Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching Up

I'm still trying to catch up on book reviews for books I've read in the past few weeks. When I was sick and planning on traveling a few weeks ago, I wanted to bring along books that would be comfortable - not too difficult, but not mindless either. I choose The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar and The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine. Though these selections seemed very different I did find a common theme between them - that of women unhappily married due to physical or emotional abuse.


Set in Bombay/Mumbai, The Space Between Us is the story of two women, Sera the mistress, and Bhima, her maid for many years. Despite their very different lives, these women know each other better than probably anyone else due to their close proximity and long relationship, but because of their different social status, Bhima may not sit on the furniture or eat off of the dishes in Sera's home. The book details the many obstacles the women have dealt with over the years, the support they have received from the other and particularly the times Sera and her husband helped the illiterate Bhima with legal and personal issues. The supporting cast includes Bhima's granddaughter Maya, a promising young women who Sera is helping to educate. The climax of the book is a situation that arises which tests the women's loyalties to one another. I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the setting and learning about modern life in India. I enjoyed the fact that many of the situations wouldn't happen in our modern society and becoming aware of how they would be dealt with, positively and negatively. The only issue I have with the book is the ending. There was a long build up leading to the inevitable climax which happened very abruptly. This left only the final chapter of the book which I found a bit unsatisfying.


Barbara Vine's The Chimney Sweeper's Boy was a nice contrast to the above in both setting and tone. Set in modern England, this is the story of writer Gerald Candless and his family including two adoring daughters. When one of his daughters begins researching a book about his life she discovers a terrible truth that no one in the family has ever suspected. I found this book quite different from the other Vine novels I have read. It does not have the same suspenseful pacing I have become accustomed to. I found this book to be much more a literary novel that happened to have suspense within it, rather that a true mystery/suspense novel. I suspect that is why I came across some negative reviews for this book - readers simply didn't get what they were expecting. I did enjoy the book and think Vine an excellent writer. I have found her books perfect reading material for traveling or when I am sick. I really find them to be absorbing.

15 comments:

Lezlie said...

"The Space Between Us" looks like something I need to check out. Thanks for the great review!

Lezlie

Maw Books said...

I haven't heard of The Space Between Us before but it sounds just like my type of book. I look forward to checking it out. Thanks!

Kay said...

I have a copy of THE SPACE BETWEEN US and have heard such good things about it. I appreciate your review.

Also haven't read the Barbara Vine book but I do really enjoy her work. Again, thanks for a very nice review. Makes me want to search it out right away.

melanie said...

thanks for the reviews. we read The Space Between Us in bookclub and it was a great discussion. i completely agree with your conclusion - fabulous story but the ending didn't fit. i'm going to try to hunt down the other one at the library :)

heather (errantdreams) said...

"The Space Between Us" sounds absolutely fascinating.

I'm hoping to start making recipes from that agave baking book this week, if I can find time to cook. :)

Jeane said...

These both sound like very interesting books.

Tara said...

Lezlie, Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

Maw books, I'm glad it sounds like somthing you would like. I've been really into reading books set in India this year.

Kay, thanks so much. I look forward to reading more of Barbara Vine's work. I just picked up The Blood Doctor at a book sale.

Melanie, I could see this book bringing on great discussion. Too bad about the ending, otherwise this book was headed into my top 10for the year.

Heather, oh good, I can't wait! I think I like the light nectar better than the darker by the way...

Jeane, yes they were!

Iliana said...

I need to pick up The Space Between Us this week so I can have it read in time for a book group meeting. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it save for the ending.

StuckInABook said...

Never read any Barbara Vine... perhaps time to rectify that.

Tara said...

Iliana, I'm glad you'll be reading it- I'll look forward to your thoughts.

Simon, if you do, may I suggest starting with A Dark Adapted Eye or Asta's Book.

Liz said...

The "Chimney Sweeper's Boy" sounds like something I'd like. And I love your description of it as a "literary novel that happened to have suspense within it," as that describes lots of the books I read and enjoy.

Have you heard of The Osgoode Trilogy by Mary Martin? It's legal suspense, so to speak, but very literary. It's a set of three novels, all featuring lawyer Harry Jenkins.

Many original characters, including some outstanding bad guys, plus intricate, fast-paced plots. And below the surface are some other themes and questions. I'd say a major theme of all three books is the idea of breaking free to become your real self. And don't we all want that?

Danielle said...

Isn't Barbara Vine great? I liked this one, too!

Tara said...

Liz, you'd probably enjoy it then! Thanks for the recommendation.

Danielle,Yes! Thanks to the blogging community, and probably you especially, I found her. Whew. I'm so looking forward to her new books.

Eva said...

I read The Space Between Us in one sitting (it was a celebration when I was done with finals one term, lol), and I really liked it! I remember the ending being quite sudden, but that didn't bother me as much as it probably would have if I spread the reading out over a few days.

Tara said...

Eva, I read this over the course of a week, so, yes, I'd been with the characters for a while and it felt abrupt. I see your point!