Ahad, 16 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

The Embassy Of Cambodia

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 03:00 PM PST

Zadie Smith's latest effort is a taut and bittersweet story of immigrant London.

ARE some people born to suffer more than others? And in a life defined by hardship, is it wrong to hope to be happy?

In The Embassy Of Cambodia, Fatou is a domestic servant to the Derawals, a Pakistani family in the multicultural neighbourhood of Willesden in north-west London.

Like Fatou, who hails from the Ivory Coast, her employers must have been newly-minted immigrants once. But unlike the young woman, they have since risen through the ranks of English society – enough to own two mini-markets, furnish their home with faux French antiques, and employ a maid they can afford to mistreat.

Though Fatou's employers keep her passport and deal out the occasional blow, the proud and plucky Ivorian is convinced that she is no slave, unlike another Sudanese girl she reads of in discarded newspapers.

After all, she has her own Oyster Card for outdoor errands; and after church on Sundays, she even gets to meet her friend, Andrew Okonkwo, a Nigerian business student, to get her fill of conversations spanning the past (Cambodia genocide, Hiroshima bombing) and present – best enjoyed with the cakes and coffee he buys for them both.

A fine enough existence for those resigned to their lot, but Fatou is keenly aware of her life's lack compared with many others. Just like the Sudanese girl's abusive employer, the Derawals retain Fatou's earnings to pay for her food, water, heating, and living space.

So Fatou's time is the only currency she owns, and she is a careful spender.

On Mondays, she is her own mistress for about two hours. She is defiant enough to borrow the Derawals' guest passes, albeit without their permission, to swim at the health centre next to the embassy.

Fatous allots 10 minutes to watch the constant "pock and smash" of a shuttlecock above the embassy walls, and another precious measure to entertain an interest in the persons that frequent the establishment.

Being a little-noticed foreigner herself except when needed for tiresome, thankless tasks, perhaps Fatou finds comfort in these largely invisible beings on the other side of the high wall.

Originally published in The New Yorker, this slim volume introduces readers to the novel's namesake via a curious observer. The person claims to speak on behalf of "the people of Willesden", perched on a perfect vantage point to comment upon Fatou's comings and goings near the embassy.

Thus, the story begins in a slightly disconcerting manner, but those who press on will be rewarded with a story that lingers long after the short read is over.

Weighty themes are tackled with a deft touch – the female sex tourism industry in West Africa makes an appearance – and the characters dwell in the minutiae of everyday life, only to emerge with bigger questions.

And if the setting sounds familiar, Willesden is the same area that formed the backdrop to Zadie Smith'sWhite Teeth (the 2000 Whitbread Book Award winner in the first novel category) and 2012's NW.

Despite the book's compact nature, Smith fleshes out her characters with such sureness that you don't feel tricked into liking them. For one, Fatou's heart is far from hardened by her trials and tribulations. It shows when a cringeworthy exchange has a person desperately needing her help, and conveying the request by kicking her in the arm. When Fatou immediately responds with a life-saving manoeuvre, you can't help but root for her.

Where some would make do with fleeting pleasures in a scant landscape, Fatou dares to hunger for more, and clutches at the fast-fading nature of her life's meagre joys.

Her sense of agency and desire for self-sufficiency has tasked her with the thirst for more than just surviving her circumstances. Even if she feels its sorrows are too great, she leaves little space for despair.

From her pride in her healthy young body outdoing others in the health centre's pool, to teaching herself to swim by struggling in the "rough grey sea" outside a former place of employment, it is both heartening and humbling to see Fatou finding pockets of happiness in her everyday drudgery.

While some readers may desire a narrative longer than 21 short chapters, it is neither fair nor necessary to measure short-form fiction against the possibilities of a novel-length incarnation.

Instead, those looking for a well-told tale of immigrant London can turn to this mini-novel – which begins and ends at the Embassy of Cambodia – and find out whether it's sink or swim for Fatou.

Fixing to die

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 03:00 PM PST

FOR many of us, shopping is a kind of sport as we ferret out the best deals. Just look at the popularity of the various shopping blogs. And being a mystery shopper, as is Josie Marcus in Elaine Viets' humorous series, sounds like a dream job.

While Viets, who lives in Florida, keeps this series light and amusing, she also shows how greed and fraud can bring out the sinister side of people. Viets' skill at weaving darker tones into an amateur sleuth mystery shines in the highly entertaining Fixing To Die.

The ninth novel in this series finds Josie mystery shopping for her boss as well as for herself. Josie and her husband Ted Scottsmeyer have been married a few months now and are ready to move into a home of their own.

The couple may have found the perfect place in a good neighbourhood, and Josie is ready to plunge into the world of rehabbers and contractors.

