**spoiler alert** Just a searing and amazing book.
I saw him giving a talk about his book in a bookstore, on C-SPAN. It was back in 2007, when the book...more**spoiler alert** Just a searing and amazing book.
I saw him giving a talk about his book in a bookstore, on C-SPAN. It was back in 2007, when the book was out in HC. I was so memorized by his talk that I vowed to buy the book when it came out it paper. And I did. I didn't read it until now, because I got one of my RL book groups to read it as the January selection.
The passion and honesty of his presentation made it seem like he spoke for an hour or more on one breath. It was fast and it took you to the events he talked about, the horror of war, the men he fought with, those who lived and those who were lost. That same vitality comes across in the book. I read it in one sitting.
The book is a series of connected stories about their life in Iraq and the battles they get into. There are lots of descriptions of battles, and weapons. It is gory, brutal and quite frank. Not for the faint of heart or those who require sugar-coating. The major part of the book is about his unit going into Fallujah to clean out the insurgents after they killed and hung the bodies of 4 American contractors from a bridge.
He doesn't really go into politics, other than to say he is upset at how the media portrays the war. He is also critical of those in the military who are living a cushy life in the rear area, while the troops are in danger. They get very little in terms of support, comfort, or even basic necessities. He is full of pride for his men and their courage, and unapologetic at the killing and destruction, though he does recognize the enemy as human.
There is a good bit of introspection, but not at the time of the events, and not enough to keep him from acting and staying alive in the heat of battle. He believes in his men, in the US, and in the ability to change the world for the better with a gun in his hand, and our flag on his shoulder.
Not a popular sentiment in the world today. But unlike the scumbags in Washington who believe the same, Bellavia truly believes good will come of it. He didn't lie or manipulate us into this war, and he is willing to put his life and his body on the line to back up what he believes. Unlike the cowards in Washington.(less)
**spoiler alert** A very slow first effort. The story is set in 1095 Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Alexios. The POV of the story is a...more**spoiler alert** A very slow first effort. The story is set in 1095 Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Alexios. The POV of the story is a man known for his brains, Demetrios Askiates. He is called to the palace to join the search for the man who tried to kill the Emperor in the street, with an exotic weapon from the West. They also are looking for the powerful people who set the plan in motion. So its an historical mystery.
While the intrigue is going on in the city, there first crusade has arrived outside the city walls. Barbarians from the West, who are ostensibly there to kill Turks and free the Holy City of Jerusalem. In actuality they are looking to loot, rape, plunder, and carve out land for themselves. Those in the city know this, and must play a subtle game with the outsiders.
The writing is good, and the characters are done well. Its the story that is very slow. There is lot of time spent with the POV going back and forth with very little story movement. The setting is well done, and not too overwhelming with description. If the story was tighter and shorter it would be a very good page turner. As it is, it is one of those books that you just want to end.(less)
**spoiler alert** What a mess of a book. I am surprised by how highly rated it has been. I don't know if its from the goodwill for her first book, or...more**spoiler alert** What a mess of a book. I am surprised by how highly rated it has been. I don't know if its from the goodwill for her first book, or because the subject covers the Armenian genocide and Turkish denial. Perhaps people feel the need to support the Armenians and give the book a pass. Or it may be the fact that the Turkish government charged her briefly with Insulting Turkishness, and readers are rallying to her defense.
But it can't be from the writing, the story or the characters.
The book starts out in a florid over the top style with inappropriate adjectives crammed everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised to find a 'moment' described as strawberry, or a a 'thought' to be described as rubble-filled. It is a chore to read it and slows you down trying to pick the relevant from the dross.
The characters in the story are also florid and more cartoons, than real people. It is like reading about Popeye. You don't believe in them, and you don't care about them. I also found myself wondering about the motivations for their titanic thoughts, actions and feelings. I was distracted from what little there was of the story.
The story jumps all over the place. You get a chapter each on the two characters who represent the two families the book covers. In both chapters there is mostly telling and very little showing. The other characters introduced in the chapters have very little dimension or reality to them. After the introductory chapters the story jumps 19 years into the future and starts again with two new characters.
