Thursday, July 12, 2018

Reviewing "The Snare" by Rafael Sabatini

The Snare by Rafael Sabatini is one of those books that takes a lot of patience at the start, but once you get past the preliminary setup the rest of the story is totally worth the wait.

Set in Portugal, 1810, the story begins with a lengthy  account of how a Lieutenant Richard Butler of the British Expeditionary Force gets drunk and then invades a nunnery (mistaking it for a monastery famous for its wine production). As if that breach of etiquette and diplomacy weren't enough, Butler makes it worse by running away...effectively deserting his regiment and becoming an outlaw. Upon learning of the "Tavora Affair," Butler's superiors investigate, and because they cannot find Butler, assume he has been killed by the mob of Portuguese peasants that gathered to protect their convent.

Richard Butler is not the protagonist of the book.

The narrative then shifts to Sir Terence O'Moy, the Adjutant-General in Lisbon. Butler happens to be his brother-in-law, but fortunately for O'Moy's reputation no one knows this detail.  Despite being a selfish, stupid, and frivolous person, O'Moy loves his wife Lady Una so much so that he's covered for her brother plenty of times in the past just to protect her feelings.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Books and the Natural World

I recently finished reading two books about animals, the semi-fictional The Wolfling by Sterling North, and the coffee-table companion to the documentary series, Blue Planet II by James Honeyborne and Mark Brownlow.
Why do I do this to myself? I love animals, but reading about them is often depressing. Almost every
dog-centered novel ends with the dog dying and a little of my heart with it. Even nonfiction zoology
books aren’t immune to this, because endangered species make me feel so helpless and wish I could
change the world.
Sterling North is probably most famous for his excellent book Rascal, a memoir of one summer in his
boyhood when he raised a pet raccoon. North’s writing style is wonderful, not only artistic in his
descriptions of the natural world, but also exciting. In The Wolfling he goes back further than Rascal’s
setting of Wisconsin during World War I, and explores the life of a boy named Robbie in 1873.
Based in part on research and reminiscences of North’s father, The Wolfling is nevertheless fiction,
calling itself a “Documentary Novel.”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Reviewing Gerald Morris's "The Squire's Tales" Series

The Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris is one of my all-time favorite books. Aside from talking about the first book I read of this series, The Ballad of Sir Dinadan, however, I haven’t discussed it on my blog.

Until now!

To be fair to the reader, I thought it best to wait until I’d reread all ten of the books. Although, there was also the ulterior motive of wanting to read them again anyway, and also the bonus that I could read these VERY fast and thus make serious headway in my 150-Books-a-Year-What-Was-I-Thinking goal for 2018. And because for once I actually had all the series on hand (the previous time I read the entire series, I had to wait for the author to actually publish them, so had entire years of waiting and rereading the first installments), I binge-read them this time, which made for a roller-coaster of emotions…for reasons that will be made clear, if you aren’t already aware of how the original legends conclude.

In this series Morris has taken on the monumental task of retelling the Arthurian (and related medieval European) legends. Many other people have tried, and most fail utterly to do justice to the complexities of the plots, characters, and themes of these ancient stories. While retellings are never quite the same in tone or faithfulness to the original stories, Morris gets closer than most.