Book choice for May 2008

The Name of the Rose [suggested by Rowena James]

front cover

Along with his apprentice Adso of Melk (named after the Benedictine abbey Stift Melk), the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville journeys to an abbey where a murder has been committed.

As the plot unfolds, several other people mysteriously die.  The protagonists explore a labyrinthine medieval library, the subversive power of laughter, and come face to face with the Inquisition.  It is left primarily to William's enormous powers of logic and deduction to solve the mysteries of the abbey.

This month's read also has its own Wikipedia page from where the above synopsis is borrowed.

About the Author

Eco was born in the city of Alessandria in the region of Piedmont.  His father, Giulio, was an accountant before the government called upon him to serve in three wars.  During World War II, Umberto and his mother, Giovanna, moved to a small village in the Piedmontese mountainside.

Son of a family with thirteen children, and urged by his father to become a lawyer, he entered the University of Turin.  But, as what seems to be the fate of many great writers, he abandoned his studies of law; and against his father's wishes he took up medieval philosophy and literature, writing his thesis on Thomas Aquinas and earning his doctorate of philosophy in 1954.

After this, Eco worked as a cultural editor for Radiotelevisione Italiana and also lectured at the University of Turin (1956-64).  A group of avant-garde artists - painters, musicians, writers - that he had befriended at RAI became an important and influential component in Eco's future writing career.  This was especially true after the publication of his first book in 1956 Il Problema Estetico di San Tommaso, which was an extension of his doctoral thesis.  This also marked the beginning of his lecturing career at his alma mater.

Further information on his website, or Wikipedia page.


Shortlisted for this month

The nominator can now decide whether to bring one, two, or three books to be chosen by the group (or mandated in the case of only one book being selected).  This month, Rowena suggested three books, the others being:

The Buddha of Suburbia

The Buddha of Suburbia

The Buddha of Suburbia is set in London in the 1970s during the peak of the Punk Revolution.  It is a time where the psychological impact of the reality of the loss of Empire is at its zenith and the explosion in the "ethnic" components of London's population is underway.  Society is in a cultural and social upheaval and the world of Karim Amir as presented by Hanif Kureishi serves as an eloquent microcosm of that upheaval.

Karim's rather staid middle class London suburban existence is coming apart as the novel opens.  His English mother and Indian father's marriage is quickly disintegrating.  His father's escape from this disaster is to become the "Buddha of Suburbia", mouthing trite Indian spiritual sayings for desperate middle aged suburban housewives and so forth.  When his dad and one of his "disciples" become romantically involved, Karim is introduced into the whirlwind of London punk social life and then thoroughly swept up in the tide, ultimately achieving a measure of true personal success as all around him flounder in overindulgent self-indulgence. [review from]

See also da Wiki.

About the Author

Kureishi was born in London to a Pakistani father and an English mother.  His father, Rafiushan, was from a wealthy Madras family, most of whose members moved to Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947.  He came to Britain to study law but soon abandoned his studies.  After meeting and marrying Kureishi's mother Audrey, he settled in Bromley, where Kureishi was born and worked at the Pakistan Embassy.

He attended Bromley Technical High School where David Bowie had also been a pupil and after taking his A levels at a local sixth form college, he spent a year studying philosophy at Lancaster University before dropping out.  Later he attended King's College London and took a degree in philosophy.  His most famous work is My Beautiful Laundrette, a screenplay about a gay Pakistani-British boy growing up in 1980's London for a film directed by Stephen Frears.  It won the New York Film Critics Best Screenplay Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

His book The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) won the Whitbread Award for the best first novel, and was also made into a BBC television series with a soundtrack by David Bowie.

[above foreshortened bio from his wiki page.  He has a personal website too]


Boy A

Boy A

Jack at twenty four years old has just been released from prison, he is in the company of Terry, his long assigned care officer, ahead he has a new life invented for him; only the name Jack did he choose for himself.  But can he make a success of it?  He has grown up in juvenile institutions having committee as a child, along with an accomplice, an horrendous crime.  All seems to go well, he has work, makes good friends, even a girlfriend who loves him; yet he finds it a struggle to live as this invented person, and of course there are those, including the tabloid press, who cannot forget what happened in the past. [review from amazon]

About the Author

Been on the scene over four years and he still can't do any better than a rather naff myspace page, where he tells us: "I'm a British writer who now lives in Chamonix Mont Blanc, in the French Alps.  My triple award winning first novel is called 'Boy A', published by Serpent's Tail in English and translated into many other languages.  My second novel 'Cham' has just been published.

As you might guess, there's some wikiness too.


Previous Months' Book Choices

April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006