Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nevermore: Dracula, Romanov Sisters, Camelot's Court, Book Thief, and Purity of Vengeance

Our Nevermore readers choose books of all sorts: fiction and nonfiction, the newest books to the classics. It makes for an interesting mix. This time the first book up was Dracula by Bram Stoker, arguably the most influential vampire book of all time. While Stoker had his own literary influences (Camilla by Sheridan Le Fanu and Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer spring to mind), it was Dracula which stoked the public’s imagination.  Our reviewer had just started the book, but said that at 25 pages in, it was “very readable.”

A new non-fiction book about the ill-fated Russian grand duchesses was up next.  The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport uses diaries and letters to tell the stories of the four daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra who were executed along with the rest of their family in 1917.  Rappaport specializes in Victorian history and Russian history of the era, and has written several other books on the subject.  While for the most part the sisters have been treated as a group (except for books on Anastasia, due to rumors that she survived), this book seeks to present them as individuals.  Our reader found the book “really interesting” and recommended it.

Another new non-fiction history book discussed was Camelot’s Court by Robert Dallek.  This is a detailed account of the Kennedy White House with an emphasis on policy and advisors.  Dallek has written a number of books about modern presidents, including  titles on Roosevelt, Nixon, Reagan, and Johnson.  Our reviewer said it was well written and filled with quotations, and he thought the epilogue was especially interesting.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by Death himself. The title refers to Liesl,  a young girl in Nazi Germany who is sent to live with a foster family.  At her younger brother’s funeral she steals a book even though she cannot read.  After her foster father teaches her to read, she steals more books and finds that stories can be transformative, no matter the circumstances.  This is a compelling book, and our reviewer highly recommends it.

Jussi Adler Olsen is one of the “Nordic Noir” writers whose work has been translated into English following the popularity of Stieg Larsson’s books.  Set in Copenhagen, the books feature Detective Carl Morck of Department Q who specializes in solving cold cases.  Our reviewer had just read The Purity of Vengeance, the fourth book in the series, which finds Morck investigating the 1980s disappearance of  a brothel owner.  Our reviewer said this was another good entry in the series.

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