Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nevermore: Capital, Bonapartes, We Are Not Ourselves, and Hidden Child

Nevermore started out with a heavy-weight book first:  Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty.   The book is just a tad intimidating:  it’s a 685 page treatise on economics translated from the original French.  As if a 600+ page book with a long range view of economics (and by “long range,” think centuries) wasn’t intimidating enough, this book is a translation from the original French.  Jud said the book was surprisingly easy reading, both informative and entertaining, so the translator must really be a gifted person.  Piketty tries to present both recent and historical data from a variety of countries in his survey, though admittedly data on person income in, say, the 1700s is a bit sketchy.  He finds that, as population expansion slows in developed countries, wealth is concentrated into small groups and that much of this wealth is inherited.  Piketty has said that his goal was to write a book for non-specialists and he seems to have succeeded, as Jud said that the book reads “surprisingly well for a book about economics.”

France also figured in the next book, or rather a family connected with France did.  The Bonapartes  by  David Stacton tells the story of some of Napoleon’s less illustrious family members who tended to be, well, screw-ups—at least according to this book. For example,   Napoleon liked to appoint relatives to kingships.   Joseph Bonaparte was made King of Spain where he was so disliked that he suggested his own abdication.  He then spent time in the United States where he added another mistress and more illegitimate children in addition to the ones acquired in Europe. Our reader is finding this book to be both enlightening and entertaining, praising it for its “wonderful, witty style.”  She loved the way the author writes, but says the names can be a bit confusing.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is the story of Eileen Tumulty, the only child of alcoholic parents who is determined to better herself.  She marries Ed, a neuroscientist, in hopes that this will lead to a more upscale life.  Unfortunately for her, Ed is more interested in research than in material gain, so Eileen sets out to on a career of her own in order to give their son a better place in life.  Our reader found it well done, showing Eileen’s determination and strength of character.  He also praised the cover, which is quite ingenious and reflects some of the novel’s themes.

Finally, Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg was recommended by another member as a strong entry in the “Nordic Noir” category.  Swedish detective Patrik Hedstrom is on paternity leave when he is drawn into a case of murder whose origins may stretch back to World War II.  Our reader enjoyed it.

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