9 Jan 2009

Recent reads

I have just finished reading "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Phillippa Gregory - a historical fiction about Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. Somehow I've always been intrigued about Tudor England and Phillippa Gregory gives a good insight into the Tudors, especially Henry VIII. In this book, he is already in his late 30s, still without a male heir and desperate for one. Spoiled, self centred, wilful yet charming once he gets his way, Henry meets the beautiful Anne Boleyn, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting. Anne is not portrayed as an innocent but rather as a femme fatale. In fact she is just like him in character - self centred and selfish to the extreme with an ambition that knows no boundaries. Prodded and helped by her equally selfish and ambitious family, Anne ignores the poor Queen Katherine, Henry's legal wife. In fact she goads him to make his marriage invalid, just because the queen did not give him a male heir. But I'm not going to tell the whole story here - read it and enjoy it. Although I knew the story of Henry VIII and his many queens , many of whom ended being beheaded, this story makes it more real. We see the various facets of Anne's family, how her sister and brother stood with her till the end and how they were 'rewarded ' for it. The rivalry between the two sisters Anne and Mary Boleyn I did not know about and could be just the author's creativity and imagination. BUt the novel is engrossing and thrilling, making you want to read it till the end.
I also just finished another book that I bought from BookXcess - In Turkey I am Beautiful, by Brendan Shanahan. It is not a travel book although it is a funny and sometimes poignant portrayal of a Turkey that visitors seldom see. This book is about Shanahan's journey through Turkey's rough hinterland, where he found himself in the middle of a gunfight, propositioned by a group of teenage boys and had to escape them by swimming to Armenia. When he returns to Istanbul he helps to run a friend's carpet shop and we are hilariously entertained by him as he tries to make it a profitable business together with Tevfik, a lovable, ineffective drug user. Shanahan's depiction of the Turkish is affectionate, satirical and sometimes sad. We see Turkey from the eyes of an outsider but an outsider who understands a people that is divided between Europeanism and Islam, a people who is still looking for their identity and a country that is slowly emerging from its past.
I also managed to get another Julia Quinn from BookXcess - this one is titled Minx. Its a continuation from her other books - Splendid and Dancing at Midnight. JUlia Quinn is light reading - for those days when all you want is to curl up on the sofa and read without much thinking. Enjoyable and fun, her characters are usually connected to each other in the many books from the same era.

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