The Shoemaker’s Wife – Adriana Trigiani
Having read quite a few of Adriana Trigiani’s books and having liked most of them, I naturally wanted to get my hands on her latest, The Shoemaker’s Wife, too. Sadly, though, it turned out to be a disappointment.
The Shoemaker’s Wife is the story of Enza Ravanelli and Ciro Lazarri, acquaintances from the mountain town of Schilpario, Italy. Circumstances bring Enza and Ciro in touch with each other when both are very young, and there is an instant attraction between them. Before they can act on their instincts, though, circumstances render them apart. Both Ciro and Enza end up leaving Italy for the US of A, Ciro as a shoemaker’s apprentice and Enza as a seamstress. They lead quite separate lives in USA and no real bond develops between them, in spite of a few chance meetings now and then. After some years of chasing their dreams separately, Enza marries Ciro, becoming the shoemaker’s wife. The story unfolds to reveal the life of the couple together over the years.
I felt that The Shoemaker’s Wife lacked the magic that some of Trigiani’s earlier books have possessed. The storyline had no grip, and the narration seemed forced. I did not feel as attached to the characters as I have in her earlier books. It does have its moments but, overall, the book failed to capture my heart. That could be just me, however, for I have come across several good reviews for the book, too.
Not something that I would recommend, but it might just be your cup of tea.
The Camel Bookmobile – Masha Hamilton
What a gem of a book! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Dust and aridity are the prime features of Middidima, a semi-nomadic tribal community in Kenya, which is struggling for access to even the basic necessities of life. It is, hence, no wonder that the arrival of a caravan of camels, carrying books on their backs, in the settlement is met with intense disapproval. Fiona Sweeney aka Fi, a white woman with a large heart, whose brainchild the caravan is, is viewed, largely, with suspicion and, sometimes, with amusement. The Camel Bookmobile is the story of the events that unfold in Middidima after the arrival of the caravan.
The story is narrated wonderfully, from multiple viewpoints. Fi; the village schoolteacher, Matani; the rebel, Neema; the girl with big dreams, Kanika; the drum-maker, Abayomi; and the little boy with scars on his face and soul, Taban – each character has a part in the narration. Each character is wonderfully etched, the nuances of each brought out beautifully by the author in each chapter. Each character is realistic, and you feel like you know the locals of Middidima personally by the time you finish reading the book.
The author’s language is simple, yet poetic and touching. The touches of local language here and there indicate the intense research that has gone into the making of the book. It is an incredibly sweet book, at the same time possessing a certain depth that make it more than a frivolous read. It is a book with a soul, I would say.
Each section of the book is preceded by a quote about mosquitoes, a ubiquitous part of a small African settlement like Middidima, which I think is a very unique thing to find.
There is romance, drama, tragedy, hope – everything that you need in a gripping tale – in the story. I was hooked to it from the first page, and it did not let my attention waver till I had reached the end of it. There are many layers to the characters, many sub-plots that emerge throughout the book, and the author has done a great job with each of these. There are no loose strings.
I could not find one single thing to not like about this book, honestly, except the open ending, which leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination and interpretation. I would have loved to know more about the characters, to know how their lives turned out after The Camel Bookmobile ends. If the author decides to come up with a sequel to the book, I would be extremely glad!
I had never heard of the author before I chanced upon this book in a second-hand bookstore. The storyline sounded interesting, and compelled me to pick up the book. Now, I am glad I did. Masha Hamilton is a wonderful writer, and my subsequent research about her told me about the many feathers in her cap. I would definitely love to read more by her.
I would heartily recommend this book to each and every one of you.
Shakespeare’s Mistress – Karen Harper
I have to admit I have never read Shakespeare in my life, ever, except maybe a few of his verses, as a part of my school curriculum. I knew that he was a multi-talented genius, but I didn’t know much about his life. Smitha‘s review of Shakespeare’s Mistress by Karen Harper spoke about bits and pieces of the life of the literary great, and had me thoroughly intrigued. I had to get my hands on this book immediately.
It is a well-known fact that Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway and had children with her. Why does, then, a government record exist which indicates that the bard was to be married to an Anne Whateley? Who was this other Anne, mentioned in the record that has survived till date? Was she the one whom Shakespeare really loved? Why, then, would he marry Anne Hathaway and not Anne Whateley? These are the questions that Harper explores in Shakespeare’s Mistress, and beautifully at that.
The author has taken this tiny titbit of information from Shakespeare’s life and spun an entire tale around it, one that is narrated wonderfully, making the reader feel that the entire story is playing out right in front of his/her eyes. Harper’s research into the subject is well evident in this tale, narrated in the voice of Anne Whateley herself. As Smitha says, the author has done such a wonderful job that it is difficult to make out where fact ends and fiction begins. I loved the experience of reading this book.
The characters in the book, honestly speaking, are not at all likeable. Anne Whateley, going by Harper’s book, sounds like a doormat, clinging on to her lover in spite of losing all her self respect. Shakespeare is a man of clay feet, treating Anne Whateley like a beast, in spite of always being there for him, being, in more ways than one, instrumental in reaching the heights he is known for till date. Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s legal wife, sounds like a pushover, a dominating woman who could never bring herself to accept her husband for the man he really was. That said, I understand that the characters are drawn from real life (or what is known of their real life), and hence are twisted and grey, like real human beings are.
Would I recommend this book? I most definitely would. I am sure the writing will transport you to the world of those days, and make you see the bard in your mind’s eye.