I very much enjoyed this book - many quotable quotes and a real sense that the author had a grasp of the Afghan temperament. He did at least travel anI very much enjoyed this book - many quotable quotes and a real sense that the author had a grasp of the Afghan temperament. He did at least travel and live in the country for quite some months before attempting this book. Others here havegiven a good synopsis and critique of the book. I just want to emphasize, in my opinion, that the value of this book lies really in the narrative surrounding the central feminine character, Ellen Jasper. Although we only meet her some 100+ pages into the book, she is talked of and analysed at some length prior to this. The reason: she is a young American woman from an influential family who marries and Afghan engineer, returns to his homeland and then goes awol. Concerned parents bring pressure to bear at home -> senator pressures American consulate in Kabul -> young American seconded to that office assigned the task of locating young woman. The plot may be a bit tenuous it's true but the character of Ellen Jasper isn't. She's a beautiful, worldly, intelligent, high-spirited girl who is liked and loved by almost everyone she meets, men and women alike. As it transpires she leaves her engineer for a group of nomadic Kochis and takes young Mark the diplomat along with her. Much thought-provoking dialogue follows as they venture inland though some magnificent scenery. Ellen Jasper embodies the restless energy of youth and its disillusionment with the status quo. She claims to have married her Afghan engineer simply to spite her father and to pour scorn on his 'petty scale of judgement', but one feels there is more to her than just rebellion. Michener's portrayal of her is quite prescient. In many ways her character forstalled the sandal-wearing hippies, 3rd word groupies and volunteers of the latter half of the 20th century who have foregone the comforts and certainties of their working-class lives for the adventure and altruism of traveling, living and working in the so-called developing world. One other thing worth contemplating today as much as yesterday, in the words of the leading male character of the book: "He's right," I [Mark Miller] told Moheb. "You'd both better get used to Ellen Jasper," I warned. "Because once you let your women out of the chaderi, Afganistan's going to have a lot of girls like her."...more
I have to say this wasn't an easy read but it was certainly a worthwhile one. Other GR members have written very comprehensive reviews so won't repeatI have to say this wasn't an easy read but it was certainly a worthwhile one. Other GR members have written very comprehensive reviews so won't repeat what has been adequately said. In summary Kapuściński's journalistic nose is definitely attuned to the investigative. Goodness knows how far he went in his efforts to interview such a wide selection of people, many intimately connected with the palace of emperor (Haile Selassie). Probably the best passage for me is his account of a feast for dignitaries, of how the plates pass out of the palace banquet along a chain of waiters to a distant kitchen and the sighing of the hungry masses who feed on the scraps passed to them. This description of the collective is possibly one of the most evocative I can ever recall. Credit must also be given to the nameless interviewees who he denotes simply by initials. The book would not have been possible without them. I suspect Kapuściński infused the interviews with his own writing style. One gets the sense after reading a number of consecutive chapters. This is not to detract from the readability or authenticity of the tale in any way. In conclusion a very interesting read of a medieval kingdom and it's omnipotent demagogue that withstood the tide of the 20th century for 8 miraculous decades before it's (and his) inevitable demise. For another great excerpt read this post: https://leopassi.wordpress.com/2016/0...
I enjoyed this book even if it hadn't been proofed very well or is a mediocre bit of crime writing. The real value of this book is in what it has to sI enjoyed this book even if it hadn't been proofed very well or is a mediocre bit of crime writing. The real value of this book is in what it has to say about the Gezi Park Protests of 2013, themes the author is obviously well informed of, presumably because she spent 10 years in Turkey as a journalist. Her main character, a western Journalist called Kate, is a strong feminine lead, who forms a tight bond with her camerawoman, a young Turkish woman called Pelin, Turkey's first independent camerawoman. Pelin embodies the bold, self-reliant, 21st century Turkish woman standing up as bet she can to the excesses of the ruling Islamist government. It is through her that the reader is informed of the challenges to the aspirations of women in modern Turkey. Having travelled and lived for a stint in the country I know something of the state of affairs and can corroborate a lot of what is presented as factual information in the narrative. The government really did (does?) want to build a mosque in Taksim Square, the heart of the entertainment district, and would be quite happy to see a more Islamic nation where women spend more time at home raising large broods than doing professional jobs. The character of Muhammed is truly frightening in his commitment to re-creating a more Ottoman and Islamic Turkey, one essentially ruled by Sharia Law. If even a fraction of young Turkish men in the police or armed forces have his sort of mindset then it truly is cause for concern! Sabral also presents a very interesting appraisal of the state of play amongst the major power players in the nation through the eyes of the characters. Shaheen, head of The Movement is no doubt a proxy for Fetullah Gulen, an influential Turkish Muslim living in self-imposed exile in the US. The president is never referred to by name, only as The President, but is no doubt the ruling AKP's Mr Tayip Erdogan. So in summary I would say, yes, read this book for an entertaning account of the Gezi Protests through the eyes of a western journalist and a bevy of Turks ranging from a self-assured camerawomen to a homicidal zealot of a policeman to a marginally corrupt but nevertheless good-at-heart public prosector. As a crime thriller it is mediocre but a work of non-fiction I give it both thumbs up!...more
I enjoyed this book. Boyd does period pieces well, evoking the time and the place with conviction - viz-a-vis Vienna, early 20th century, and SE EnglaI enjoyed this book. Boyd does period pieces well, evoking the time and the place with conviction - viz-a-vis Vienna, early 20th century, and SE England around the same time. There is also more to this book than meets the eye. The complex interplay between the characters is deliberate and I got the annoying yet grudgingly satisfying feeling that I will be contemplating the plot and the outcome of the story for some time to come......more
By William Boyd's standards this is a very ordinary book. The plot is reasonably conceived even if it has been worked from a number of different angleBy William Boyd's standards this is a very ordinary book. The plot is reasonably conceived even if it has been worked from a number of different angles (Big Pharma silences whistleblower and pushes drug development after supressing data). However, as a number of reviewers point out, the story has a number of flaws. Besides the series of seredipidous crossing of paths the main protagonist, Adam Kindred, has too many contradictory personality traits to make him fully believable: former university academic par excellance; spouse to American glamour girl; philanderer; detective; etc. It's not that book is particularly bad - it's not - but by Boyd's standards there are too many holes in the narrative and he winds it up too quickly I felt leaving me with a distinct feeling of dissatisfaction....more