Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Brutal Telling

by Louise Penny

I wish I could describe my thoughts and feelings about Louise Penny's books.  Everything I come up with sounds so superlative - over the top and unbelievable, but that is really how I feel.  Those of you who have read them know what I'm talking about and those who haven't read them are greatly missing out.

Penny's  writing transports us to the village of Three Pines just south of Montreal and to the wonderful, kooky, flawed, generous characters who live there.  I feel like I could almost dissolve into the book and be there myself, surrounded by good friends.  Of course, I'd be hoping for a murder so Inspector Gamache would have to join the group. 
"He smiled and not for the first time she thought the rarest thing she'd ever found was Chief Inspector Gamache."

The Brutal Telling is the 5th in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series.  It's a series that starts out strong and just gets better with each book.   In this one a murdered body is found in Olivier's bistro - a body that no one in the village can identify!  Gamache and his team are called to to strip back layers of lies and catch an unlikely killer.

There are many facets of meaning to every one of Penny's books.  The plot itself is immensely spellbinding as is Penny's ability to grasp the intricacies of human nature.  I love the way she will use a motif several times throughout her books and apply it to different circumstances or turn it in a new light to add greater meaning and depth.  I've often thought that if these books were not mysteries she would have a greater audience and be among the best selling fiction authors.  Many who shrug off mysteries as unfit literary fare would be surprised and pleased with the graceful, eloquent writing.

I'm anxiously looking forward to the next in the series which will be out the end of Sep.  I may have to fight my husband for it because he loves the books as much as I do.  And then there's my mother - but I think we can grab and run with it faster than she can!

A few of my favorite passages.  I like to reread the passages I've book darted and when I do the story comes back to life for me.  I'm only going to add two of the many that I marked.  You are welcome to read these, if you'd like, but I include them mostly for my benefit.
What a tale those eyes told Gamache.  In them he saw the infant, the boy, the young man, afraid.  Never certain what he would find in his father.  Would he be loving and kind and warm today?  Or would he sizzle the skin off his son?  With a look, a word.  Leaving the boy naked and ashamed.  Knowing himself to be weak and needy, stupid and selfish.  So that the boy grew an outer hull to withstand the assault.  But while those skins saved tender young souls, Gamache knew, they soon stopped protecting and became the problem.  Because while the hard outer shell kept the hurt at bay, it also kept out the light.  And inside the frightened little soul became something else entirely, nurtured only in darkness.
He was like Pinocchio.  A man made of wood, mimicking humanity.  Shiny and smiling and fake.  And if you cut into him you'd see rings.  Circles of deceit and scheming and justification.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Breaking of Eggs and a Giveaway

by Jim Powell

Meet Feliks Zhukowski, a Pole in Paris and a hangover from another age. Decades back, he chose politics over people and ideas over love. Feliks’ life’s work is a travel guide to the old Eastern bloc. His personal life is a series of failures. Unfortunately for him, it’s 1991, Communism has collapsed and, at 61, his travel-writing days are numbered. So he decides to sell his guide. This sets in motion a series of life-changing events: he’ll meet the brother he hasn’t seen in fifty years, learn the truth about the mother he thought abandoned him, and get a second chance with a long-lost love. But, after five decades of misunderstanding, can he start his life afresh – and finally learn that you shouldn’t cook like Stalin?

I had just finished reading Louise Penny's A Rule Against Murder and had the next in that series calling my name when I started to read The Breaking of Eggs.  At about page 45 I couldn't ignore the tug at my heart from my favorite mystery series so I set aside this book and picked up The Brutal Telling.  After that I was ready to settle in with a communist egghead named Feliks.

It was very interesting to read from the perspective of someone who had such opposing political views than I do and I wasn't so sure I would like being in his head. But I did like it, even learned a lot about myself and about Europe before and during the 2nd World War.

When I said, "I liked it" I should have said that I loved it.  Fritz is a very matter-of-fact guy and his narrative is the same.  I book darted 16 passages.  I thought this passage speaks as strongly of today's political atmosphere as it did in the 30's and 40's:
That's the trouble with times like that.  When you have a threat from one extreme, people run to the other extreme to prevent it.  It doesn't matter which extreme is the devil and which is the savior.  What matters is that the center collapses.  Everything reasonable goes straight out the window.
And this one when Feliks was contemplating the destruction of the Berlin Wall and his interaction with an important person to him.
Our wall came down through weakness.  My weakness in allowing myself to be hurt by the taunts of a fascist.  Her weakness in allowing a pinch of vulnerability to sneak beneath her defenses and make her momentarily confess the wretchedness of her life.  Two moments of weakness resulting in, what, a moment of strength?  How could strength come about in such a way?  How could that be the way you built strength?  You built strength by constructing walls, not by demolishing them.  Surely that is what you did.
And finally this one:
It was necessary to be selective about the past.  Things happened to all of us that should not happen, that we wished had not happened.  We had to put these things behind us, not to pretend they had not happened, but not to dwell on them either, and to make a new life and meet new people and get on with it.  There were fault lines in the cloths that each of us had woven, places where the warp and the weft of life had become disjointed.  If you revisited those places, there was always the danger that everything you had subsequently woven would unravel.
Let me add that this book was long listed for the The Desmond Elliott Prize for  New Fiction.

Thanks to Lindsay and Penguin for sending me this wonderful book.  Also, for providing a chance for you to win a copy for yourself.

To Win The Breaking of Eggs by Jim Powell:
Leave a comment with a way for me to reach you so I can let you know you won.  I know you will!
Drawing Date:  August 18 midnight 

***FTC Disclosure:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review, no other compensation was given, all opinions are my own***

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Penguin Anniversary Winners Announced

I love this part of giveaways!

The winner of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The winner of Donna Leon's Acqua Alta 
Cindi  from  A Utah Mom's Life

This is a blog that I have frequented for years.  She always has cute stories about her kids but she also features activities and fun venues around the state of Utah.

Congratulations to you both!

I would also like to send a BIG Thank-you to Penguin for providing the books for this giveaway.  And for providing me a copy of each of these books.  Totally Awesome!