The book is the story of two families from Istanbul. One is Turkish and the other is Armenian. The Armenian family has moved to America and settled in San Francisco. The story focuses on the two daughters, the one in Istanbul a bastard in a family of women, and the other the child of divorce between her Armenian father with an extended family, and her southern-American mother. The two families are tied together because the Armenian daughter's mother marries the son of the Turkish family who was sent to the USA for College. Both daughters struggle to find themselves and create a separate identity from their families and their heritage. They also explore their heritage since both have only a small part of the story.
The book also explores the human tragedy of the Armenians, since the Armenian family are survivors of the event. The Turkish family never speaks or thinks of the event, and in fact some don't know the details, since it is not taught or discussed in Turkey. Family dynamics are explored as is modern big city ennui, and the concept of wallowing in victim-hood.
The book starts to get better around 200 pages in. The florid style is under more control, and the characters start to seem human. The story settles in Istanbul and becomes a tale about a couple of characters and their lives. Eventually all the characters end up in Istanbul, where the stage is set for the exposition of two big family secrets. At that point the author just screws the whole book up.
Rather than deal with the secrets, release them, and then work out the aftermath, she prevents one from being discussed, and just hides the other one away. The book ends with no resolution, nothing. The characters are just left hanging and the issues are unresolved. What a cheap cop out. I certainly have no plans to read this author again.
**spoiler alert** I heard about the book/series on LibraryThing. I Enjoy mysteries and having lived in Turkey for 3 years when I was a kid, I had to g...more**spoiler alert** I heard about the book/series on LibraryThing. I Enjoy mysteries and having lived in Turkey for 3 years when I was a kid, I had to give it a try.
I enjoyed it, but the book does have some big flaws, and at least at the start of the series it does not live up to the banner on the cover "The Donna Leon of Istanbul".
The book was well written and meaty. I really like books that delve into what the characters are thinking, and their past, and why they are acting as they are. Nadel does that well, but perhaps goes into too much depth, because the story started to drag in the middle. The whole thing could have been tightened up and cut down in terms of page count.
There was also a lot of repetitive internal worrying by one of the main characters, Robert, it got boring. We seemed to follow him while he did the same things, and had the same thoughts over and over. Many of the other characters had a similar problem: this one was dominated by his mother, this one was randy, this one was a complaining wife. When the character was on stage it was the same theme with just the details changed. I didn't feel they were really fleshed out, and they were lacking in shading.
The main police character seemed to me to be unrealistic in the sense that he wandered around drinking openly from a bottle of booze. He did it in his office, he did it at crime scenes, and he did it when visiting suspects/witnesses to question them. It isn't the Muslim-alcohol (alcohol is allowed in Turkey) issue that bothers me, as the idea that the police force there has no rules or standards of behavior and that the public actions wouldn't draw unwanted outside attention (citizens, religious authorities, press).
In general all the characters seemed to be unlikeable and flat. They also used British-isms in their dialog and thoughts, so I never felt they were actually Turkish so much as reflecting the author's origin. The description of the city was so-so, with not a lot done to express it as an exotic foreign place other than that it had dark twisty alleys, and sections with unpronounceable names. A pronunciation guide would have been helpful overall, I knew some but was not sure of others.
The mystery was OK. There was a lot of pointless wandering in terms of the police solving it, and the suspects waiting for the other shoe to drop. As soon as it was presented that the suspect family was Russian and there was a tie back to the revolution it was clear to me what the mystery was. Nadel seems to be of the Alexanda-is-the-root-of-all-evil camp, which does not please me with its inherent sexism, and nationalism. The author also pulled a fast one by making a character magically exist when the murder was explained. There was a brief foreshadowing of the character's existence, but it was not done properly.
The ending has many explanations so the reader knows more than the police. It is explained, but not really wrapped up. I was fine with it. It seemed to address both schools of ending: those who want completion, and those who don't want a pat ending. Purists in either camp may be unsatisfied.
Over all it was not great, but not terrible. Perhaps because it was good, I thought it had the potential to be better than it was. I would rate it 2.5 stars, but don't knoiw how to do a half star here, or if they are even available.
I am going to read the second one, and possibly the third. I usually give a series 3 books to let the author get the kinks out before giving up.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is the second Nefertiti book I have read this year. It is certainly the better written one, but it also has some major problems...more**spoiler alert** This is the second Nefertiti book I have read this year. It is certainly the better written one, but it also has some major problems, and is perhaps less honest than Nick Drake's book.
