Capsule Reviews

Catching up on the bestsellers.

Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World, by David Maraniss. This book is about two things I love – Rome and the Sixties. Cassius Clay is in it, but not enough. I don’t think these or any other Olympics really changed the world, except the first Ancient Olympics of course.

Blue at the Mizzen
Blue at the Mizzen, by Patrick O’Brian. It’s been thirteen years since my friend Paul bought me Master and Commander during a Western Massachusetts road trip. Once I started the Aubrey/Maturin series, I couldn’t stop. I realized after finishing the 15th book, Clarissa Oakes, that my desire not to run out of books trumped the urge to keep reading. I stopped, and went back to book 1 and started reading again, adding one more book at the end (The Wine-Dark Sea). Then I went back and re-read a few favorites. After that, I pointedly ignored Jack and Stephen. Very slowly have I returned to O’Brian’s epic series, parcelling out new reads over the years until finally here I am at the last one. Even though I wouldn’t single this one out as special, I’m sad.

Suffer the Little Children, by Donna Leon. Delaware beach read. I only read this because other family members love the series. Disappointing – maybe because not much happened in the book. Lots of hanging around Venice, drinking coffees. Maybe that’s why people like these Guido Brunetti books.

Lipstick Jihad, by Azadeh Moaveni. OK, maybe not a bestseller. This was on my husband’s night table. Turns out he found it in the library, though it wasn’t a library book. An Iranian expat goes back to report on liberalization under the mullahs. Four years old but still relevant, and I liked the memoir approach because it made the turmoil and factional politics real.

The Key to Rebecca, by Ken Follett. Picked this one up at the Falmouth library’s book sale. Good beach read. The best spy novels have you admiring the bad guy even as he does terrible things. Afterward I revisited Follett’s classic Eye of the Needle, in which the survival of Western civilization is also at stake. Loved the heroine on Storm Island – cheered when she mutilated then offed the bad guy.

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. I am the last person on the planet to read it. Gaping plot holes and weak character development. I guess Opus Dei, potential Catholic-bashing, secret societies, sex rituals (Hieros Gamos), torture (Silas’s Discipline) and Leonardo da Vinci are enough to sell a book no matter what’s actually on the pages. (For some reason I don’t think the Goddess stuff is what sold it.)

All Souls, by Michael MacDonald. “A family story from Southie.” I picked this up at the library since it’s on the high school’s summer reading list. A story about growing up on welfare in South Boston in the 70s… A rough book… the author and his family were victims and perpetrators of every kind of evil… drugs, gangs, severe poverty/malnutrition, social stigma, racism, all kinds of deprivation and ignorance. It certainly made me think.