- In One Person – John Irving (Kindle)
- אדם וביתו – הרב יוסף דוב הלוי סולוביצ’יק
- Wednesday’s Child – Peter Robinson
- Dry Bones That Dream – Peter Robinson
- In One Person – John Irving (Kindle)
November was a slow reading month because I read a John Irving novel. Irving’s novels are known to be somewhat on the lengthy side. But even so, “In One Person” took me longer to read than what it should have taken me. Read my review below to understand why.
Four books in total this month:
Rabbi Soloveitchik (1903-1993) needs no introductions, least of all to American readers. Known simply as “the Rav”, he is arguably the most prominent Jewish thinker and philosopher of US Jewry in the 20th century. He was less well known in Israel, even though some of his pupils became famous rabbis and religious leaders there (most prominently Rabbi Aharon Lichetenstein, head of the Har Etzion yeshiva, married to Rabbi Soloveitchik’s daugther). All this started changing in the last few years, as the leading Israeli publisher began publishing the Hebrew versions of the Rav’s writings and lectures. The book “אדם וביתו” (A Man and his Home) is part of this series, known as the “MeOtsar HaRav” series (from the treasure of the Rav).
The book deals with two main aspects of Jewish family life. The first topic is married life and marital union, covered in three essays: “Adam and Eve”, “Marriage” and “Redemption of Marital Relationship”. The second topic deals with parenting and the relationships between parents and their children, also covered in three essays: “Natural and Redemptive Parenting”, ”Honouring and Fearing Parents” and “Torah and Shekhinah (Presence of God”.
As usual, the Rav’s essays are a wonderful blend of Jewish thought (Torah, Midrash, Rambam) and general philosophical thought, a mix that is so sorely missed from most of today’s Jewish religious discourse. The Rav manages to illuminate well-known mitsvot, such as the duty to respect one’s parents, in a totally new light, bringing humanity and compassion into otherwise “dry” Torah decrees. His writing may be a little difficult for those not familiar with philosophical terms, but at least the Hebrew edition of the essays are translated in a way that makes the text accessible to almost everyone.
“Wednesday’s Child” is the sixth book in the Inspector Adam Banks detective series by Peter Robinson.
Seven-year-old Gemma is kidnapped from her home, willingly given away by her confused mother to a well-dressed and well-spoken couple who claimed to be social workers. A couple of days later, the body of a young man is found in the ruins of an old lead mine. Two seemingly unrelated cases which (surprise!) converge into one intricate case for our dear Inspector Banks.
Except Banks plays somewhat of a secondary role in this book. Robinson has chosen to make Banks’ boss and sometimes mentor, Superintendent Gristhope, the main lead of the kidnapping investigation. A similar case many years back haunts the veteran detective’s memories as he frantically tries to get to the abducted girl before she is murdered. Finding Gemma’s bloodied clothes in a field does not raise hopes that he can win this race against time.
The plot of this book is less surprising that in previous Alan Banks books. The abductor/murderer character is revealed well in advance of the ending. It seems Robinson took somewhat of a pause in “Wednesday’s Child” to develop some of the characters that surround Banks, most notably Gristhope but also others. In a way I found this book to be a more relaxing read, despite the gruesome crime committed in the very first chapter.
In “Dry Bones That Dream” Peter Robinson makes a nice comeback. This book is one of the better one in the series, after a couple of disappointing installments.
This time Alan Banks is dealing with the murder of Keith Rothwell, a seemingly dull accountant. Two masked men break into his farmhouse, tie up his wife and daughter, and proceed to blow his head off in the garage. It looks like a professional job, and after an initial investigation it is clear this is not just another murder. The involvement of Dick Burgess from Scotland Yard, a old nemesis of Banks, indicates that this murder has implications far and beyond a local Yorkshire crime.
Things become interesting when Banks follows a lead in Leeds (pardon the word game). A young and attractive woman there insists that the dead Keith Rothwell is none other than Robert Calvert, an extrovert, fun-loving playboy she used to hang out with. The fingerprints from Calvert’s apartment in Leeds match those of Rothwell. Can the dull accountant and the playboy be the same person?
The plot is superb. Robinson leads the reader to believe he has “solved” the murder, but leaves the true surprise until the very end. Just what a good crime book should be like.
A John Irving book merits a longer review than the short ones I post every month.
For my review of John Irving’s latest book, “In One Person”, please follow this link. You might be surprised to read what I have to say about one of my favourite authors.