A romantic comedy about a tough but big-hearted female divorce lawyer who discovers that her little sister is marrying the brother of the ex-husband wA romantic comedy about a tough but big-hearted female divorce lawyer who discovers that her little sister is marrying the brother of the ex-husband who broke her heart 13 years ago. Does she get back with her ex? I'll give you 3 guesses and the first two don't count.
Despite hitting a lot of familiar rom com notes, this was a standout among other fluffy fiction books I've read because of how funny and competently plotted the story was and the mostly non-terrible, often hilarious prose ... This was more like chick lit than straightforward romance, in terms of the focus on story and humor versus erotic scenes. In fact I think I could recommend this to religiously more conservative friends looking to avoid graphic descriptions of the latter sort. Faux swear words were also generally used in place of real ones. (Which actually kinda bugged me - "Crotch!" And "Holy Testicle Tuesday!" put in frequent appearances ...) But on the whole, a very fun read - I read it in one sitting which is always a good sign.
I'd been reading so much heavy duty stuff lately that I really needed something to just relax my brain, and this hit the spot. I heard about it from Janet Reid's blog, who I think is the author's agent. Man that lady know how to promote her authors! But I'm glad she did....more
A historical novel depicting Yehoshuah (the historical Jesus) through the eyes of four different people who encountered him: his mother Mary, Judas IsA historical novel depicting Yehoshuah (the historical Jesus) through the eyes of four different people who encountered him: his mother Mary, Judas Iscariot, the high priest Caiaphas, and the criminal/revolutionary Barrabas, whom the crowd demanded be set free in place of Yehoshuah prior to Yehoshuah's crucifixion. (In this book, one can't speak of "The" Crucifixion with a capital C, since there are crucifixions left and right.)
This book was artfully constructed and very competently written. Religiously conservative Christian believers may find some elements of it offensive - the author Naomi Alderman, writing fairly conspicuously from a Jewish perspective, begins from the viewpoint that Jesus is a man of the period, a traveling preacher of which there were many, teaching doctrines little removed from those of other rabbis. Historically, of course, with millennia of faith subtracted from the equation, her version of the story makes perfect sense.
My reaction to this book is a little complicated ... on the one hand, I admired the artistry of how she structured it, and her bravery in telling her straightforward view about who might have lied and how and why in the process of constructing the Jesus of Christianity. Of course, I'm an unbeliever myself, so I found the realism of her approach very refreshing.
There were a few things I didn't like, though. If she had confined herself to the notion of the humanity of the people who lied, and the way in which even the lies circle around people who were still very interesting figures, all would have been well. But instead, halfway or three quarters of the way through the story I started to feel she was getting into the age old question of who was to blame for Jesus being crucified. The anti-Semites' answer, of course, has always been "The Jews." Alderman's answer is the traditional Jewish rebuttal - no, it was the Romans. There are few or no good Romans in her book. Granted, she is writing from the standpoint of Jewish characters, but still ... by dehumanizing the Romans and leaving out their viewpoint, she really introduces a fatal philosophical and aesthetic flaw ... they become an army of mostly two-dimensional monsters. And the book's aesthetic purpose becomes subordinate to a kind of anti-defamation subtext that cheapens the enterprise. That was a disappointing choice to me.
The book also follows the tradition of many past historical novels about Jesus in being stone-cold sober with a somber atmosphere (cf. Jose Saramago, Phillip Pullman), if it at least has the virtue of avoiding any syrupy inspirational tone. None of the characters were very likeable or sympathetic (again, cf Saramago, Pullman). And it was all a little depressing. So if you are looking for something a little more upbeat, stick with Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.
As for her treatment of the historical aspects of the period, it will probably sound strange for me to say this, but I felt like Alderman's Judaea was, well, a little too Jewish. All the characters have Hebrew names. Well, great, right, didn't they speak Hebrew? Actually, probably not - but rather Aramaic or Greek. Hebrew was little enough used that Targumim, or Aramaic translations of the scriptures, had to be used in most synagogues. Alderman lets us know right up there in the book's dedication that she's studied Hebrew and Latin, lest we doubt her chops, and she does indeed do wonderfully well at giving us the flavor of Hebrew in the character names and the occasional cultural tidbit - but there is hardly any flavor of Aramaic in the book, and less of Greek.
