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One oath too far

Tom Clancy's Oath of Office Book Cover Tom Clancy's Oath of Office
Jack Ryan
Marc Cameron
political, legal, spy, action and adventure
Michael Joseph
November 29, 2018
528

The latest thriller in Tom Clancy's internationally bestselling Jack Ryan series - inspiration for the forthcoming Amazon Prime television series. On a crowded tourist beach in Portugal, US operatives use a high-tech drone to watch a French arms dealer flirt with a beautiful woman. It's only when she leaves that they realise she has shot him dead. In Iran, protests are growing against the oppressive regime, whipped up by a charismatic student. Most external observers are excited, but on the ground a spy of questionable loyalty senses something is badly amiss. And meanwhile, with the United States reeling from a string of natural disasters, Russian troops and ships are massing on the borders of the Ukraine, bringing the two powers ever closer to war. Across the globe a conspiracy is brewing, so darkly brilliant that no-one has yet joined the dots. And the distracted President Ryan has little time to play catch-up: little does he know that he faces a madman with a plan more devastating than he could possibly imagine...

I failed to complete this book after a couple of tries – mainly because I thought the number of storylines going through it were too complicated to follow. I lost track of the names I needed to remember – and many were very difficult – and trying to remember which branch of the Russian State we were talking about – or the Iranian or or… just proved too difficult.
I am sure all the different storylines joined up somewhere but after i was more than a third of the way through the book, I still hadn’t reached that stage.
A pity as I have liked some of the previous stories about Ryan, but maybe, this is one book too many in the franchise?

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Books/book review/writing
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Albania treats its women badly it seems

Antigona and Me Book Cover Antigona and Me
Kate Clanchy
Biography & Autobiography
Pan Macmillan
2009
273

Antigona and Me is a memoir of the five years the poet Kate Clanchy spent living closely with Antigona, a Kosovan refugee. Antigona becomes her project, her protegee, her cleaner, her nanny, and slowly, through hours of conversation and negotiations of difference, her friend. Through the story of the women's growing understanding is woven the dramatic tale of Antigona's great escape – from Milosevic, from her forced, violent marriage, and from the most traditional pastoral society in Europe – and the growing toll of her losses, as she and her rebellious teenage daughters negotiate London. Antigona's wit and vertiginous perspectives on contemporary life illuminate and transform the way the writer thinks, bringing many hard truths uncomfortably close to home.

 

I really wanted to love this book – and I did initially, but then I got bored.

The story of he Albanian treatment of women and the Kanun of Lek is horrifying, and the blood feuds that continue for years is well known across those areas – and in Sardinia and other remote areas too. I thought at first that Antigona was a great character and inspiration, but as the story develops she became less so, and I got bored of all the discussion about the Kanun and the relatives and the way women should behave and…

It certainly was very tragic and the life these women led in Albania was horrific but how many times can you say it and not de-sensitise your reader?

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Not yet Equal…

Of Women Book Cover Of Women
Shami Chakrabati
critical theory, feminist criticism, political and social issues
Penguin
(1 Mar. 2018)

This book starts from the position that gender injustice is the greatest human rights abuse on the planet. It blights First and developing worlds; rich and poor women. Gender injustice impacts health, wealth, education, representation, opportunity and security everywhere. It is no exaggeration to describe the position of women as an apartheid, but it is not limited to one country or historical period. For this ancient and continuing wrong is millennial in duration and global in reach. Only radical solutions can even scratch its surface. However, the prize is a great one: the collateral benefits to peace, prosperity, sustainability and general human happiness are potentially enormous. All this because we are all interconnected and all men are of women too

A really important book, but not one to be hurried or read lightly.

A book that is well researched and well illustrated and tells us more than we ever realised there was to be known about the feminine gender and what that means today. And what it implies across the many cultures of the world.

We are reminded of what people what choose if they could only have one child in the very beginning of the book -over-overwhelmingly a male child. And what this then implies if we could (legally) choose only one embryo to carry and one child to raise and keep. The missing female millions of the world’s population.

And the continuing problems of violence against women and female children, from cutting, early and forced marriages, abuse, religious/cultural doctrines that mean that women no longer are more than a ‘sack’ once married (see Antigone and Me for this description in Albania), and thus have not recognised the human right of equality for all, regardless of gender, sexuality or belief.

Whilst much of the book is a sorrowful read, Shami ends on a positive note, believing that far greater equality is within reach – but note that she does not say full equality, and I believe that this may , unfortunately, be true.

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Books/book review/fiction/crime fiction
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The Butterfly flaps

Butterfly On the Storm
Heartland Trilogy
Walter Lucius
psychological, mystery, thriller, political
Michael Joseph
(30 Mar. 2017)

Haunted by a past you can never escape . . .

A young boy is found in woods outside Amsterdam. Broken and bloody, he appears to be the victim of a brutal hit-and-run. When the police at the hospital ask what happened, the one word the boy repeats they don't understand.

But journalist Farah Hafez does. She left Afghanistan as a child and she recognizes her native tongue. As the boy is taken into surgery she finds herself visiting the scene of the crime, seeking to discover how a little Afghan boy came to be so far from home.

Instead, she comes across a burnt-out car with two bodies inside - a sinister clue to something far darker than a simple road accident.

It is just the start of a journey that will lead her from one twisted strand to another in an intricate web of crime and corruption that stretches across Europe and deep into a past that Farah had sought to escape - a past that nearly killed her.

A young injured child is found on the road.

In the middle of a forest.

At night.

With no cars nearby, and only a phone call to say she was there- the police are alerted.

Set in Amsterdam and its immediate surroundings, we find hat police are very much the same wherever they are located within Europe. The only difference being that the laws that govern how they operate vary.

So this story has as its central characters: a young journalist, originally from Afghanistan but after escaping the Russian invasion was brought up in Amsterdam; two policemen, 1 fat and ill-tempered, Moroccan, and eating all the ‘wrong’ food according to his Italian partner, who is smooth and careful of his health; and a young child.

The policemen have their own personal lives to sort out as they try to untangle the mystery of the child.

Now note that the author is  from Holland and that this is a translation as it was originally published in Holland in 2013.

So for me, the translation sometimes got in the way and the writing style was often irritating. I found that the way the characters suddenly started reminiscing without relating apparently to the current context put me off. Such as, why did the Moroccan think about the bus accident that killed his brother when they were discussing theories about the burnt bodies in the car? Was it the burning vehicle that triggered it? If so, it wasn’t clear. Am I, the reader, supposed to feel more sympathetic towards him as a character? If so, it failed, as he really irritated me.

At times these digressions spoilt he flow and pace for me, but thankfully they were not enough to stop me continuing to read. It was for me an uncomfortable style of writing that is not uncommon amongst Europeans especially, but not exclusively, Nordic writers.

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What Project is being undertaken here?

Who did what - and why?

What is the truth? Is she imagining what is happening? Who is the ‘baddy’? Is she mentally ill?

All these questions come and go as you read each of the beginning chapters.

I hadn’t read the previous book in the series so I was coming at this story from a totally innocent of expectations perspective – it may be if I had read the previous book I would have known the answers to a least some of these questions but...

In my mind however the fact of not knowing the answers for any of the characters made the tension greater. And the denouement was very unexpected.

I was intrigued and read the story as it unfolded with a willingness to find out the answers. But I wasn’t quite as drawn into the story as I could have been.

I found the portrayal of someone with Asperger’s good but perhaps a little exaggerated – the spectrum is very wide and people are not necessarily at the extreme end as described in the book.

So overall a 4 star book. Whether it is necessary to read book 1 first I reserve judgement on.

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