Tuesday, October 4, 2011

September Books

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Phillip Pullman is relatively faithful in style, time line, and events to the gospel canon-though Pullman has twins born to Mary, one called Jesus, and the other Christ. As children, Christ is a goody-goody and Jesus the popular one. Jesus and Christ continue down separate but intertwined paths. Jesus becomes a philosopher-revolutionary and Christ is the seemingly savvy brother. Pullman's story “reveals” how the politics and structure of the institutional church were plotted by power-hungry men, who used the renown of Jesus and his well-meaning brother as pawns in a corrupt game.

*The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt reads like a Coen brothers’ script for a retelling of the Don Quixote legend—although their quest is initially to track down and kill a prospector. The brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, and eventually find their target in the Sierra foothills, after meeting a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers. Initially Charlie is the “lead man,” but Eli, the rotund, deadpan narrator, develops personal insight, morals and leadership along the way. “DeWitt has produced a genre-bending frontier saga that is exciting, funny, and…moving.”

*Notes at an Exhibition by Cornwall’s Patrick Gale describes the impact of mental illness on a family of a brilliant, but troubled artist, and her family. Each chapter is introduced by a note from a posthumous exhibition of Rachel Kelly. The book is artfully constructed and told through several voices as Gale portrays Rachel, her Quaker husband and their four children, with insight and caring detail to each of them and to her art/creativity.

Frenchman’s Cove by Daphne du Maurier described the revolt of Lady Dona St. Columb against the boring confines of high society in the 18th century. She retreats to the Cornish country house where chance leads her to meet a French pirate and discovers that “her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused.” A classic “bodice buster” that will disappoint fans of Ian Fleming or Tom Clancey.

The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier was the first of the Cornwall books during our visit. A University of London chemical researcher, asks Richard to stay at Kilmarth, an ancient house near the Cornish coast. Here, Richard drinks a potion and finds himself at the same location—but in the fourteenth century. The effects of the drink wear off but it is wildly addictive, and Richard cannot resist traveling back and forth in time. He eventually finds emotional refuge with a beautiful woman of the past who is also trapped in a loveless marriage. Reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, the book is a professionally developed yarn of history, romance, and self deception.

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