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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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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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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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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:

  

« Sagal, Peter: The Book of Vice | Main | Bibeau, Paul: Sundays with Vlad »

Sansom, Ian: The Case of the Missing Books

  

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HarperCollins © 2007, 352 pages [amazon]
3 stars

Note: I read this book in part during a 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, and blogged about the book in mid-course. The relevant posts are here and here. 

Israel Armstrong, the protagonist of Ian Sansom's fish-out-of-water story, is the sort of character Hugh Grant might play, all bumbling and hapless, if Hugh Grant were Jewish and had a paunch. Israel has left his home and girlfriend behind in London to take up a job as a librarian in "the middle of the middle of nowhere," in Tumdrum, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland. Once arrived, however, he finds the library shuttered and his job description much altered: rather than manning a civilized circulation desk, Israel is to run a mobile library, spreading literature around, quite literally, out of the back of a broken-down bus. Provided, that is, that he can find the town's books, all 15,000 of which have gone missing.

[INSET TEXT: Once arrived, however, he finds the library shuttered and his job description much altered: rather than manning a civilized circulation desk, Israel is to run a mobile library, spreading literature around, quite literally, out of the back of a broken-down bus.] During his quest for the missing books, Israel is thrown into a series of bizarre circumstances (like being compelled to sleep in a chicken coop), and innumerable bad things happen to him (like he's punched in the face), and he is forced to interact with an endless stream of quirky locals (who tend to be more sophisticated than he at first suspects). Think Hugh Grant in Northern Exposure, maybe.

The book is meant to be charming. We're told on the back of the paperback that it "combines the off-beat soulfulness of Nick Hornby with the quirky cheerfulness of Alexander McCall Smith." And, really, the book should be charming: how could the plight of a bumbling English librarian stranded among eccentric Irishmen fail to charm? And yet, it just didn't work for me. The locals are odd, but they're not interesting. The author seems to strain to make Israel's interactions with them as frustrating as possible. The dialogue, meant to be cute and filled with funny misunderstandings, is very often just annoying:

"'Aye, save your breath,' said another woman. 'We've heard it all before. Sure, you're all the same.'

"'I can assure you, madam, that--'

"'Who you calling madam?'

"'Erm.'

"'Are yous the new librarian?'

"'Who?'

"'Yous?'

"'Me?' Israel looked over his shoulder: were there more of him?

"'Yous!'

"'Well,' said Israel, 'yes. Mes. Me, I mean, yes it is. I am. Although actually I'm what's called an Outreach Support Officer these days.'"

There's an awful lot of dialogue like that, filled with halting speech and almost willful misapprehension. It might work on screen, but not on the page.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted quirky and charming and Alexander McCall Smith-iness. But mostly I was just bored.

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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/).

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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.