But before the construction dust can settle, a dead body is found in the backyard and Josie becomes involved in the investigation.

Viets' energetic storytelling keeps Fixing To Die going at a brisk pace, as she weaves in the emotional cost of home buying, dealing with contractors, and the lengths that some owners will go to ready their dogs for the show circuit. A solid family dynamic adds texture to Viets' story. As a bonus, Viets, who also writes theDead-End Jobs series set in Florida, includes several pages of useful tips for the home rehabber. – Sun Sentinel/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dead Man's Time

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 03:00 PM PST

An author at the peak of his powers offers the latest in a long-running series that manages to remain fresh.

THE Detective-Superintendent Roy Grace series shows no signs of slowing down or becoming jaded, even here in book nine of the bestselling franchise.

These murder-mysteries – all centred in and around the English coastal city of Brighton – have now shifted 14 million units across the globe.

Each book in the series contains the word "dead" in the title. But for crime fiction junkies, they're a life-affirming read; there's always enough warmth and humour to balance the gore and body count.

Fastidiously researched and detailed, as a result of James joining the (remarkably accommodating) Brighton police on some of their raids, and also having many close friends in the force's ranks, these crime procedurals are the best coming out of Britain today.

Only the other Peter – Peter Robinson – comes close, with his excellent Detective Alan Bank series set in Yorkshire.

Graham Greene first put Brighton on the map in 1938 in his noirish Brighton Rock. And while interviewing James a few years ago, I learned that Greene's dark masterpiece was the book that compelled James both to write for a living and to feature his city (he's not only a lifelong resident, James is also Brighton-born) in his work.

The author is on top form here. From the start, when 98-year-old widow Aileen McWhirter is tortured to death by murderous creeps hellbent on extracting from her the combination code of her safe, this book grips through almost every page. The thieves make off with more than £10mil worth of valuable antiques, and their haul included a rare 1910 Patek Philippe timepiece.

Despite the watch's breath-taking monetary value, it's the sentimental value that drives 95-year-old Gavin Daly, Aileen's brother, both to set about recovering it and avenge his sister's murder. And – as if this wasn't enough – to delve into an almost century-old mystery. Gavin is also determined to discover the fate of his father, a docker and fearsome gang leader who, in 1922, was taken from their home in New York and never seen again.

The mobsters (from a rival gang) responsible for his father's disappearance also murdered Gavin's mother all those years ago. The young orphaned siblings were subsequently sent from New York to Ireland to be raised by members of the extended family. Quite a backstory to the present-day plot!

In adulthood, Gavin made his name and his fortune in the antiques business, in time becoming a kingpin of Brighton's antiques trade. Naturally, he was Aileen's adviser when it came to high-value and luxury purchases – which were all snatched away that dreadful night, as his sister lay dying an agonizing death. Gavin's headstrong and reckless son, Lucas, also gets involved in this revenge game, with predictably unpredictable results.

What a family to get involved with! Nevertheless, Grace's investigative team is called in to probe the murder-robbery and apprehend the perpetrators.

As always, James does a fine job of generating the team atmosphere of cops on the case, trying to piece together the scant clues.

The line-up of Grace's team often changes, which is in keeping with police life in reality. But some old standbys remain from the earlier books, including, thankfully, the ones that provide comic relief.

The cinematic action shifts from Brighton and the surrounding south coast county of Sussex, to New York City, and thence to Spain's Costa del Sol – or Costa del Crime, as it's often referred to because of the large number of British crooks and ex-cons who have made this part of Spain's coast their home.

At some points in the story arc, James expects us to suspend a bit too much disbelief, such as Grace's need to cross the Atlantic to the Big Apple, as well as his conduct and actions while he's prowling the mean streets of Brooklyn in New York. Also, the subplot involving a nefarious scumbag who crossed paths with Grace many years previously is overwrought and detracts from the main action.

But this is redeemed by James introducing a new facet to his lead character: fatherhood. The highly personal tone of this storyline is touching and adds greatly to the protagonist's appeal.

Past and present are slathered in blood and menace, and James has an uncanny knack of characterising his villains in a way that makes you feel their hot foul breath down your neck.

As usual, James throws in more than a few well-concealed closing twists, and, in totality, Dead Man's Time is James at the peak of his powers. Can book 10 get better than this? The prolific James won't make us wait too long for the answer to that – he cranks out a Roy Grace yarn at a rate of one a year.

The tough-but-tender Grace endures a lot in this transatlantic mystery thriller – hope he has the stamina to nail the bad guys next time. I have a feeling he will.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

0 ulasan:

Catat Ulasan


The Star Online

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved