This is a look back at the two, count them, TWO, books I read in July. I didn't have a very good reading month, but that's okay, at least the books were huge-ish. So that's nice.
I think I
only bought this because it had something Dutch and something Japanese in it.
And I wanted to test out David Mitchell, boy that’s a creepy sentence. I hadn’t
read anything else yet, and yes, anyway, I lived in Amsterdam when I bought
this, and I like Amsterdam, and I make book-buying decisions based on very slim
grounds. This is David Mitchell’s historical fiction thing-a-my-do-hicky. It’s
about a young Dutch clerk; Jacob de Zoet who works for the Chief of the Dutch
factory Dejima in Nagasaki. He is an honest, stand-up guy, who has gone to
Nagasaki with his boss to clean up the corruption in Dejima. While he is there
he falls for the young Japanese midwife Orito Aibagawa, who miraculously saved
the magistrate’s son when the baby almost died during his birth. Orito has a
big burn on the left side of her face, and works with a Dutch doctor, Marinus.
The book spans about 20 years of Jacob being in Japan, after he is left there
by his former boss (the story is long and complicated), and Orito being taken
away by a creepy abbot. I really liked it. The subject doesn’t sound that
outstandingly exciting, but his writing is absolutely beautiful. The love story
is wonderful and sweet and it spans a long time, and it’s always doomed, and I
like doomed stories, because I like authors who follow through and don’t cop
out. There is something very impressive about Jacob’s perseverance and
persistence and his honesty and morale. And Orito is so wonderful. There are
some wonderful side characters, like Doctor Marinus and the deck crew of the
ship Jacob arrives in Japan on, like Arie Grote and van Cleef.
I had to
write some of this when I was sort of halfway through, so I redid it when I
finished the book. I had to write it because I was so excited I got a bit
overwhelmed. July wasn’t the best month for me, and I was in a reading slump,
which I didn’t really mind. Then I was in Helsinki airport, because you know,
international woman of mystery, and found a random book called the Troupe. And
it sounded brilliant. I think I have some sort of magnetic pull to bookstores,
or a problem of some sort. Anyway found a book about vaudeville. I am for some
reason drawn to books about performers. It might be because I have no talents
in that department myself and I always find people who can capture audiences
very impressive. In my weird little brain I tend to think travelling performers
are sort of dysfunctional, and it’s fun. The Troupe is about a young man named
George Carole who grew up with his grandmother in the sticks of Ohio. He runs
away to become a vaudeville pianist, and to look for his father who he believes
to be Hieronomo Silenus, the leader of a vaudeville troupe. He finds Silenus
and joins the troupe. It turns out that the troupe is not only performing, they
are also running from something, and they’re trying to push back the darkness.
I don’t know exactly what it is about this book, I think it’s the whole
vaudeville thing, and maybe the fact that the main character is absolutely
horrible, he’s spoiled, arrogant, mean, cocky. He grows tremendously throughout
the book, which is brilliant. The world building is good, there’s no bad info
dumping, I think Bennett is a good writer, and the characters are flawed and
believable. I like how creepy, and dark, and weird it is. I’ll definitely going
to see if I can find more Bennett.