Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book log 15


SPLENDOUR FALLS
by Susanna Kearsley

I no longer remember who introduced me to this Canadian/British author, years ago, but I was instantly charmed. Like so many Mary Stewart fans, I’d been yearning for romantic suspense in her style, but there was only so many times I could reread Stewart’s books. First of all, they weren’t available in digital form and I’m spending more and more time reading that way (don’t fault me if you’re still of the paper school; chaรงun a son gout and all that), and her books were getting harder and harder to find. When I started to read the Kearsley book I had been given (I think it might have been The Shadowy Horses), I knew I had met Stewart’s successor.

These days, of course, that is more true than a simple blandishment, since Lady Stewart has just passed away. But Splendour Falls reminds me that my first impression was correct. Though this book is one of her earlier works (through one problem or another, her books weren’t available in the US, but they were close by, in Canada; they’re now available through US publisher Sourcebooks) and slower in pace than her later ones, it has the same detailed story, finely shaped characters, and a setting that comes alive (scary!). The setting, Chinon, France, is also that for Mary Stewart’s novel Nine Coaches Waiting, one of my favorites, so that was nice; whereas Stewart’s novel took place for the most part in a mansion in the area and its history had no place in it, Kearsley, as she often does in her books, dives enthusiastically into the local history and works it into the story. I want to go!

When I first found out that she was writing for Sourcebooks and had her books available in the US, I was happy and eager to share my find among my friends. In the end, I ended up buying multiple copies. I bought a digital copy for me, a print copy for me (I was still weaning myself from the print thing), and two copies for friends. And it was worth every penny.

Coming up: WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, and more!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Book log 14


THE FIFTEENTH PELICAN
by Tere Rios

Serendipitously, I turned on the TV a few weeks ago and caught the last minute or so of a show that came and went in the late 1960s, a sitcom called THE FLYING NUN. You may or may not know it: It starred Sally Field, a petite actress who’s been around for decades, starting as a young actress. (If you’ve heard of an earlier show called GIDGET in the early 1960s, she was the “girl midget,” which is how “Gidget” was named.) Anyway, THE FLYING NUN was just that, about a flying nun, taking to the air because she was small and light and her headdress (cornet) was aerodynamically sound and the breezes in San Juan were stiff enough to set her into the skies. Again anyway, after I caught the ending credits, once more I noticed the notice about the show being based on a book by Tere Rios. Once more intrigued by book-to-TV adaptations, I decided to do a bit of research, and yes, I found the book in the Seattle Public Library. I love the library. Support yours, folks. You never know what you’re going to find. Provided yours isn’t throwing out books in favor of technology, of course. Too many are.

As you might have guessed, the book on which the sitcom was based was titled THE FIFTEENTH PELICAN, and it’s a sweet little book. Unlike the previous book-to-TV adaptation I read (“Phoenix Island”), the show is pretty faithful to the book, about Sister Bertrille, a tiny, spunky, American nun assigned to a convent in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the design of the nun’s hat is configured in such a way that the winds in the area pick up and send the nun up into the air from time to time. It’s a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, absurdist comedy that also looks at culture shock. Puerto Rico is part of the United States, but it’s hard to remember when it’s not part of the 48 continguous states, with a history and distinctive culture of its own.

If you can find the book, I’d certainly recommend it, but it’s probably not easy to do so. (According to Wikipedia, the author was the mother of Humbert Roque Versace, the first US Army prisoner of war in Southeast Asia awarded the medal of honor. Is this relevant? No, but the contrast of this charming little book and the tragic honor given to the author’s son is memorable, at least.)

Coming up: SPLENDOUR FALLS by Susanna Kearsley, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE and LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (and specifically, how I managed to avoid reading anything from this late master of literature, and why I wasn’t an English major), THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, and more!