Monday, April 09, 2012

Great Ideas and Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a brilliant idea, and one that I wish a bookstore like Island Books would start, because I would join in a heartbeat! What is not to love about having a personal bookseller send you a good book every month?!

Bookseller Liberty Hardy is the resident "Veloci-reader" at RiverRun Bookstore , Portsmouth, N.H. She helps customers find the "book you didn't know you had to
have--delivered to your door" as part of RiverRun's Paperback to the
Future program.

For $20 per month (or $100 for six months), Hardy "will interact with
you via e-mail to get a sense of your reading taste. Then, using a
complex, furtive, and unscientific formula, we will send you a paperback
book to read. It will be a surprise! It's 90% likely that you will have
never heard of it, and 100% guaranteed that you will like it. Or your
money back.... The longer this goes on, the more we'll understand what
you like to read: we'll be right inside your brain!"

This is true, and I completely agree, from Shelf Awareness:

Promising not to give "another save-the-bookstore rant," nor to "wax
nostalgic about an almost-extinct breed of shopping destination or beg
you to support it as an act of charity," the Boston Globe's Christie
Matheson offered "10 (and a half) reasons
why you'll get a lot more than books if you buy from local stores":

1. They entertain your kids.
2. They stock literary treasures.
3. They bring celebrities to town.
4. They educate you.
5. They have real people on hand to help you.
6. They offer great book groups.
7. They can help you write.
8. They keep you in the know.
9. They reward loyalty.
10. They support your community.
10.5. They sell online, too

I had to read "Three Cups of Tea" for my book group, and I have to say that I didn't really see the point of what Mortenson was doing in building schools in the "stan" countries like Afghanistan, particularly to educate girls, when women in Middle Eastern Islamic society are not allowed to actually DO anything with their education, and must wear clothing that covers them from head to toe. They can also be murdered for the flimsiest of reasons, from just looking at a man who isn't in their family to reading a book that isn't allowed. I would think it would make more sense to free women from the confines of insane male-dominated religious zealotry first, before trying to educate girls who won't get to do anything with their education but be married off at an early age and then be used as a birthing machine and housekeeper. So I wasn't surprised to see the 60 Minutes piece on Greg Mortenson using the money his foundation made for his own aggrandizement. I had that guy's number as soon as I read the first chapter of his book. My only disagreement with the paragraphs below is that I do not feel his foundations mission is worth saving. Fighting for women/girls equal rights would be much more effective, I believe.

A Montana attorney general's investigation
into Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and head of the Central
Asia Institute, the Bozeman, Mont., charity that he created to build
schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has found that Mortenson "failed to
reimburse his organization for more than $1 million in travel and
book-related expenses going back several years" and that Mortenson "had
significant lapses in judgment resulting in money donated to CAI being
spent on personal items such as charter flights for family vacations,
clothing and internet downloads," CBS News reported.

Under the terms of a settlement with the attorney general, Mortenson is
paying the Institute $1 million, has resigned as executive director and
while he can be employed by the Institute, he may not have any position
involving financial oversight. At the same time, current board
members--allies of Mortenson--are stepping down within a year and will
be replaced. The Institute has cooperated with the attorney general's

Last year 60 Minutes charged that Mortenson had fabricated parts of his
story in Three Cups of Tea, spent many donations to the Institute on
personal expenses and had the Institute buy copies of his book for
distribution to others--while pocketing royalties on those purchases.

All parties, including 60 Minutes, agreed that the Institute's mission
made it worth saving.

And Finally, I finished the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery several days ago, "Elegy for Eddie" which is the 9th book in the series, and as usual, I loved getting into Maisie's world of post WWI Great Britain, and I always love her calm demeanor and compassionate nature.
In this installment, Maisie is set upon by the Coster mongers of London to find the killer of a "simple" fellow with a gift for horses, who was actually born in a horse stable after his mother was raped. Unfortunately, Maisie's partner, Billy Beale, gets set upon by thugs who beat him nearly to death, which sets off Billy's mentally unstable wife, Doreen, who screams and freaks out and blames Maisie for all of Billy's problems. There follows as lot of Maisie apologizing for helping others with her newfound wealth, including the Beale family, by getting them out of their moldy digs in Shoreditch, which were causing their children to become ill, as children will in the slums, and establishing them in a clean newer home in a better neighborhood. This must be some kind of wierd national eccentricity of the British people, because I really believe that Maisie had NOTHING to apologize for! She'd done her best to help others in ways that were appropriate and kind, and hadn't forced them to bow down to her or for anything at all in return, yet she gets lambasted by all the authority figures in the book for being helpful. So she should just let the Beale family waste away and have their children sicken and die of preventable disease, because of the 'pride' of the mentally ill Doreen? Really? That makes NO SENSE at all.
I also do not understand Maisie's problem with marrying James Compton, who is to the manor born, because Maisie is now independently wealthy and on a social par with him, and yet she seems to be afraid that he will force her to give up her investigating business to have children and be the lady of the manor, which I seriously doubt he'd do. Strong as she is, I think Maisie can be married, have children and still have a career, all at once. She's not getting any younger, and if she's going to have a family, she should do it now, especially since war, (WWII) is on the horizon. Great Britain will be in that war for 6 plus years, so if she doesn't get cracking now, she will likely be a spinster and be involved in the war as a spy or a nurse.
Still, with it's hesitations and apologies, Elegy for Eddie is a wonderful read, full of warm and loving characters and scoundrels with dark hearts. It deserves an A, and should be read by all who enjoy a women-centered mystery.

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