Archive for September, 2013

Paris

Monday, September 9th, 2013

By Edward Rutherfurd

The Short Take:

Rutherfurd has departed somewhat from his typical James Michener style. This novel still traces fictional families in Paris from 1261 to 1968. However, the bulk of the book focuses on the period from 1875 through 1940. This provides a much more cohesive story line, but I was a bit disappointed not to have anything from Paris’ first millennial CE.

Why?

Rutherford certainly focused on an amazing time for France, with the building of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Impressionist artists, both World Wars, vast social changes, and more. ¬†There’s also certainly a lot to be said for having multiple chapters about just three generations of the various key families instead of continually skipping several generations ahead. My disappointment is purely personal, as the father back in time my historical fiction goes the better I like it.

In addition to the fictional families, ¬†genuine historical figures make their appearance, from Claude Monet to Gustave Eiffel to Charles de Gaulle, along with various French kings. The conflict between the aristocracy and everyone else, and the recurring attempts at revolution — successful and otherwise — were recurring themes. It appears that the tendency to march for change is something that runs deep in the Parisian spirit.

Rutherford’s exploration of the attempts over time to create a more equitable, worker-run government was exceptionally interesting, particularly regarding the influence of Russia’s own Communist government (which often had a totally different agenda).

It was a good read. I just wanted it to go way back to the Romans, too.

A Little Plot:

The book is built around generations of several families: the aristocratic de Cygne’s, the rich merchant Blanchard’s, the hard-working Gascon’s, the socialist Le Sourd’s, the Jewish Jacob’s, and the Protestant Renard’s.

The usual inter-relations take place, fortunes rise and fall — or just keep rising. And Paris stays Paris — the actual star of this novel.

For more about Edward Rutherfurd and his books, click here.

The King’s Deception

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

By Steve Berry

The Short Take:

Berry is my favorite in the thriller genre, and this outing is still stronger than most books of that category but it felt a touch forced to me. The “McGuffin” driving the plot just seemed exceptionally weak. That said, it was diverting, entertaining, and fast-paced, and that’s pretty much why one reads thrillers.

Why?

I’ve read all Berry’s books. I’ve also read more than my share of books about the Tudors (Henry VII through Elizabeth I). Since this plot was wrapped around a mystery from Tudor times, it would seem to be the perfect marriage for me. However, maybe too much knowledge ruins the fun of Berry’s thrillers, which draw from the past to create modern conflicts. Or it could be that with his eighth Cotton Malone book, Berry is just losing a little steam with this character. It certainly wasn’t as good as his last novel, which abandoned Malone and his cohorts for another, more vulnerable, hero.

There were the usual twists, reveals, and double-dealings; maybe even a few too many. There was also a complex family issue that didn’t really add anything except internal angst for several of the characters.

If this was the first Berry thriller I had ever read, I’m not sure if I would read more. However, I know I’ll still read the next one.

A Little Plot:

Cotton Malone and his son are headed to Copenhagen, with a stop in London. Doing a favor for his former boss, Malone agrees to escort a teenage fugitive back to England. However, the team that picks them all up at the airport turns out to be anything but official (or are they?).

From there a complex plot weaves around a secret from the Tudor era, the planned release of a terrorist convicted of bombing Pan Am flight 103, a disgraced agent, a brazen CIA plot, and international power plays.

To visit Steve Berry’s website, click here.

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