Books 2011: 184-190
184. Susan R. Matthews, Angel of Destruction
One of the books in Matthews' Jurisdiction universe that does not focus on Andrej Kosciusko. Instead, this book focuses on Bench specialist Garol Vogel and his attempt to preserve the amnesty offered to the Langsarik pirates despite all the many pressures against him, and them. An excellent book.
185. Elizabeth C. Bunce, Liar's Moon
YA. Second book about Digger, sixteen-year-old sneakthief and forger. In this outing, she's pressured into trying to save a nobleman from the block - Lord Durrel Decath is accused to murdering his wife, and not even his own family seem to be able to help. Excellent book, pacey and tight, whose protagonist has a sense of humour. Can stand alone reasonably well, but small cliffhanger at the very, very last page. Otherwise, entirely excellent.
186. Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze
I have britmandelo
's review at Tor.com to thank for getting me to go out in search of this book. And I do thank her extremely, because The Freedom Maze
is one of the best books I have read all year - well up in the top ten, second only after Range of Ghosts
Sophie Fairchild is sent back in time from the 1950s to the antebellum south of her family's plantation, where she is taken for a slave bastard and set to work for her ancestors. "A fascinating rendition of the archetypal Hero's Journey, complete with the part at the end where the hero returns home with new knowledge that renders them out of joint," fadethecat
called it when I mentioned having read it, and I have to agree. It's a very domestic bildungsroman - leahbobet
, I think you might like it - not domestic in any perjorative sense, or meaning tame
, but quiet and contained, and doing much by implication.
It's a perfectly decent YA time travel novel - very good, even excellent, but not especially
outstanding - until the last few chapters. Sophie's return to the 1950s, where she is once more seen
as white, when she has spent the last months seeing herself as a black person - indeed, a black slave - who can pass for white. She doesn't really think of herself as white anymore. And how Sherman puts that across is masterful, in Sophie's new wariness with her aunt, and in how she thinks.
"There was no arguing with a Fairchild. Not even a nice one."
The closing chapters raise the book to fresh levels of brilliance. It is excellent. Go forth and read it now.nonfiction
187. Greek Fiction: Callirhoe, Daphnis and Chloe, Letters of Chion
. Penguin Classics, London and New York, 2011. Translated by Rosanna Omitowoju, Phiroze Vasunia, and John Penwill. Edited by Helen Morales.
A collection of three of the early Greek novels, dating from the Second Sophistic. Approximately. The first is a travelogue/romance, the second a pastoral romance, and the third, a series of letters, once thought forgeries and now believed to be intended as fiction from the outset, in which Chion, pupil of Plato, writes of his growning conviction to do something about the tyrant in his home city.
Interesting, if very Greek.
188. Henry of Huntingdon, The History of the English People 1000-1154
. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009. Translated by Diana Greenway.
A very interesting chronicle covering about a century and a half and treating a little of the wars between Stephen and Mathilda. Short, well-translated, and occasionally lively: recommended as interesting
189. David Brewer, The Greek War of Independence: The Struggle for Freedom from Ottoman Oppression
. Gerald Duckworth Press, London, 2001. This edition 2011.
A very readable general history of - as it says on the tin - the Greek War of Independence, which kicked off in 1821. There are not many general - ie., non-academic - histories of this particular war available in English, and it is a very interesting war indeed.
Brewer writes perfectly acceptable interesting history on the level of the Movers and Shakers. His interest in social history is, alas, sadly lacking - but I suppose asking for a perfect
general history would be a bit much.
190. David Brewer, Greece: The Hidden Centuries. Turkish Rule from the Fall of Constantinople to Greek Independence
. I.B. Tauris, London, 2010.
This is not a bad history of several centuries, but suffers from being too
general. Here, Brewer's lack of rigor in his social history is a much more glaring flaw. It is mostly an interesting, engaging popular history. But. There is a paragraph on page 73 that is crammed full of fail.
Speaking of Barbary coast piracy and the slave trade, Brewer writes, "When considering sexual exploitation, we should not be too much influenced by the fact that youth and beauty in a female slave commanded a higher price; a young servant would be a better worker, and a pretty one a more impressive adornment of the household." [Brewer, 2010, 73] Later in that same paragraph, he suggests that things might not have been so bad, because some
women achieved honour or freedom or marriage within a Barbary household, and because legally
men were not permitted to have intercourse with their wives' female slaves.
I parsed this as Let's not overestimate the amount of sexual coercion in the master-slave relationship
- which... Hell, people. Help me out here. Even today, between people who are technically free and legally protected, the employer-employee relationship (particularly in the category of domestic service) is open to abuse, sexual and otherwise. Sexual violence is endemic, sexual exploitation more so even today
So maybe not every woman taken in slavery suffered repeated violent rape. But let's not kid ourselves, Brewer, mate. No one whose life and physical integrity depends on another's good will can ever give or withhold their consent freely. A slave lived surrounded by potential violence, sexual or otherwise, and the possibility of sale to a worse master.
That paragraph rather ruined the whole book for me. Alas.
Tor.com posts:Rod Rees, The Demi-Monde: WinterChris Wooding, The Iron JackalTamora Pierce, Mastiff