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Category Archive for 'COUNTRIES REPRESENTED'

May God Forgive, Alan Parks’s fifth novel in his Tartan noir series featuring Glasgow detective Harry McCoy, has three grisly deaths for McCoy to look into in the first fifty pages, and twenty characters are also involved. McCoy who has just been released from a month’s stay in hospital for a bleeding ulcer, caused by his drinking, smoking, and hard living. As he investigates these and other crimes going forward, the characters increase, the complex involvements of various gangs create issues, and McCoy spends more time investigating on his own than he does as a representative of the police. Making the novel more personal, father-son relationships become an issue, including for McCoy. The action ultimately features a character list of about 40 characters, competing criminal gangs, and some vivid details of violence, torture, mutilation, and maiming, making this novel a stomach-churning experience in which characters driven by their own senses of “justice” have more sway on all levels than the local police.

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Author Alexander MacLeod has won literary prizes for his short stories, and the reaction to this collection, with two shortlisted nominations for the Giller and Commonwealth Book Prizes, suggest more prizes will be coming. His stories feel, at first, as if the characters are ordinary people leading ordinary lives, but the author is so creative and so in control of every aspect of these stories, that he is always able to take them in new directions, full of surprises and irony. His work is filled with unique and heart-breaking insights, presented with empathy, as his characters realize their limitations and recognize a pathway forward, a pathway often unexpected, based on the characters’ decisions and recognitions as shown within these seemingly simple but powerful and often unusual stories.

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This unusual novel focusing on a talking frog and his help for a tormented man allows author Carolina De Robertis to explore philosophical ideas of governance and individual responsibility. Here author Carolina De Robertis describes the difficult inner world of a member of Uruguay’s Marxist Tupamaros during his fourteen year imprisonment in a hole deep underground during the 1970s and 1980s. This is a man who has been wounded six times during various escape attempts from confinement, who fears for his own mental health during his torture and imprisonment, but who is ultimately elected Uruguay’s President from 2010 – 2015. Author Carolina de Robertis’s intense and involving story, based loosely on the traumatic life and career of the real President, José Mujica, during that period, focuses on the man’s involvement in the political changes in the early twenty-first century. Though it is filled with the horrors of revolutionary warfare and its personal effects on the participants, the resulting fictionalized biography is often very funny, filled with ironies.

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Following the narrative pattern of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, author Jillian Cantor focuses primarily on three young women, all of whom appear in the Gatsby book. Three “Gatsby women,” all originally from Louisville, Kentucky, are the main focus here: Daisy, who becomes the wife of the almost impossibly wealthy Tom Buchanan; Jordan Baker, Daisy’s close friend, a golfer who is on the tour though accused in a major scandal; and Catherine McCoy, a lesser developed character who attends women’s suffrage meetings and who is the sister of Myrtle Wilson, a married woman who is profiting from her role as the secret lover of Tom Buchanan. Their stories rotate throughout, often overlap, and provide the structure of the novel. At the same time, a new character, Detective Frank Charles from New York, appears at key points in 1922, after the death of Jay Gatsby, as he investigates that death, the characters associated with Gatsby, and the clues that have developed, including the discovery of a diamond hair pin at the murder scene. While Beautiful Little Fools is certainly not a feminist tract, it does illustrate how different the outcomes might have been in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby if the position of women, their own expectations, the expectations of them by others, and the culture in which they lived had been significantly different.

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In her latest study of an animal species, Audrey Schulman focuses on dolphins, their intelligence, their verbalization, their relationships with humans and each other, and the possibility that they may be able to initiate communication with humans if they and the humans can evolve a common language.  Set in St. Thomas, and based on research done in the mid-1960s (and continuing to the present), her main character, Cora, lives with the dolphins and eventually focuses on a particular one, with whom she shares a “homearium,” living in the dry section of the building, while “Junior” lives in the sea section, which overlaps with it. Fascinating work involving animal behavior and speech.

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