This book takes place during the late 19th century in Paris. The story focuses on a poor working class family of young women: Antoinette, Marie, CharlThis book takes place during the late 19th century in Paris. The story focuses on a poor working class family of young women: Antoinette, Marie, Charlotte, and their absinthe-addicted mother. Their father’s death has left them struggling to make the rent and put food on the table. The girls’ most promising escape is to become part of the ballet corps at the Paris Opera House.
Through their engrossing story, we learn about the novel’s themes of sisterhood, family, poverty, dance, art, vulnerability, and the most interesting theme (for me) of physiogonomy. Judging a person’s character by their appearance, especially of the face, was popular during this time. The novel explores how people might react or be influenced by such a wide-spread pseudoscientific theory. How would that affect your behavior and your potential?
The narrative switches between Marie and Antoinette’s stories. We see the desperation of the petit rats behind the glamour of the ballet and opera house and the poverty of the working class. We see how a famous artist (Degas) might have painted his models. As Marie and Antoinette’s stories intersected and came to its emotional and satisfying conclusion, I was enthralled by what would happen next. This book is highly recommended. ...more
On the surface, “The Map of Lost Memories” hits all my bookish sweet spots: archaeology, history, an evocative setting, and the political machinationsOn the surface, “The Map of Lost Memories” hits all my bookish sweet spots: archaeology, history, an evocative setting, and the political machinations of the museum world. In the 1920s, Irene Blum travels to Cambodia to search for the lost scrolls of the Khmer Empire. Irene has a troubled past and an obsession with Khmer art and history. Not much is known about the Khmer Empire to Westerners at the time (or now, you could argue), especially regarding how and why the empire disappeared. Irene wants to find the scrolls and gain professional prestige so she can run her own museum focused on Khmer art in the US. It is a fabulous premise and one I was wholeheartedly interested in following. How romantic to think of jungle temples lost in time!
The book’s strengths lie in its descriptions of the mood and setting of SE Asia and its willingness to bring the complex issues of French colonialism, empire, and cultural ownership to the mix of issues pervading the book. I actually wanted to read the book on my balcony so I could feel the humid heat of the tropics (lately, this summer’s humidity feels tropical) to make the scenes come additionally alive. I loved the descriptions of the apsaras, temple architecture, and plants in Cambodia and Vietnam.
My major quibbles with the book were that I felt it dragged in places. I understand the quest aspect of Irene and Simone’s search, but I felt that some of the scenes could have been cut to keep the plot tighter. I didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the characters, and there were too many characters and issues that emerged but weren’t satisfactorily resolved.
However, I want the kind of life these characters lived (but with less snakes and mosquitoes). The book did stay with me and left me with a lingering melancholy. I was enthralled by Irene’s obsession with the Khmer Empire and longed for an intellectual obsession like that. But some of the revolutionary seeds that Fay plants in the book become all too real in the future history of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge took their name from the Khmer Empire, and with hindsight, we all know what atrocities they committed to their own people. It’s tragic to know what is in store for the people in Irene and Clothilde's world. It's obvious that the author shares the love of this part of the world with her characters and I am very interested in reading what she writes next. ...more
I am sort of in love with these mysteries set in the Greek islands. I've only read the first two so far. While the mystery itself is not hard to figurI am sort of in love with these mysteries set in the Greek islands. I've only read the first two so far. While the mystery itself is not hard to figure out, the atmosphere, characters, and presence of the island culture itself makes the series intriguing. The central mystery, of course, is the detective....more
This is the first time I had read noir stories set in India, which I welcomed. I don't generally read noir, but I love gothic novels, could that be siThis is the first time I had read noir stories set in India, which I welcomed. I don't generally read noir, but I love gothic novels, could that be similar? With this hope I started the anthology. I mostly enjoyed them. The short stories vary in their quality, of course. However, my favorite part was imagining these characters in some low budget Bollywood movie. Growing up watching Bollywood movies, this was enjoyably easy to do. Fun anthology, as long as you don't take it too seriously....more