Alice in Italy

>> Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TITLE: Wonderment In Death (from Down the Rabbit Hole anthology)
AUTHOR: JD Robb

I decided to read this while I was struggling with a Lewis Carroll biography for my book club (probably not a coincidence). Eve investigates an apparent murder-suicide, which we readers know was orchestrated by a killer using mind-control techniques and more than a few drugs. Eve looks under the surface and realises something else was going on, and that whoever was responsible has a bit of an obsession with Alice in Wonderland.

This was ok. The Alice connections were fun, and it was a nice glimpse of the characters we know and love. Unfortunately, this short story suffered from the same issue as the previous ones, and that is that paranormal stuff does exist in the world of the short stories, but this doesn't translate into the world of the novels. That feels just wrong.

This short story comes in an anthology with three others, but I didn't read any of those. I've tried the authors before and they don't work for me at all. No point wasting my time. I do wish I'd known that if I waited a while I'd be able to purchase just the Robb story in e!

MY GRADE: A B-.

TITLE: The Dark Heart of Italy
AUTHOR: Tobias Jones

The Dark Heart of Italy is about the country Jones discovered when he moved there in the late 90s. He looks beyond the glamorous, beautiful fa├žade the tourist will see. What Jones is interested in is what life is really like in Italy for those who live there. He covers a wide range of topics, and this is basically a collection of essays, each very different in both tone and content. Jones has added a final paragraph to each of them that that links it to the next one, but that often feels a bit shoehorned in.

I enjoyed most of this. It didn't start great: a couple of chapters at the beginning were about the anni di piombo, or "years of lead", the period when the struggle between the fascists and the left got really heated, to the point of terrorist attacks and atempted coups. Those should have been really interesting, but the way they were written, with much too much detail on the legal proceedings, made them stultifying. Other chapters were much better. Those tended to be the ones where he looked into the way Italians are and tries to understand it. Particular favourites were the chapters on Italian football, television and Catholicism. Those felt pretty insightful.

The title suggests something the book is not... well, not really. He does look at the dark and ugly, but he clearly loves the country and its people, and that shines through. The tone is often not of aggressive criticism, more of bemused fondness.

MY GRADE: A B.

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