Update September 16, 2017
Rushdie crafts modern masterpiece in ‘The Golden House’
“The Golden House” (Random
House), by Salman Rushdie
If you read a lot of fiction, you
know that every once in a while you stumble upon a book that transports
you, telling a story full of wonder and leaving you marveling at how it
ever came out of the author’s head.
“The Golden House’ is one of those
The title refers to the lower
Manhattan residence of the Golden family. It’s the home of Nero and his
three sons, Apu, Petya and D. The narrator is a neighbor named Rene, an
aspiring filmmaker who realizes the Goldens have a story to tell.
And what a story. With a patriarch
named Nero, it’s a tale borne of tragedy doomed to end with even more,
but Salman Rushdie grounds it in realism, setting it against
contemporary politics and culture. The year is current, but instead of
Donald Trump, Americans elect “The Joker” — “his hair green and luminous
with triumph.” There are plots that center around the Bombay mafia,
terrorism and gender identity, and enough film references to stump even
the most ardent cinephile. Rushdie plays with narrative forms
throughout as well — from Rene’s first-person account to character
monologues to entire scenes imagined as a screenplay, complete with
If that sounds like a recipe for a
jumbled mess, it’s not. The narrator is never gone for long and his
voice is so original and the story so propulsive that all the references
and storytelling forms feel organic, not forced. “I rued the day when I
allowed myself ... to be drawn into the orbit of the Golden house ...”
writes Rushdie as Rene, “After Hubris comes Nemesis: Adrasteia, the
inescapable. ... To be untrue to thyself, youth!, that is the highest
treason. Even the strongest fortresses can be taken by a siege. And
the sky that we look upon may tumble and fall, and a mountain may
crumble to the sea.”
Each turn of the page adds another
piece to the unfolding puzzle. Slowly, Rushdie relates the backstory of
Nero and reveals the fates of his sons, all the while ensnaring his
narrator in the story. The final image, of a spinning camera circling
the survivors, is dizzying, a fitting end to a novel that tackles more
than a handful of universal truths while feeling wholly original.
Julia Keller tackles heroin in 24-hour crisis
Oline H. Cogdill
“Fast Falls the Night”
(Minotaur) by Julia Keller
An ongoing theme in Julia Keller’s
superior series about Raythune County prosecutor Bell Elkins is how
these West Virginia residents maneuver when jobs are scarce but drugs
have overrun the area. Hope, though often in short supply, is the only
thing to which they can cling.
Hope seems elusive in “Fast Falls
the Night,” Keller’s excellent sixth novel that takes place during 24
hours, mainly in the town of Acker’s Gap. By the end of the horrific
day, 33 people will have overdosed from tainted heroin, three will have
died from the drugs and two other deaths are directly related to the
heroin that has been laced with an elephant tranquilizer. The epidemic
stretches thin the prosecutor’s office, the police, paramedics and
hospital staff as each hour brings more overdoses.
The situation also brings a moral
conundrum — how to treat addicts for whom few have sympathy. “They’ve
done it to themselves,” becomes a constant refrain. But nothing happens
in a vacuum as the problem seeps throughout the community.
Keller’s challenge, which she rises
to beautifully, is making the reader care and understand why these
people turned to drugs, without sanctioning their actions. “Fast Falls
the Night” is less a tale about drug overdoses and more about compassion
and complex characters. Connections run deep in this multi-generational
area with its decades of secrets, stymieing the investigation to find
the local dealer.
The balance in “Fast Falls the
Night” comes from Bell and Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Oakes, both of whom,
for different reasons, have chosen to live in the area. Bell’s sense of
justice and desire to make her hometown a better place propels her
daily, both professionally and personally.
Bell’s strident personality can be
off-putting to her co-workers, but her intentions are pure. “Fast Falls
the Night” finds her making some tough choices that will affect her
future. Jake came to police work almost accidently, but he shares
Bell’s quest. His development as an incisive detective and his personal
growth throughout “Fast Falls the Night” is a revelation.
The 24-hour timeframe imbues a
sense of urgency to the plot as Keller shows the day’s events through
various points of views. Keller also avoids the pitfalls of the TV
drama “24,” in which Jack Bauer raced across Los Angeles in minutes.
Here, a cop really can quickly make it across town.
A Pulitzer Prize winning
journalist, Keller again perfectly captures a community that, despite
its struggles, will survive. (AP)
Historical thriller takes readers back to turbulent era
“The Saboteur: a
Novel” (Minotaur), by Andrew Gross
An engineer from Oslo
attempts to disrupt the Nazi war machine at the height of World War II in
“The Saboteur,” the latest historical thriller by Andrew Gross.
Kurt Nordstrum has lost
his fiancee, and much of everything else he holds dear. He sneaks back into
his hometown and sees the full integration of German forces. Nordstrum
learns of an isolated factory hidden inside Norway where the Nazis are
building a terrifying weapon. With a few close friends, he hijacks a
passenger ship bound for Germany and steers it toward England. With the
help of some British forces, they arrive in Scotland. With the information
in hand, they join a team of Norwegian Freedom Fighters with a suicidal
mission to take out the factory.
Nordstrum becomes the
go-to guy for the impossible missions to stop the onslaught and assist the
Allied forces. If he succeeds, his efforts will make the path to victory
easier. If he fails, the Germans will have a path to full domination.
Gross takes readers
back in time to a turbulent and terrifying era. Like his previous novel,
“The One Man,” he immerses the reader in the 1940s with sympathetic
characters while focusing on the lone wolf who faces impossible odds, but
has no other choice. He also uses real historical figures and events with
some slight name changes, demonstrating that with a talented writer at the
helm, the past can truly come alive.
“The Saboteur” is a
terrific thriller. (AP)
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