Continuing the posts I create as a mashup of the books I read per month, it is time to write about March. I started really well in 2018, reading at least 5 books a month for January and February. Well in March I slowed down and I finished only two:
- The Bones of Avalon by Phil Rickman
It is the first book of the “John Dee Papers” series. As far as I could find there are only two books in this series and they were published in 2010 and 2012 respectively, so I expect that there won’t be a third one coming.
The story takes place in 1560 in England, when young Elizabeth Tudor has been queen for only a year. She would reign for another 43 years (until 1603), but Elizabeth was not a strong monarch either and the experiences gained during the reign of Mary I, who was Catholic and prosecuted Protestants, were awful. This is the atmosphere built in the beginning of the book. John Dee was at the time of the story 32 years old and already a renowned scientists (mathematician, alchemist, astronomer and astrologer). Elizabeth used him as an adviser, but his studies were seen with suspicion from catholic neighbours and in general his fame was better outside England than inside his home country. Elizabeth engaged him in a quest to recover the bones of Arthur of Avalon from the famous mystical town of Glastonbury. The legacy of Arthur was important to Elizabeth, so as to reinforce her claim of the throne. In this quest, John Dee was accompanied by Robert Dudley, the queen’s childhood friend, one of the most powerful men in the country and the most important of Elizabeth’s suitors.
The book adapts to the way of life and talk of the period, with John Dee being the narrator of the story, and it succeeds in building nicely a dark atmosphere for the period. But this is done in a very slow pace. This is exactly one of the reasons that made me read the book slowly, too. It took me quite some time to read the first 100 pages and even more to emerge in the story and start living it, the element that makes me want to read further. I found the narration a bit confusing and, although it might be true, John Dee was a hero living a bit in the clouds, a fact that was adding in the confusion. After the point that the group reaches Glastonbury, the story becomes much more interesting. It evolves in a historic mystery and our John Dee is the hero of the day, saving his beloved queen and the first love of his life!
I feel that I have to mention separately a character of the book: Eleonora. She is the local doctor of Glastonbury, the daughter of a doctor and a lady that understood herbs and their value, and who ends burnt as a witch. Eleonora seems to be a strong woman, who likes studying and goes against the rules of the period for women. She is such a nicer character and so much more amiable than any of the other characters in this book!
- The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander McCall- Smith
Earlier this year I read the first book of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series and I loved it! So I continued with the second book of this series I had in my library already, although it is the fourth book of the series. In this one Mma Ramotswe has moved her agency behind the garage of Rra Matekoni, as a result of their engagement.
In the beginning, the book summarises things that have happened in the previous books, but are important so as to understand the background: who is Mma Ramotswe and what has happened to her and the main characters of the series from the time the detective agency opened and the time when this book is taking place. As a result, it is not difficult to follow the story, even if this is the first book of the series you get in your hands.
I found this book less funny than the first one, but still with a wit and an intelligence that makes me want to read more! Mma Ramotswe goes through problems with motherhood and has to handle a delicate case with her friend and colleague Mma Makutsi.
I enjoyed these books so much, because they are down-to-earth. They don’t try to impress with conspiracy theories or terror, but the cases are simple, every day matters. I like the feeling they give me of living in a village with dirt streets and open and kind people. It reminds me a bit of the small village my mom was from on the Peloponnese, and where I spent my first summers (although the streets are not from dirt there).
After reading these two books, I decided to buy some more of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series books, but not to look for the second of the John Dee Papers!
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