Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro uses the story of one young woman to examine the contradictions in modern Indian society where immense wealth and immense poverty operate side by side.  Leela is a lively, charming young woman who works as a dancer because she has very little alternative.  Then a politician tries to have the dance bars closed on moral grounds, a move which could produce disastrous for Leela.   Beautiful Thing has won numerous awards, and has been praised for both its insights into Indian culture and for the beautiful writing.  Our reviewer thought it was both heartbreaking and breathtaking.

Another somewhat mysterious world is examined in Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum.  Blum became interested in finding the physical location of the internet the data centers and information hubs as well as the places where the internet was “born.”  While the writing is suitable for non-geeks, some found it a bit dry but fascinating.

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts takes a look at the women behind the men who helped form our nation.  Since much less has been written about these mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters, Roberts relied on primary sources such as letters.  All the women are fascinating, in our reviewer’s opinion, and the book does an excellent job of informing and entertaining. Roberts covers the usual women (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, etc.) but also some other lesser known but influential women such as Esther Burr or Peggy Shippen.

Less successful, at least to our reviewer, was Julian Barnes’ novel Sense of an Ending.  The plot concerns a middle-aged man who receives an unexpected legacy that causes him to re-examine his life and his past.  The book was described as depressing, with a main clueless main character, and a strange plot twist for no reason.

One of our reviewers who has been disappointed with David Baldacci’s more recent novels decided to re-read an earlier book she had enjoyed.  In The Winner, a down-on-her luck waitress is wins a lottery courtesy of a mysterious and sinister benefactor known as Jackson.  There’s only one caveat:  she must leave the country forever.  After a decade abroad, Luann is so homesick that she returns.  This a breach of her agreement that will bring down Jackson’s considerable wrath and results in a breathtaking game of cat and mouse. Our reviewer said this was still an outstanding book, and if someone wanted to read a book by Baldacci, this is the one to read.

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