I'm not sure what I think about this book. On the one hand, Akunin is a master storyteller, and he keeps the tension high, alternating Pelagia's accou...moreI'm not sure what I think about this book. On the one hand, Akunin is a master storyteller, and he keeps the tension high, alternating Pelagia's account of her journey through Russia and Palestine with that of the merciless killer stalking her. On the other, this mystery is very different from those of the first two books, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Pelagia is chasing a holy fool, a strange mystic with the power to read people's characters and change their behavior with a word. She's misdirected at every turn, with impostors and decoys muddying the waters of her investigation, and encounters other pilgrims to the Holy Land who keep turning up along the way. All of that makes for a good mystery.
What I'm not sure about is the ending, where Pelagia finally catches up with her quarry--and it turns out she's been after him not to solve the mystery of why people want him dead, but because of a mystical experience she herself had. The novel ends with a stunning development that rewrites Christian history and puts Pelagia on an unusual path--it reminds me a little of the ending of Life of Pi, actually--but I felt that it was the wrong kind of twist. Even so, I enjoyed it very much, and it was still an excellent ending to the trilogy.(less)
In this YA thriller, five people go as a church group to rebuild an orphanage in a fictional South American country and are caught up in that country'...moreIn this YA thriller, five people go as a church group to rebuild an orphanage in a fictional South American country and are caught up in that country's civil war. It's an exciting and well-paced novel with plenty of action, and I think it hits its mark exactly. The main character, Will, is a realistic 16-year-old: full of uncertainty yet driven with a desire to do the right thing. Palmer, the group's pilot, ends up being their reluctant guide and protector as they try to escape the country, and he treats Will as the competent person he wants to be, with the result that that's exactly who Will becomes.
What I like most about this book is its even-handed treatment of Christian faith. Religious characters are far too often dupes or hypocrites or villains, but Klavan portrays his characters' religious faith as natural and fitting for them, without being preachy. That Will and his friends turn to prayer when facing challenges is charming and believable.
There's also an interesting dynamic between the adults of the group, the cynical Palmer and the saintly Meredith. Again, Meredith (who is seen through Will's infatuated eyes) could have been as perfectly perfect and composed in the face of danger as Will thinks she is. And it's true that one of the quibbles that I have with the book is that the reason Meredith has such rock-solid faith didn't seem powerful enough to have turned her into someone who can face death without flinching. Despite this, she doesn't seem perfect and makes an excellent foil for Palmer, who came very close to leaving them all behind (though it's impossible to believe he would have, because the story would have ended right there). Overall, it's an enjoyable and exciting story.(less)
Wow. I'd heard from friends that they just couldn't put this book down, and they were totally right. Not because it's some kind of wild action story w...moreWow. I'd heard from friends that they just couldn't put this book down, and they were totally right. Not because it's some kind of wild action story with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, but because the tension builds slowly toward a disaster almost no one in the story believes will happen. It doesn't matter that you're pretty sure Jill, the main character, will survive; the question is, will anyone else? More importantly, is Jill going to be strong enough to hold fast to her belief until that deadline?
It's different and a little refreshing to read a novel in which the characters' religious beliefs are important to them and yet part of the background. People from a Judeo-Christian religion are probably familiar with the Old Testament stories of prophets who gave warnings to the people of their day, and Lost Melody turns this into a modern story about someone who receives such a warning. Scripture stories are distant and a little abstract; Jill's experience with delivering a warning of imminent disaster touches on the very real problems that would entail--being mocked by your neighbors, doubted by your friends, and having your words turned around to make you seem crazy. I loved it.(less)
For about five minutes back in 1987, I wanted to be a nun. This book is why.
I'm not Catholic, but Rumer Godden's fantastic novel about a career woman...moreFor about five minutes back in 1987, I wanted to be a nun. This book is why.
I'm not Catholic, but Rumer Godden's fantastic novel about a career woman who leaves everything behind for a monastic life still appeals to me. I think it's because at heart, In This House of Brede is about things that are not specific to a contemplative life or even just to Catholicism. Love. Faith. Humility. Joy. Dame Philippa, the central character (though as this is a Rumer Godden novel, "central character" doesn't mean what it does elsewhere) makes this journey of faith that has relevance to any life; who doesn't have to overcome trials that seem mountainous only to us? Or learn to forgive someone who caused us incredible, unforgivable pain? This novel reminds me that truth doesn't have to come from your own religious tradition to make a difference to you.(less)