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Category Archive for '3-2014 Reviews'

Writing a novel based on four real murders (by poison) and their investigation, Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramirez recreates what has been described as “the most celebrated criminal trial in Nicaraguan history,” a case which author Sergio Ramirez uses to illustrate the conditions and social mores of the country as Anastasio Somoza Garcia is laying the groundwork for his eventual dictatorship in Nicaragua, beginning in 1936. Fellow author Carlos Fuentes declares that with this book “Sergio Ramirez has written the great novel of Central America,” which he says incorporates a “heart of darkness…the fullness of comedy, and the imminence of tragedy.” Fuentes compares Ramirez to Flaubert in technique, and calls this book “a true microcosm of Central America…[with] the action [also] reverberating in Costa Rica and Guatemala.” Ramirez (1942 – present) is not “just” the author of this novel, however. He has a history which gives him unique insights into the political situation in Nicaragua over the years, and this background shows in his literary attention to detail and his observations of the tensions and jealousies between the government, the police, and the army. The big questions is whether the person arrested for the crimes is, in fact, guilty, or whether he is being framed.

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Here are my favorite books for 2014. Favorites for earlier years are available through the Favorites tab at the top of the page:

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By now, most people who are here reading this review have already read at least one of the first two books in the “Neapolitan trilogy” by Elena Ferrante, of which this is the third novel. (A fourth entry in the series is expected now in 2015). Dramatic and intense, these novels read like operatic librettos, with two main characters, young girls from Naples who meet as children, sharing their tumultuous childhoods, and then, in succeeding novels, their teenage and adult lives. Despite their early closeness, the girls move in completely different directions as they get older, living out their different goals and objectives, but remaining friends through the traumas and uncertainties of their early years and the various political movements in which may have been caught up as young adults. The brighter girl, Lila, or Lina, Cerullo, is not allowed to continue the education which would have allowed her to take advantage of her immense intellect, instead marrying as a teenager. Her less creative but competent and organized friend, Elena, also a good student and with a supportive family, goes on to college and eventually becomes a writer. Though she has promised in the past that she will not betray Lila by writing about their own tangled history, Elena appears to be the author of this novel, which begins when both women are in their sixties (probably in the late 1960s through mid-1970s), a time in which Elena is successful and living elsewhere, and Lila has disappeared from Naples, leaving behind her son Gennaro (Rino) as Elena’s only contact.

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At the end of each year, I check to see which books have received the most attention on SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH BOOKS. Over the past few years, several books from the long-ago past have received significant numbers of page views and outrank many newer books. Here is the list of some favorite reviews, in order. Classic novels, available in more than one edition, show no publisher here. Newer books are noted with the name of the specific publisher.

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In his second novel of what appears to be the beginning of a series, Neapolitan author Diego De Silva reintroduces hapless attorney Vincenzo Malinconico, a man lacking in ambition, commitment, and self-awareness. Vincenzo has managed to stay out of the public eye, since his last outing, leading a conveniently quiet, though not necessarily satisfying, life. His wife, a psychologist, left him for another man more than two years ago, and he has had his own relationships, the most recent of which, with a gorgeous fellow-attorney, is currently on the rocks. Not surprisingly, given his lack of ambition, his caseload is almost non-existent: “I’m not a tough guy,” he admits. “If you want to know the truth, I doubt I’ve ever made a real decision in my whole life…I’m not a multiple-options kind of guy, really.” His life changes on a simple trip to the supermarket, where the engineer friend of a former client approaches him and speaks to him, asking Vincenzo, out of the blue, if he represents criminal cases. Engineer Romulo Sesti Orfeo suddenly warns him that something is about to happen. A hostage situation in the supermarket then ensues, and Vincenzo is the only only one who can defuse the situation. Funny, satiric.

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