31 May 2012

Library Limelights 7

Julian Barnes. The Sense of an Ending. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2012.
Winner of the 2011 Man Booker prize. Sometimes a good friend entices me into reading material not of the gritty crime/thriller/problem-solving genre ... although this one does have a mystery element. A classroom discussion on the character of history (written by the victors? the lies of the victors? time-lapse contextual revisionism?) produces the book's underlying premise:
History is the certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.* 
So our hero, having reached a mature age, proceeds to illustrate the point by revealing how subjective his memory was, and how superficial his relationships were. And this is a superficial review!
* A statement attributed to Patrick Lagrange, a fictional historian invented by Barnes.

On starting to forget things:
Just when you think everything is a matter of decrease, of subtraction and division, your brain, your memory, may surprise you. As if it's saying: Don't imagine you can rely on some comforting process of gradual decline – life's much more complicated than that. And so the brain will throw you scraps from time to time, even disengage those familiar memory-loops. (112)

Jo Nesbo. Phantom. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2011. 
It's Harry Hole, No. 9. What to say? Dark days in Oslo. Bittersweet. Greater love hath no man ... wherever will he go from here? If you're a fan, don't miss it. If you haven't read Nesbo yet, get the earlier ones first. A writer of excellence. There's nothing more to say.

Barbara Cleverly. The Last Kashmiri Rose. New York: Bantam Dell, 2001.
This is a period piece: Bengal in the aftermath of the First World War; the British Empire still ensconced in the subcontinent. Joe Sandilands is one hot cop seconded to an army base. Besides the exotic locale, the author perfectly captures colonial manners, military protocol, and uneasy social tensions. The detective aspect is just as absorbing with its very plausible variety of motives (and suspects) in a series of killings. How difficult is the problem to solve? -- always the measure of my satisfaction whether I reach the right conclusion or not.

A thoroughly modern investigator:
He was forming no theories, making no judgements yet; he was simply taking in as much as he could of this series of alien and macabre events. This was often the way in cases that he had worked on. In the initial stages, a voracious acquisition of facts and impressions characterised his approach. He made no predictions, advanced no theories until he was certain that he had learned as much as there was to be learned about the crime. He knew the danger of constructing a neat explanation which could then be shot to ribbons by the late entry of a new piece of information. (110)

Those pukka-sahibs and their mems had so much fun being waited on hand and foot! A bonus was words from Indian dialects used by the Anglos (where is that Chrestomathy when I need it?):
syce – a horse groom
kutchery – a musical concert
mofussil – rural locality
kala juggah – a dark corner for flirtation
badal – rain cloud
melmastia – tribal hospitality

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