The writing is wonderful. Its smooth and flowing and it sucks you right in. The story is about Nefertiti, the wife and Queen of Ahkenaten, the heretic Pharaoh who throws down Egypt's many gods, and introduces monotheism. He also ignores the running of the country, the defense of its territories and the needs of the common people. He ends up reviled and hated. His body has never been found*, and there is no record of his death.
The story is told from the POV of Nefertiti's half sister Mutnodjmet. It should be stated that this is not historical fiction, it is fictionalized history. These are real people, and there are real events here. The fictionalized part is coloring in the details of the events and the words, actions, reasons and emotions of those involved. Moran does a good job of presenting her interpretations, and story. It just that to me it isn't all that worthwhile in the long run.
The problems for me have to do with her portrayals of the main characters. The good ones, Mutny, are squeaky clean, and always do the right thing. The bad ones, have no redeeming qualities and always do bad things. By the middle of the book it seems that you are back in high school with the constant cult of self-absorption, the emotional volatility, the inability to see the larger picture, and the focus on minor issues that become blown out of proportion. There are no shades or depth to most of the people in the book. They are one thing, and have one job to do on stage, and they do it. Moran tries to explain why Nefertiti behaves as she does, but it is little more than scattering pixie dust. Nefertiti never becomes a complex character, and Mutny has been assigned the role of 'simple' and 'honest'.
The main story develops into Nefertiti's rivalry with Kia, a secondary wife. It tires you out and bores you. You have all this wonderful history all around, and you are stuck with Nefertiti while she sulks over which piece of jewelry to wear to make Kia look bad. And it goes on like that for pages and pages. Sort of The USA Today/MTV version of how people in history behaved. Think the HBO series The Tudors, but set in ancient Egypt.
Finally Mutny is the opposite of Nefertiti and they end up becoming estranged 2/3 of the way into the story. Because she is the POV we go with Mutny to watch her normal life. As a depiction of everyday life its fine, but the action is back in Amarna. When Mutny finally returns it is the end of the reign. One of the major mysteries is what happened, yet because of the way the novel was structured it is rushed into 100 pages.
In fact she makes up the ending, because there really isn't much actual fact. She has taken the tidy route, where disease carries most off. She has also condensed the time line, so his daughters are all still young children. It side-steps the discomforting (for us) option where they believe Ahkenaten marries his two eldest daughters and start producing children (3, all girls), which results eventually in the death of one of the daughters.
Moran doesn't deal with disappearance with Nefertiti at all, she simply has her change her name (Smenkhare) and become a co-Pharaoh. Ignoring the fact that Meritaten becomes the chief wife in Nefertiti's place (paintings), and that the family is never depicted as complete, after Neferiti's disappearance (no depictions with the 2 pharaohs and their children).
It isn't a terrible book, but for me it seems a bit tawdry and dishonest, and it could have been so much more.
Moran also never really explains why Akhenaten is the way he is, or why he gets worse. We are just supposed to believe he is nuts, and nothing is done with any kind of modern interpretation of mental illness. He is crazy and that is used as the boogy man to scare ancient and modern alike, so no one asks any difficult questions.
Moran does try to explain the art, its style and the incredible access to the royal family that is portrayed, and it was a convincing job.
The book echoes an earlier, and superior work about Ahkenaten by Pauline Gedge, called The Twelfth Transforming,
Still I will read the next book in the series when it goes into paper. There is less history to trample, since some don't even believe Smenkhare existed, it may be better. Also they will all be older and the rivalry with Kia will be over.
______________________________________ * Some believe the body in KV 55 is Akhenaten, while others believe it is Smenkhare. The difference lies in the ages of the bones, and there have been several conflicting interpretations. All pretty much agree the body is closely related to Tut, either father (Akhenaten) or brother (Smenkhare).
Since another unexplained older male heir (Smenkhare) is too much for the current pat theory that Tut was Akhenaten's son by Kia, those who believe that tend to think that Smenkhare didn't exist, or was really Nefertiti, and the bones are older and Akhenaten's. Those who can't accept Tut as a son, since he was never depicted with the royal family, are more open minded about the bones being, younger and possibly Smenkhare.(less)