Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Department of Eating My Words: Good Books Division

All right, I was wrong: historical novels about writers can be very good in their own right. Conceit by Mary Novik (Random House Canada) is a case in point. It begins with John Donne's daughter rescuing his funeral effigy from St. Paul's during the Great Fire of London in 1666, and then proceeds forward and backward in time to tell a wonderfully complex story of Donne, his wife and his daughter Pegge. Novik obviously has done much research into the period and Donne's work, but as she says in her acknowledgement, this is her 17th century. That appears to have given her the liberty to create something extremely good.

In the same post, I criticized Colm Toìbin's The Master, so perhaps I should report how good I found his The Story of the Night. Published in 1995, it takes place a decade earlier in Argentina where Richard Garay, son of an English woman and an Argentine man, finds himself translating for Americans who seem to be operatives of the CIA. The book gives an acerbic view of US involvement in South America, local government corruption and South American mores. It also treats homosexuality and AIDS with compassion...and passion.

Both these books are good reads, and I stand corrected.


Martin Langeland said...

May I also recommend Karen Lystra's "Dangerous Intimacy" Which is a lovely whodunit based in the reality of fame, fortune, and concupiscence centering on the later years of Samuel Clemmons. Beautiful writing.
[isbn 0520250001]

Mary Soderstrom said...

Am going to the library today, and I'll look for it.

Thanks for the tip.