staff picks

Book vs film

Books into MoviesFilm adaptations of books can be divisive. Often it depends on which one you came across first, but in my case, it’s pretty nearly always the book first; and at this stage I’m wary of checking out  film adaptations that can potentially ruin a favourite book (Lolita, anyone?). I just prefer my own imagination. That said, some films manage to avoid the pitfalls of plastic actors, dodgy accents, weird lighting effects, and blatant changes, and let you see the story from a new angle. And some even knock the socks off the book. Here’s a roundup of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

An Italian Love Affair - Italian Crime Fiction Re-visited

Donna Leon

Donna Leon

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with crime fiction author Donna Leon at a book signing in Dubray Bookshop (see photo on left) in Dublin on the 11th April last, where she was talking about her work and signing copies of her latest book 'The Golden Egg' 4 stars. Her description of this, the 22nd in the  Commissario Brunetti series, as a "love letter to language" just increased my desire to get started on it, which I did soon after.

In this, Commissario Brunetti, at the behest of his wife Paola, looks into the suspicious death of a deaf-mute man who may also have had mental issues. Of interest too of course is that no one seems to know much if anything about the man, who worked in their local dry cleaners for many years. So it becomes an investigation to discover who this man with no paper trail was and what were his circumstances. Without wanting to give too much away, this is not a conventional crime story but rather a tale of a different sort of crime and the tragedy and injustice that can befall an individual born into the wrong circumstances.

Out of Europe, Into Africa, Laos, Australia, USA. Crime Reads

I bet most people are somewhat familiar with the film 'Out of Africa' (1985), starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, and which is based loosely on an autobiography by Karen Blixen, it first published in 1937. The setting is British East Africa, better known today as Kenya, a point which leads me nicely on to the first crime novel I want to tell you about here, it too based in Kenya. As you might by now have guessed this post does not include any books with a European setting. But change is good, no?

A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa'A Guide to the Beasts of East Africa4 stars is the only title I have yet read by Nicholas Drayson, and it is the sequel to 'A Guide to the Birds of East Africa'. The first thing to say about it is that if you like the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency books (McCall Smith), you should like this. Which I did, although I was initially slow to warm to it, probably because of its slower than what I am used to pace. But it has humour, style and interesting characters in its favour, and all helped to draw me more and more into the book with each page turning. The story like I said is based in Kenya, and around a number of different events and characters; Mr. Malik and his planning of the Asadi Club's annual safari, his daughter's impending marriage, a threat to the club's very existence, theft, political corruption, and the mystery surrounding a seventy-year old unsolved murder. The question: can Mr. Malik, who is of course a bit of a sleuth together with the help of lawyer Tiger Singh, unravel the mystery and save the day? An entertaining read this, I think you will like it. Regrettably, we do not have this title in our (Dublin City) libraries (horror!), for that I must apologise, I will ask for it to be purchased.

Wilde thing, you make my heart Synge

Irish authorsApril is the month for Dublin City Council’s One City, One Book initiative – this year it’s Joseph Plunkett’s Strumpet City. This campaign drums up a huge amount of interest in its chosen book each year, and by extension in Irish literature generally; so if you enjoy each year’s nomination, keep the momentum going, and try other Irish authors: there are hundreds to choose from, so here’s a small selection of both classic and modern to whet your appetite.

Crime (Cream?) Always Rises to the Top!

Vanishing PointLooking at the list of the most borrowed adult fiction titles in our libraries in recent weeks, even I was surprised at the level of dominance of thrillers and crime fiction. It must be true to say that crime holds an endless fascination for readers the world over. I would venture that over 50% of the top 20 adult fiction titles are in the thriller/crime category. The following is a listing of the most popular of those, and for me it is noticeable that two Scottish authors feature at the top:

Thinking of a holiday?

Brief EncountersSpring is on the way! Time to shake off the winter blues and plan a holiday, as it’s one of the nicest times of year to travel. While travel guides are great for practical advice on where to stay, what to eat, and what jabs you need, travel writing brings a much more personal and human view of countries and cities. The best ones  are great for bringing to life places you might not have considered visiting, and  make you want to pack up and head off straightaway.

 Brief encounters by Edith Newman Devlin, a Dublin-born lecturer on world literature at Queen’s University Belfast, regularly organised literary-themed tours for her students to the most far-flung and unlikely places: Nepal, Syria, pre-glasnost Russia. We take travelling to these places so much for granted now that we forget how exotic and adventurous these destinations were, in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. This book goes a long way towards bringing that feeling back!

My Favourite 2012 reads

Image of cover of Shadows on the Moonn by Zoe MarriottThis year was a pretty bumper year for my reading.  I injured my shoulder slightly and it cut down on my knitting, and enforced some rest occasionally, so I got a lot of reading done.  I read approximately 375 books from the Public Libraries in 2012 and following are some of the highlights.

Someone recommended I try Zoe Marriott, I blazed through some of her books, my favourite of which is Shadows on the Moon.  A story set in an almost Japanese world that does contain some magic but this young adult story is more about the consequences of unthinking revenge.  Zoe is an author I intend to keep watching.

The Crowfield Curse - Pat Walsh - Excellent fantasy about a Medieval boy who has to face some demons near where he lives in a monastery

Home Cinema at your Local Library

VertigoIf you enjoy film and want to stay in touch with the coolest flicks of all time then your local library is the place to go.

Last years Sight and Sound top ten films of all times featured Hitchcock's Vertigo as number one.

This was the first time that Orson Welles's Citizen Kane was knocked from top notch where it reigned from 1962 to 2002 to second place .

This list is compiled every decade by top film critics from around the world. We are proud to say that Dublin City Public Libraries have six of the best top ten in stock with the other four on order.

The Great Famine, Some Recent Titles

The Graves are WalkingBetween 1845 and 1850, out of a population of approximately 8.2 million, some one million died and another million were forced to emigrate. By 1881 the population had fallen to 5.2 million and continued to fall for many more years. The Great Famine, otherwise known as the Great Hunger, impacted on Ireland and her people like no other event in history, and in world terms the famine is rightly termed one of the greatest catastrophes of the modern era.

In recent times a number of new histories of the great famine have been published, and having just finished reading one of these, I thought I might stir your interest in this period of Irish history by reference to those recent publications that have come to my attention.

Some Christmas Crime Fiction Reads?

While some people like to escape to the sun for Christmas, many prefer the embrace of a traditional white Christmas. Whichever group you fit into, maybe one or other of these books might allow you to escape, in a fashion, to the sun or, if it is your preference, to more northern climes. The following are just some of the books I have read in recent months and I hope you get to enjoy them. So travel with me to Australia, South Africa, Iceland, Norway and Sweden!

Going to sunnier regions...

The BatTo Australia first. 'The Bat3.5 stars is the first in the Harry Hole series by Norwegian Jo Nesbo, but the last to be translated, reason being I understand is that the publisher thought the others in the series more marketable as they were based in Norway, while this novel is based in Australia. In this, Harry is sent to Sydney to assist the investigation into the murder of a young Norwegian woman, it being a race against time to catch the serial killer before he strikes again. Harry is here teamed with an Aboriginal police officer, the Aboriginal aspect being strong in this book. You also learn something of Harry the person, while his problem with alcohol raises its ugly head also. A gritty ending as you come to expect from Nesbo.