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About the blogger:
Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

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


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

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


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

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


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

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


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

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


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

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


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

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


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

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


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





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



Book Notices | Dead Certain by Adam Mitzner / The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith

Adam Mitzner, Dead Certain

  Amazon  

Charlotte Broden disappears one day.The story of the ensuing investigation is told in large part from the perspective of her older sister, Ella. Ella is a defense attorney working at her father's law firm, but along the way to becoming a lawyer, she suppressed her desire to be a singer. Now she sings once a week at a lounge on open mic night, adopting a secret identity she hasn't even told her sister about. Charlotte is a writer with a secret life of her own, as the investigation into her disappearance uncovers. Her unfinished novel, which she gave to Ella to read, is excerpted throughout this book and winds up providing important clues about what happened to her. In addition to Ella's chapters and the novel excerpts, we eventually hear the story from another character's perspective. I won't give away that person's identity, although I will say that the addition of this third voice was a surprising choice from the author. The fracturing of the story—multiple perspectives and the excerpts—might not have worked if done poorly, but I think it worked well enough. It certainly held my interest. My only complaint is that the resolution—the moment when Ella figures things out—comes faster than I would have liked. It was an unsatisfying payoff after so much buildup.

Alexander McCall Smith, The Girl Who Married a Lion

  Amazon  

This is a collection of 33 folktales from Zimbabwe and Botswana that Alexander McCall Smith has retold and, I guess, expanded on to an extent. They are lovely stories with the sort of content and sometimes absurd plots and logic that one sees in folktales—talking animals and reanimated corpses and witchcraft and so on. Maybe it's because I grew up reading fairy tales, or maybe everyone feels this way, but there is something immediately inviting and almost exciting about stories like these. You quickly enter into a world that's like ours but where so much more is possible and where characters act in ways that only make sense in fiction. The stories are told in simple sentences that grab you and pull you in. Here is the first paragraph of one story ("Head Tree") as an example:

"A man who had never done any wrong to anybody else had a great misfortune happen to him. His wife noticed that a tree was beginning to grow out of his head. This was not painful to the man, but it made him feel awkward when there were other people about. They would point at him and and say that this was a very strange thing to happen. Some people walked some miles to see this man sitting outside his hut with a tree growing out of his head."

I love it. How can you not want to know what happens to this man with a tree growing out of his head? And it's just so perfect in its simplicity. You'd think it would be easy to write so simply, but I don't think it is. In this case, the stories have presumably been passed down orally for generations and thus smoothed into simplicity like a stone smoothed by water. But McCall Smith's own modern prose shares this delightful simplicity as well. Here's another example of what I love about these stories. A hyena is left to guard a well while his friends look for food, and so he waits: "He sat in the shade of a tree and thought about things that hyenas like to think about, which are not things that you and I would understand." Again, I love this. No need to imagine what's going on in the hyena's head. We wouldn't understand! If you like folktales, take a look at this collection, and read it to your kids. They'll enjoy it.

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