The book drew Ian in right in the first few paragraphs...and he couldn't stop reading it the first night. He immediately guessed that the disease wasThe book drew Ian in right in the first few paragraphs...and he couldn't stop reading it the first night. He immediately guessed that the disease was Yellow Fever, which he knew a little bit about. Kids nowadays are more knowledgeable than our times....more
The plot: Was there one, or the author just followed her flow as she wrote with no clear direction? Nothing is logicalI waited 7 years for this book.
The plot: Was there one, or the author just followed her flow as she wrote with no clear direction? Nothing is logical except for the business aspects of the shops.
The pace: Slow with lots of repetitive scenes and actions.
The characters: Dicken-ish, an unlovable man and some revengeful rooks (large black raven-like birds).
The setting: Great, if you like business and old time London in a bleak and dark way with lots of deaths.
The writing: Only thing that kept me reading till the end; wonderful use of words, lyrical prose…not without struggle, though.
The story was quite simple. Bellman, as a boy, killed a rook with a catapult while his three friends watched. Bellman later became a very successful businessman, a family-owned mill and a stranger inspired funeral business called Bellman and Black. On the personal side he suffered through lots of deaths of family and friends. The deaths may or may not have something to do with his killing of the rook. He became a bit detached from his human side, ignoring friends and family. Then he died, which, similarly, may or may not has anything to do with the killing of the rook.
I could tell Diane Setterfield spent a great deal of time doing research for this book. Her descriptions and facts of rooks, mills and the funeral business were all spectacular and informative. Although most readers enjoy more plot-driven books, I truly love reading books that also implemented real facts of certain subjects, especially places, customs and history, as long as the facts contribute to the understanding of the story. Case in point: Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and Diane Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. Although Setterfield wrote extensively about running the business of a mill and a funeral home, and included lots of facts about rooks, and weak plot and character makes these facts overbearing and a waste of time. Her prose was brilliant, as usual. She’s an expert in using the right phrases and arranging her words for the right effect. Her usage of English is excellent and her descriptions evocative. Sometimes orotund and overly wordy in a lifeless way:
“Far from it. The rook is no theatrical conjuror with his top hat full of tricks, deluding your eye into perceiving what is not. He is quite the opposite: a magician of the real. Ask your eyes, What color is light? They cannot tell you. But a rook can. He captures the light, splits it, absorbs some and radiates the rest in a delightful demonstration of optics, showing you the truth about light that your own poor eyes cannot see.”
After reading the above paragraph, one would wonder: are colors and the rook’s perception of colors important to the story? NO.
“His cry is harsh and grating, made for a more ancient world that existed before the innovation of the pipe, the lute and the viol. Before music was invented he was taught to sing by the planet itself. He mimicked the great rumble of the sea, the fearsome eruption of the volcanoes, the creaking of glaciers, and the geological groaning as the world split apart in its agony and remade itself.”
Lots of passages like the above two, plus pages and pages of words describing Bellman running his day-to-day businesses. Prose did not help the story’s lack of luster in this case.
Unless you intend to buy the book to read how beautiful her words are and you are okay without feeling a bit of resonance in your heart for the characters or their situation; or you are one of those more elite readers, skip this and read her first book, The Thirteenth Tale, instead.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance reading copy....more
As a lover for fiction from faraway lands, I noticed and kept track of this title way before publication date. I love to read about how war and historAs a lover for fiction from faraway lands, I noticed and kept track of this title way before publication date. I love to read about how war and history could affect all of us, no matter where we are, where we were from. This is the debut novel of Sahar Delijani. She drew examples for this story from her parents and other family members, who were actually imprisoned in the Evin Prison in the 1980s. Ms. Delijani was born there. One could safely say that this book is part memoir, part fiction.
The book opened with a heart-gripping chapter. A pregnant woman prisoner, Azar, was being taking to a local hospital fanned by “sisters” and “brothers,” or male and female prison guards from Evin. She was blindfolded and suffering from humility, harsh treatment and contraction pain. When she finally was allowed to sit down somewhere, she thought a doctor was going to see her. Yet an interrogator came in, with paper and pen, hoping to break her during her time of weakness and pain, with her baby about to slip out… This was the best chapter of the book.
Not much is known about the Evin Prison, since most prisoners were blindfolded while being transported within; it has the most efficient interrogative methods that could break any human, and it was crowded. It was built to fit 350 prisoners but holds up to 15,000 all the time. It’s also called Evin University, due to the number of intellectuals who were imprisoned, tortured or killed there. It’s the prison not only for actual criminals, but also intellectuals, students, activists, Christians, journalists… In other words, any one who’s believed to oppose the Iranian government. The prison is right at the border of the city of Tehran, and its cold tall walls could be visible from many homes.
