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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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Authors & publishers:
I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« August book giveaway: Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer | Main | Buckley, Julia: The Dark Backward »

Smith, Scott: The Ruins

  

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Alfred A. Knopf © 2006, 319 pages [amazon]
5 stars

The vacation is close to idyllic. Four friends in the Yucatán in August, three weeks of snorkeling and sailing and lazing in the too-hot sun before they head off in the fall to their various futures--graduate school for three of them, a job teaching English in a prep school for the other. They're Americans, Jeff and Amy and Stacy and Eric, two couples, but the group quickly became international: Mathias, a German with good English, and a trio of non-English-speaking Greeks join the party, tagging along with the Americans. A hint of menace over this situation is introduced on the book's first page:

"There were three Greeks--in their early twenties, like Mathias and the rest of them--and they seemed friendly enough, even if they did appear to be following them about."

Eventually the friends decide to take a trip to the interior, to an archaeological dig a half day away by bus, then taxi, then by foot. It's another adventure, and a good deed, as Mathias is worried about his brother, who'd made the same trip some days earlier. But it turns out that once you leave the tourist areas behind, the air conditioned bars and the hotels and the miniature golf courses, the Yucatán can get very dangerous very fast.

There are no chapters in Scott Smith's book, just section breaks, which is probably just as well: turning the page to start a new chapter would just slow down your reading.There are no chapters in Scott Smith's book, just section breaks, which is probably just as well: turning the page to start a new chapter would just slow down your reading. The book is scary as hell, with a villain that is, once you put the book aside and start to think about it, frankly ridiculous, but that doesn't matter either: the book is frightening enough, the plot compelling enough to keep you reading. In a sense also, the identity of the villain doesn't matter that much. The Ruins is really a long character study, its well-developed protagonists, isolated from the rest of the world, put under duress and under a magnifying glass. What happens to someone, the question is, when he's subjected to fear and stress? How do different sorts of people respond to it? And do their varying responses matter that much, in the long run? Eric asks himself the question at the beginning of the book: "Who are they?" he wonders, thinking first of the trio of Greeks, then of his own friends and girlfriend. The question will be echoed at the book's end.

The Ruins is a horror story, but character-driven. It reminded me, particularly in its opening pages, of a Patricia Highsmith novel: the author introduces his characters and their situation, and hints at something awful to come, in direct, uncomplicated prose, as if telling the story were the easiest thing in the world to do. It's a fantastic read, and you'll want, if you can, to read it straight through without interruption. But if you do, start early in the morning: this is not a book you'll want to be reading late at night, when you're the only one lying awake, when the rest of the house, beyond the halo of your bedside lamp, is dark.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Comments

1.

Having read it myself, it didn't register with me until reading your review that The Ruins had no chapters! That speaks volumes about its not-able-to-put-downability....

2.

Yes! Usually I don't like books not having chapters--a response in part to something like Portnoy's Complaint, which I read as a teenager: I want to be able to stop reading conveniently. In this case the section endings would have been enough, but I didn't want to stop anyway.

3.

I don't read a lot of fiction but this one looks quite interesting - I think I'll put it in my Amazon basket. Since you bring up Patricia Highsmith in the review...I'm betting that the 'bad guy' is going to be one of the four Americans... Now I have to read it.

4.

I don't usually read this kind of novel, but you've convinced me. Great review.

5.

My work here is done! I'm glad you liked the review (and I hope you like the book).




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.