Sunday, 21 June 2015

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Image sourced from Lee Cannon
This is a novel of two parts. The first part is set in modern day, looking at the lives of Sabine and George as 70-something expats living in Trinidad. They have been there since Trinidad achieved it's independence and there is lots of discussion regarding what is still wrong with the country 50 years on. But more importantly, there is a lot going on with George and Sabine. And you're not sure what is happening, or what the history is. It slowly is revealed as the part, and the book goes on however.

The second part of the book is set 50 years earlier. It tells the story of George and Sabine coming to Trinidad as newly weds from London. The story is told from Sabine's perspective mainly, so you find out what it is like as a woman particularly on the island, where work wasn't an option as it would be for a man. But from Sabine, we get a look at the independence movement and the political atmosphere on the island from the observations in the street and the domestic house workers.

If I'm honest, the story was okay. I didn't like Sabine, so that made it hard. But the themes explored in the story, race, class, expat workers, political independence and agency was all well handled. I learnt a lot about Trinidad and it's history. I had a demonstration from my Trinidadian friend what steupsing was, which is important.

But the saviour was the writing, which was beautiful, descriptive and immersive. The descriptions of the island and the environment were invocative. I felt like I was on the island, looking at the flowers or iguanas, and feeling the heat. It lost the Prize-Formerly-known-as-Orange to The Lacuna, which I also enjoyed a lot more, but I can see why it was a contender.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Image sourced from here
Well. Why on earth have I not read this earlier? Why has no one forced this book upon me and told me I had to read it? Considered yourself cornered by me with wild crazy eyes, telling you to read it.

Welcome to the world of Karou. Karou is a 16 year old art student living in the beautiful city of Prague (seriously, the city descriptions are gorgeous. If the city is half as nice as the book suggests, I'm going to live there). She draws by day, hangs out with her friend in a weird gothic bar, and runs errands for her family at night. Her family however is a random group of mixed animal constructs. Who have portals that open up anywhere in our world. And trade in teeth.

You interested yet? I was. I wanted to know as much as I could about this world. It was different, interesting. Something a bit lacking in urban fantasy.

Add in a conflict, particularly with Seraphim (not what I learnt about in Bible study, but just as terrifying) and I was sold. There was the obligatory romance element to the story, but it was interesting enough to not be teenage angsty.

I want to tell you more. I really do. But I don't, as I don't want to spoil it for you. I'm leaning to 4.5 stars as I was annoyed at the ending. But I know there are another 2 books now, so I am glad I waited to read it for that reason. And I am going to find them. As soon as I can!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A Beautiful Place to Die

Image sourced from here
I grew up like so many children of the 80s and 90s knowing about apartheid. I knew that in South Africa black and white people were separated, and black people were denied things, and rights, and opportunities that white people had. I also remember it ending, and Nelson Mandela becoming President, lots of happy people and dancing.

So I've always had the knowledge of apartheid. But I don't think I have ever really had an understanding of apartheid. I mean, it's pretty straightforward, right? White and black? I never considered the tiering between Afrikaans and English, or Jews, or Indians, or mixed race, etc. This book explores all of this and some. My 7 year old knowledge was blown out of the water and highlighted as what it obviously was, incredibly naive and simplistic. But until I had to really think about it, I really never realised how simplistic I assumed it was.

Detective Emmanuel Cooper is a white, English police officer. He is called out to a small town on the border with Mozambique. He arrives at the murder scene of the Afrikaan police captain, who seems to pretty much rule the town with his pack of sons. In an incredibly volatile situation already, Detective Cooper also has to work with officers from the country's Intelligence Agency who have taken over the investigation, while also enforcing the new apartheid policy and stamping out communism.

It's very well written. Both the story itself and the writing as a whole. I didn't think the story would be able to string itself out for the whole book, but she did it well. I thought I had the culprit picked early, but that got flipped on it's head, which I love. The writing of the landscape and the area was by someone who obviously loves the land, and made it sound incredibly beautiful, even in its barrenness.

She also handled the political landscape very well, I was impressed. There was obviously a point of view in the book, but it never felt heavy handed. I definitely would recommend, it's well worth the read.