for President it was quite a scary book. Could the US elect a tyrant? Would they be happy to elect a tyrant? In the book not only do they elect Joe Steele, they love Joe Steele and everything he stands for. Even with executions, purges, camps and secret police, the American people see Joe Steele making American great again. The parallels with the real world were remarkable and I do see this book as a warning about what can happen when the rhetoric of elections is based on fear and scaremongering.
So those our four books I have read, what have you been reading?