The stories in the book took place during 1980’s in Tehran, where there was a mass arrest of political activists, to the present, around 2011 in Europe, American and Iran. The chapters went back and forth between the two periods. There were many characters, which were all somewhat related to one to one another and somehow looked, talked and act similar to each other due to the lack or development or similar descriptions: dark hair, dark eyes, and stocky for men. They were the prisoners of Evin and their children who grew up with the effect of war and their emotionally broken parents. Among these kids were Omid, Sara, Neda and Forough who were cousins. The kids carry their parents pain, so they are also broken, suffering and in no way happy or normal, although their love for the country remain strong, even after fleeing to the west with their parents.
I really wanted to give the book 5 stars. It has, as predicted, opened my eyes to the history of Iran, which I only had just a vague idea about. I loved the intended plot; I loved the concept; I loved the way the author narrates, with such lyrical prose and well-used metaphors and symbolism. However, the book is a bit disjointed, the characters were all very similar to each other (except for one or two), the plot did not flow smoothly enough so the book was read like a collection of vignettes. The descriptions were not only weak for characters, but also for the most important place, the prison. The cousins’ home and relationship were just barely scanned over. There’s so much potential to elaborate, to embellish… Unfortunately some sentiments and descriptions were used once too many, like the author was trying too hard to come up with more and new descriptive words or poetic terms. I ended up flipping through pages just to get the book going.
However, I still think this book is worth reading as a debut novel and as an introduction to the sad history and present situation of Iran, since I could feel the author’s love for her country in every single page. A hardback might be better and easier to read than the ebook version due to the various characters that have similar names, descriptions and feelings.
This is a 3.5 star book, the 0.5 extra is for the poetic words and the great opening.
There was a question on one of the book pages I frequent: "Name the last book that kept you up all night." It was an easy question for me to answer. SThere was a question on one of the book pages I frequent: "Name the last book that kept you up all night." It was an easy question for me to answer. Since I read all the time, I hardly stay up all night to finish a book; I have all day to do it. However, in a trip to Thailand many years ago, I hid in the bathroom to finish a book, a rather difficult book due to all the historical facts. I hid in the bathroom so my light did not bother the other members of my family (prior Kindle time). The book, The Twentieth Wife, was by this author. Since then, I've read a few more books by Indu Sundaresan, and none has disappointed me. I enjoyed this story as much as, if not more than, all the others.
This book, like all her books, was written with intensive research into the history of India (also England in this case.) The story is centered around the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a gorgeous yellow diamond that's was held by rulers in Hindu, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and finally British, countries. The diamond was once around 186 carats and its name means "Mountain of Light." It has a curse that is believed for centuries to bring bad luck to all its male owners. They suffered from sicknesses, the loss of their throne, or worse, death. Only women owners could wear it safely without suffering any ill effects.
“The diamond is said to have held a curse. Legend had it that the Kohinoor could be safely possessed only by a woman, that no man who had it would long hold his kingdom, and that it could never be worn in the official crown of a monarch (hence, perhaps, the reason it was worn in an armlet or set in a throne). In India, Persia, and Afghanistan, during the diamond’s tumultuous and bloody history, only men owned the Kohinoor.” **
With her known beautiful words and realistic descriptions of people and sights of the period, along with reliable facts, the story begins when the Koh-i-Noor was given to the Punjab ruler Maharajah Ranjit Singh so he could help the Afghan ruler Shah Shuja regain his lost throne. The story ended with the death of Dulip Singh in Paris and the ownership of Koh-i-Noor in British Empire. From page one, the reader will feel transported back to the sound and sight of old India. Through out the book, you will experience the love of the young who are full of hope for a better future; the power of rulers, the betrayal and loyalty of human, the architecture and sights of India, the brutality of conquest, and the sadness and hopelessness of old age and along with losing one’s country. The smell of Chai and saffron will still linger after you close the book. It’s the best journey a reader could ever hope to achieve.
Other than everything that mentioned above...this story offers a very interesting take on the effect of colonialism. It's quite a sad book to read. I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss for the diamond, for the puppet maharajah Dulip Singh...and for his three children that all had no heir. History, which could never be forgotten, influences all of us. Will the human race really learn from their past mistakes?
If you have time, google the Koh-i-Noor and admire it on the crown of the Queen of England. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, regardless how it was obtained…
**Thanks to Washington Square Press for a preview galley. The quote was from the advanced reader's copy. ...more