BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
Imagine hot sun beating down mercilessly. Imagine lush vegetation that never withers from cold or snow. When you think of eternal summer, what location comes to mind? India? Egypt? Kenya? The Caribbean? Here are four novels set in distant climes where icicles, blizzards and wind chill are words without examples.
“A Passage to India”
by E.M. Forster
During the 1920s, the society of British India is divided. When young British woman Adela Quested visits Chandrapore along with her possible future mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore, Adela wants “to see the real India.” Crossing social boundaries, she and Mrs. Moore are invited on a picnic by the hospitable Indian Dr. Aziz. “The air felt like a warm bath into which hotter water is trickling constantly, the temperature rose and rose, the boulders said, ‘I am alive,’ the small stones answered, ‘I am almost alive.’” Misunderstandings and racial stereotypes change the course of many lives after a pivotal event occurs. This is a tale of characters and cultures in which British contrasts with Indian, Muslim with Hindu, rich with poor. “Nationality was returning, but before it could exert its poison, they parted, saluting each other. ‘If only they were all like that,’ each thought.”
by Arthur Phillips
Two narratives intertwine, unraveling the fascinating tale of a missing man and the attempt to discover an ancient Egyptian tomb. Long letters written by a retired private detective detail his investigations to find an Australian who disappeared. Interspersed with those letters are the 1922 journals and correspondence of British Egyptologist Ralph Trilipush, as he attempts to uncover the tomb of the mythical ancient king and pornographic poet Atum-hadu. Trilipush is engaged to Margaret, daughter of his wealthy benefactor. When the private investigator insinuates that Trilipush is not who he appears to be, Trilipush rages, “He is a mythical nemesis dispatched to harass me, by, I cannot imagine, what forces for I cannot imagine what reason. Even so, he is a clownish, flabby nemesis. And yet, also necessary! Great men, my darling, are often troubled by just such petty thugs and anaemic ill-wishers. These troubled, rodential men are driven by a need to tear down because they cannot create, they have been denied Atum’s spark, the bit of godness that great men desire — the power to create.”
“Claire of the Sea Light”
by Edwidge Danticat
In the seaside village of Ville Rose, Haiti, widowed fisherman Nozias reluctantly hands over his 7-year-old daughter, Claire, to a shopkeeper who can give her a better life. “She raised her head and looked directly into Madame Gaëlle’s eyes. It was not disrespectful if it was urgent, if you wanted something and couldn’t ask. It was not disrespect. It was curiosity.” All the characters’ lives intersect at personal tragedies. Bernard hopes to produce a radio show about gang violence. Max Junior returns to the village, where he must face his past. “When it came to the town’s mores, he was now at a disadvantage, after being away so long. He was no longer aware of who was sleeping with whom, or who was allowed to sleep with whom, without causing a scandal.” Max’s father, the school principal, is having an affair, and so is radio personality Louise George. “People like to say of the sea that lanmè pa kenbe kras, the sea does not hide dirt. It does not keep secrets. The sea was both hostile and docile, the ultimate trickster. It was as large as it was small, as long as you could claim a portion of it for yourself.”
“The Camel Bookmobile”
by Masha Hamilton
In a tiny village in Kenya, the regular arrival of books and an idealistic American librarian opens a new world for the villagers. Some are excited by this, but others fear the change the books represent. “While the rest of Mididima gathered near the camels and busied themselves with impermanent pieces of paper, she spoke about how she feared new ideas would destroy ancient wisdom. She grew passionate. If they weren’t careful, she said, what was vital would be replaced by what was not.” Elderly Neema “felt ashamed to admit that until the Camel Library came, she’d thought the Bible was the only book of stories in existence. Never in a lifetime of moons would she have imagined there were so many books, with firm outer skins of bright colors, and flexible innards so full of flavor that she liked to touch her lips to the pages as if to drink.” Her granddaughter Kanika hopes the librarian will help her escape the village. Librarian Fiona “would ask herself, and ask herself again, who had given in that arid settlement of Mididima, and who had received; who had learned and who had taught.”
If you’re looking for sun-drenched lands while white snow buries your abode, the Rutland Free Library has the titles above, as well as many others that can transport you to warmer worlds. Happy reading!
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.