Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Time of Myths by Chris Blamires **

DISCLOSURE I have a congenital bias for novels with obviously happy endings SPOILER ALERT this was not one of those.

A Time of Myths by Chris Blamires takes place at Woodstock and in London and Greece seventeen years later. Six young people meet at Woodstock and, in the language of the book, "set off half a degree out" from where they should be. When we meet them again in 1986, "the difference to where you should be" is enormous. But more then just six lives are lost. The world is also "also half a degree out" and the mythical promise of Woodstock, showcased as a series of near/potential disasters that are averted by love and good well, is also lost. By 1986, the world is, if not evil, at least brutal and heartless.
So little of this world makes any sense that there's a sadistic need to savor the moment when someone actually gets what's coming to them.
So many myths back then - so useful. You'll find we've killed them with progress, spring cleaning away the magic.
Beyond the glum world view of predetermination of the road to perdition, as a reader, I felt that the style was cryptic and the plot difficult to follow. It seemed to me that the narrative jumped around around in point-of-view and setting.

I was certainly not the ideal reader for this novel which attempts to address some of the most basic questions of life.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on August 26, 2013. I received the book September 10, 2013. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brazil by Errol Lincoln Uys ***

One of the things I find extremely interesting about Brazil is that the different races (indigenous natives, European colonizers, and African slaves) seem to get along better then the corresponding groups in North America - United States and Caribbean islands are obvious examples with significant African slave populations.

Brazil by Errol Lincoln Uys, a massive historical novel (almost 800 pages of small font) begins to answer the question ... why such different outcomes in similar plantation-based economies? Even though I only made it half-way through the book to the mid-18 century, I believe the those first two-and-a-half centuries lay the foundation for the future, and this saga of the second biggest country in the western hemisphere brings the history to life.

Three factors play play a role in this happy outcome: Population, Priests, and Politics.

From the first, the Portuguese colonies had limited in population and resources. These small colonies couldn't complete dominate the native populations, and successful colonizers had to form  alliances with the indigenous groups. These alliances led to early intermarriages and acceptance of mamelucos  (children of European and native parents), and eventually any mestizo (children of mixed parents).

Second were the Jesuits who came in early and protected the native populations. The Jesuits probably deserve credit for the preventing the genocides that were seen in North America.

Finally, the politics in Europe kept tiny Portugal (and by proxy Brazil) constantly under threat.

Together, whether native to Brazil, or immigrant, either voluntary or involuntary, all inhabitants had to stick together to keep Brazilian society alive. Everyone counted, no one ruled.

An interesting story for sure.

I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway on August 16, 2013. I received the book August 21, 2013.