Reviews by Joe Romaninsky

The Silent House

by Fergus Hume

An enojoyable page turner with lots of twists
and turns. A good beach book, or a fine read for a foggy afternoon.

Reviewed on 2008.02.29

The History of the Conquest of Peru (2nd ver)

by William H. Prescott

I do not know enough about the history of Peru, having read no other books on the subject, to have any idea of what more recent researches have revealed about the pre-conquest Inca civilization and the epic struggles of the Spanish conquest. However, given Prescott's meticulous research from primary documents, I imagine that the history must be fairly accurate on the broad scope.

This is an engrossing tale of ambition, greed,
bigotry, and murderous violence in a fantastic wilderness. The splendid prose is a joy to read. It held my interest from first to last. A long but rewarding book.

Reviewed on 2008.02.29

A Cidade e as Serras

by JosÚ Maria Eša de Queiroz

I read this book in an English translation published by the Carcenet Press. If you read Portuguese and haven't read the book, or any of Eca de Queiroz's marvelous novels, I can heartily recommend it. It may not be Eca de Queiroz's masterpiece, but it is a charming tale of a wealthy young Portuguese land owner living for no particular purpouse in Paris at the height of its late nineteenth century splendor and decadence, and of the love for his native soil and its sturdy, honest, and hard working people that draws him home again.

The novel's characters are drawn with Eca's usual affectionate humor and irony. The scene in which the French count, anticipating dining on a marvelous fish dinner, is foiled by a malfunctioning dumb waiter elevator is very funny. I only wish I were able to read Portuguese well enough to read the original. If it was that good in translation, it must be even better in Portuguese!

Reviewed on 2008.01.14

A Illustre Casa de Ramires

by JosÚ Maria Eša de Queiroz

Eca de Queiroz is one of least known authors of great distinction in the Western world. He has been compared to Balzac and Flaubert. He understands people and presents them, their aspirations, foibles, and their gusto for living with love and wry humor.

This book is a marvelous tale of a country gentleman of high birth (late 19th century). It might be called a story of a delayed coming of age, as it is concerned with a young aristocrat in search of purpose and direction for his affluent but unfocused life. The story is set in rural northern Portugal and it is rich in congenial provincial characters. Anyone who has spent any time in rural Portugal in the last half century will feel at home among these folks.

I read the book in English translation (Carcenet Press). If you are Portuguese and have not read Eca de Queoroz, you owe it to yourself to read this and his other novels. Particularly recommended: The Maias. This is generally regarded as his masterpiece.

Reviewed on 2007.10.24

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