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Category Archive for 'Ic – Iv'

Very much in the tradition of her previous Neapolitan Quartet, author Elena Ferrante delves deeply into the psychology, culture, and social and romantic goals of characters whom the reader comes to know from within. In the course of the novel, she first presents Giovanna, age twelve, her family, and their friends – those living elegantly at the top of the hill in Naples – and sets up contrasts between their lives with those who live at the bottom of the hill, a much poorer area in which life is far more difficult. When Giovanna decides she wants to meet her mysterious aunt Vittoria, the family pariah, considered a “demon” living at the bottom of the hill, the family’s interrelationships become more complex. Over the next five years, they meet several times, and when the marriage of Giovanna’s parents begins to crack, Vittoria tells Giovanna to pay close attention to their arguments and actions to learn what is happening behind the scenes. Complex details involving all of these characters give new meaning to the “lying lives” of the adults. While these revelations are occurring, Giovanna herself is growing up and feeling her own sexual interests come alive, adding intensity to the atmosphere and more tension in Giovanna’s life. Those who have loved the Neapolitan Quartet will find this novel a good counterpart with its emphasis on psychological development, the inner thoughts and quandaries of its main character(s), and the constant reliving of the past and its mistakes. Book clubs will have a fine time analyzing the “adult” Giovanna as she makes a life-changing decision on the last pages.

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Everything I have learned about Mumbai, over the years, I have learned from books, but this is the first time that I have ever felt that I have been given real insights into the nature of this dense and vibrant city and its multitudes of people of all cultures. Author Jayant Kaikini, who obviously loves Mumbai, presents dozens of characters who live their lives on these pages, sharing their inner thoughts with the reader, living through often stressful moments, and supporting their friends in times of difficulty. His characters are so fully drawn and so “human” that many readers will simply sit back, settle into their reading, and let the stories tell themselves – as if socializing with a group of friends – however different the characters’ lives and conditions may be from our own. Presenting a broad picture of daily life in Mumbai for those who must make their own way – often from childhood – author Kaikini shows the inherent thoughtfulness, kindness, and care which these neediest of young people have for each other. No trace of self-pity arises here as the characters must often change their plans, find new directions for their efforts, and experience satisfaction within the narrow limits of their environments and lives. Written between 1986 and 2006, these stories reflect inspiration and hope for the future, and readers of this unforgettable collection cannot help but be inspired and hopeful along with them.

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Though D. A. Mishani employs all his talents and experience as a detective story writer in pacing this novel and its complications, his primary focus for the first hundred pages is on the psychology of three women seeking companionship from a man who is looking for a change of scenery without serious commitment. Each has her own secrets. Gradually this psychological study turns into a dramatic action novel which speeds along as it absorbs elements from all the accumulated action and combines it into a carefully constructed and un-put-downable mystery novel. The book, though different from what it appears to be, at first, is an exciting crime story with well-developed characters, several climactic scenes related to individual women, and a more-than satisfying conclusion.

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With the latest entry in his crime series set in Pizzofalcone, a precinct high atop a hill in Naples, author Maurizio de Giovanni adds another layer to the characters who have made themselves so intriguing to readers of the previous four novels in this series. With a title like Puppies, this latest Pizzofalcone mystery sounds more like a “cozy” than a noir mystery. De Giovanni, however, is clever. He draws in readers with the action here, starting with the last thoughts of a dying woman, followed by a section in which two people are talking about leaving something – not identified as human or animal – outside in an alley where it will get noticed without delay. The novel then focuses on officer Romano, a hulk who has trouble controlling his temper. As Romano leaves for work, he passes the alley with garbage cans, just as a “broken doll” starts to cry. A newborn baby has been left with the trash. By the time the police get to the scene of the baby, Romano has opened his shirt and placed the baby on his chest to warm it and help it breathe. Before long, he has been asked to give the weak baby a name to help it be “real” while in the hospital. No puppies are mentioned at all until about fifty pages into the book, by which time several plot threads and all six characters are being featured. Gradually, the reader comes to understand that “puppies” are symbolic of lives that cannot survive without help. De Giovanni has done it again.

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Friendship has always played an important role in author Roddy Doyle’s work, and this novel, his thirteenth for adults, is his most intimate in its portrayal of two long-time friends who get together to talk, every now and then, and share their lives. Friends since childhood, Davy and Joe have moved in different directions, with Davy now living in England and coming to Ireland periodically to visit his father in Dublin, and Joe still living in Dublin, where he has worked since high school and raised a family. As the novel opens, the two, now approaching sixty, are meeting in a Dublin pub, and a long night of conversation between them forms the structure of this novel-in-dialogue as they share memories of the past, with most of the memories coming from Joe. Of primary importance to him, is an experience that took place exactly a year ago when Joe saw, for the first time in thirty-seven years, a woman he and Davy had both been in love with when they were twenty-one. With Joe doing most of the “talking,” this novel-in-dialogue tells the story of their marriages and the role this beautiful woman played in Joe’s early dreams and now, surprisingly, in his later life. The many shades of love and the obligations and pleasures associated with it are seen though the vibrant conversations here, as once again, Roddy Doyle brings aspects of Dublin and its people fully to life and shares them with an empathetic world.

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