In fact, my impression from reading into the history of the period is that the culture was not so monolithically Hebrew, let alone so monolithically Rabbinic Jewish. "Judaism" as such did not exist during the time of Jesus, any more than Christianity did - the system of rabbinic rulings was in its infancy and there is no conclusive evidence that rabbinic norms were practised widely before the temple's destruction. Hellenization was a powerful force, there were a lot of pagan cities and pagan inhabitants throughout the region, Greek and Syrian and Aramaic and Nabataean-Arabic cultural elements all had their own peculiarities. The Idumaeans in the south were not all that Jewish, having only relatively recently been forcibly converted to the Israelite religion under the Hasmoneans, and Galilee too had been converted and had not long before been pagan. It was viewed as kind of a backwoods area, is my impression, and the rabbis sometimes called it "Gallilee of the Gentiles."
That's why I say Naomi Alderman's Judaea is a little too Jewish, because I think the real Judaea was a much more religiously and culturally fragmented place than she depicts. Now, that said, every writer about this period has to interpret the historical evidence as best he or she can - usually none of us are full-time scholars in the field - and I think by emphasizing the Hebrew and normative rabbinic culture in her depiction, she has illuminated very important aspects of the historical Jesus. So even if it might not be a full or perfect picture, it's still an important one, and this is a valuable work. ...more
A popular-style history of Herod the Great's successors, by a British author, from the late 1950s. This was kind of fun and well-written, a readable sA popular-style history of Herod the Great's successors, by a British author, from the late 1950s. This was kind of fun and well-written, a readable summary of the main classical sources, but the style is so, so 1950s British. I'll admit, that was part of the fun for me ... Perowne goes around making value judgments right and left, in a way that would never fly for a historian today, and clearly writes from a Judeo-Christian-centric perspective. If you can groove with the dated style and just want a readable overview of the history, it's pretty accessible - you just have to take the opinionated bits with a few grains of salt! May not be the best pick for more advanced history buffs or academic researchers though....more
A convict named Shadow is released from prison only to find out his wife is dead. And then he gets hired as errand boy to a down-at-the-mouth old NordA convict named Shadow is released from prison only to find out his wife is dead. And then he gets hired as errand boy to a down-at-the-mouth old Nordic god who gradually reveals that all the old gods from the old countries that have sent immigrants to America are facing a war with the new gods of technology and celebrity. And through this fun adventure/quest/war/fantasy story, the author explores America's nature as a blending of all cultures and peoples, as an unbelieving/believing country, the meaning of myth and deity, and all kinds of other side roads.
I wondered what all the Neil Gaiman hype was about, and now I know. This book was just relentlessly inventive and lot of fun. The constant juxtapositions of dignified and venerable old myths with the gritty, tacky realities of modern America held my interest, even though, I grant you, the story was rather bloated with too many characters and more wandering than necessary, and there is so much breadth that we lose depth. But without judging it in terms of something it wasn't trying to be, this was a terrific romp.
(Religiously conservative readers, you may want to approach this with caution - on the one hand, it'd be sad to give this one a miss because it taps so well into the Zeitgeist and collective unconscious dreamworld of myths and legends ... But on the other hand, there is vulgarity, frank sexual encounters (though I wouldn't exactly call them gratuitous), homosexuality, and so on.)
My favorite scene of the book was the homoerotic one-night-stand between a homesick Omani businessman and a male taxi-cab driving "ifrit" or djinn. It was just so unexpected and wonderful, I felt like only a very broad, generous, honest, all-embracing mind could have thought to put it there....more
Wonderfully written scary middle-grade story, with wonderfully creative twists. Though I must have read this about seventy years ago, the image of theWonderfully written scary middle-grade story, with wonderfully creative twists. Though I must have read this about seventy years ago, the image of the cold glowing gray eyeglasses has always stuck with me. Easy to see why this is a classic that would still resonate with kids today. Though it makes me sad for the days before TV and video games and crazy consumerism, when being a kid was all about exploring and reading....more