The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I saw a great TalkingScarlet production of Ira Levin's play Deathtrap back in my Eastbourne days, but I'm pretty sure that The Boys From Brazil is the first of his novels I've read. The book is an easy read and is certainly a page-turner. I couldn't wait to discover how this intricate plot was going to unravel itself.
Using veiled and not-so-veiled representations of genuine people, Levin's tale invents a chilling scenario in which vile Auschwitz doctor, Mengele, believes he can bring about a Fourth Reich through the misuse of science. I read some reviews dating from the book's original 1970s publication which were critical of the science fiction at the heart of the tale. (I can't be more precise without giving away a key plot line.) Reading it now, when the science fiction has become actual science fact, adds an extra scary aspect.
The main characters are pretty much all either good or evil and don't have a tremendous amount of depth to their portrayals. However, Levin's scene setting is nicely done and I found it easy to imagine each location. I thought the plot was perfectly paced, enough obfuscation to keep me guessing, but not so much as to drag, and I loved the final chapter. I know there has been at least one major film of this book and it would translate well to the big screen. Perhaps it's time for a remake?
Buy the paperback from Waterstones.
A World of InTemperance by Ichabod Temperance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Bought as part of the Indie Steampunk Book Extravaganza 2.
A World Of InTemperance is the second novel in the steampunk series chronicling the adventures of Ichabod Temperance and his paramour Miss Persephone Plumtartt. In this exciting installment, the duo and their equally bizarrely named friends must race through Alaskan wilderness in order to save humanity from annihilation by global warfare.
Temperance's inventive character naming is one of the delights of his stories. My favourite this time must be the Insufferable Bleiuman Iddiaught - US Secretary of War. I did sometimes struggle to understand the phonetic dialogue spellings, particularly of the Australian speech although I suspect much of that wasn't intended to be understandable anyway. The nationally stereotyped characters are fun with each country's quirks being equally insulted and entertaining cameo appearances including an astute Belgian detective!
A World Of Intemperance is all about the action. Scenes are swiftly set up then raced through, blown up or fought over at great speed so, towards the end of the book, I had trouble keeping up with everyone's fantastic escapades. Temperance's energy and enthusiasm for his tale is always very much in evidence and I could picture our heroes leaping straight from his thoughts to his pen. Indeed, there are enough ideas in this one book to fill two or three! I would have liked some ideas to have been explored in more detail but accept that might have been at the expense of the thrilling ride.
Ichabod Temperance is due to start a blog tour on Monday (16th March), publicising his first novel, A Matter Of Temperance. (I read and reviewed A Matter back in October last year.) You can discover all the participating tour blogs by visiting Brook Cottage Books.
In a Vertigo of Silence by Miriam Polli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was attracted to In A Vertigo Of Silence by both its atmospheric cover art and its title. I do love an enigmatic book title! I received a copy from its publishers, Serving House Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. This is my seventh review for Sophie and Suze's NetGalley Challenge.
In A Vertigo Of Silence takes within the lives of the women in three generations of a Polish family who emigrated to America in the 1920s. Initially only able to find poor housing and the most dangerous of jobs, the Grandmother, affectionately known as Babcia, loses her husband when he dies in a coal mining accident. Left pregnant and with two young daughters, this amazing woman not only keeps her remaining family together, but gives the next generation chances to prosper. There is, however, a price.
I loved the characters that Polli creates. To a degree, they are so real that I wondered if they are indeed fiction. I found it wonderfully easy to be drawn into this family. The main focus is on the fractured relationships between Babcia's daughters, how their actions disrupt each other's lives and the secrets and lies that become told as family truths. I think every family hides the worst of themselves from the outside world and Polli beautifully illustrates the phenomenon here. In A Vertigo Of Silence is very much a book celebrating women and sisterhood. The struggles of immigration are a part of the novel, but I felt this was more a story of family than of integration. Babcia's initial determination to speak English and become American goes a long way to shield her descendants although we do see racist schoolyard bullying of granddaughter Emily.
Chapters jump about in time across several decades allowing events to be viewed not only as they happen, but also from memories which is a perfect device for this story. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of historical details such as the Bicycle Thieves film screening which helped to cement the various time periods in my mind as I read. It is important to read each chapter heading carefully. I did get lost a couple of times early on.
I would love to read more of Polli's writing. Her poet's sensibilities influence her rich prose and she has a great eye for physical detail and for human behaviour.
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