01 August 2008

A Golden Age, Tahmima Anam

I found this book fascinating. Set in Bangladesh during the war of independence in 1971 the book focusses on a mother's struggle to both let go and to embrace her children.

Firstly, I had no idea that Bangladesh had been part of Pakistan. Obviously wasn't considered important enough history to be included in my schooling. Secondly, I have little knowledge of that area of the subcontinent at all. I do have some experience with Indian culture from living in Malaysia, and this meant that cultural references (particularly to food) were easily understood.

The book opens by explaining how Rehana loses her two children in a court battle to her brother. Her husband dies unexpectedly and leaves her unable to cope - financially or emotionally. She fights back; however, and after a time (bit less than 2 years I think) manages to get her children back. The story then flips forward 10 years. The children are now in university and involved in moves for independence. Rehana has to cope with the turmoil their independence brings to her, as well as the turmoil of her country's independence.

I have read very few novels that are about people's experiences in these ideological wars. Plenty about the wars of the developed world - WWI, WWII etc. but very little about the multitude of wars of independence around the world. This was a fascinating insight into the upheaval, the fear, the extraordinary courage of ordinary people.

I will most likely keep an eye out for more books by this author. I give this book at 7.

Mark of the Lion: A Jade Del Cameron Mystery; Arruda Suzanne

Mark of the Lion is started on the battlefields of France in WWI. It then moves to Africa after the war. There were some bits that didn't sit comfortably with me - historically. It felt much more like a post WWII book than WWI. The main character, Jade, drives battlefield ambulances in France during the war. Her boyfriend, a pilot dies, and she is lead to understand (by his last words) that he has a brother that he wants her to find. The hunt for the brother leads her to Africa, where she runs afoul of a local witch doctor.

One of the things I did appreciate about this book is that the inevitable romance was written quite differently to normal fictional romance. Bit hard to explain without giving away key parts of the story but suffice to say there was internal conflict and the resolution was a little different to what I've come to expect.

On the whole; however, the central character, Jade, seems almost too good to be true. She shoots, rides, drives. The only thing that gets to her is the hyena's laugh (a reminder of her battlefield experiences with mentally unstable wounded GIs). Other than the laugh, she's pretty much bullet proof.

I'm not sure I would go out of my way to read anything else by this author, so I give it a 4.