Thursday, July 14, 2005

And in 2....

I've finished two very interesting books simultaneously. I was reading a bit of each and then moving on to the other before coming back to the original one.

The first book (Book 9) was 'Beneath the Diamond Sky' by Christopher Wakling. I read the jacket cover while doing a balancing act in an overcrowded bargain bookshop. It seemed intriguing, quite a dark novel, with struggles and difficult tales to tell. I bought it. And how right I was. The story is set in Kashmir in the shadows of the mighty Himalayas and begins inconspicuously enough with a tourist couple, Kate and Ethan, arriving in New Delhi with the idea of an adventure holiday. After a few days of being brow beaten by both the Delhi heat and the numerous touts selling them tours, they settle on a holiday on a Kashmiri housebout. At first Kashmir is all as they imagined it, beautiful, cool and hospitable. Then they join a group of five other westerners on a trekking expedition. They are sold out by their guide to a militant group and taken hostage. The book stears clear of the issues of the separatist militants, only giving small hints as to their origins and mainly selling the idea that foreigners are valuable pawns in the bartering game. All seven hostages deal with their confinement differently; one tries to escape and is killed, another dies of ill health, another is maimed as punishment, Kate tries to keep a journal as a survival tactic, Ethan shifts allegiances inspite of the limited understanding of the ideology that holds them hostage.

The book moves back and forth between the hostages and those at home in Britain. Kate's sister Rachel is tormented by the memory of her cold and dishonest relationship with her sister Kate and Ethan's father remains unwilling to confront cruel family truths he has perpetrated. It ends with the collision of difficulty and loss, truth and redemption. It's a beautifully written absorbing psychological thriller exploring the effects of pressure on different characters. A terrifying but essential read.

My second, far sunnier book, was 'A Good Year' by Paul Mayle (Book 10). I have never read anything by him before but he's apparently written a load of bestsellers and I'm not surprised. 'A Good Year' is a cheerful book (just the antidote to the often dark chapters of the previous book) about Max Skinner, a failed London banker who moves to Provence after inheriting a vineyard from his Uncle Henry. The beautiful countryside is home to 'Le Griffon', a wonderful quirky country house with its own vineyards and a cellar full of terrible tasting wine. Vineyard caretaker Claude Roussel and prim housekeeper Madame Passepartout help Max settle into his new life easily. Local interest includes the attentions of local notary Nathalie Auzet and curvy cafe owner Fanny.

Into the mix arrives a young Californian, Christie Roberts, Uncle Henry's long-lost daughter and Max's best friend Charlie (something of a wine buff). Beside a wonderful new lifestyle, they soon uncover a vineyard scandal (under their noses, in their glasses) involving a delicious, high-priced, discreetly produced boutique wine called Le Coin Perdu, being traded as an investment. And it's coming from a small patch of their own vineyard. It was a quick paced story with some interesting twists and some nice tension - needed no great thought. I liked the happy ending feeling of this book. Would have read even better on a beach!!

So that's 2 new books and in 2 days I will be 30.....

1 comment:

  1. momentous event for your life in 2 days. Since your blog revolves around this (almost like the Y2K countdown), hope to see something really good that day