Saturday, April 28, 2007


I thought I had better read Peter Temple's The Broken Shore which had been sitting in my TBR pile for several months. The rave reviews were one factor and that I was ready to start reading a new novel on ANZAC day April 25th.

The atmosphere of the book is so very different from Donna Leon's Venice that it could be set on another planet. It will take some getting used to the blunt language and stark racism expressed by some characters in the book.
I have worked out that there are two second class groups in Oz, "abos" and "pommy bastards". I really like the honesty of the writing style, it is very Australian.
Anzac Day:
When war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only fourteen years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany. They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.
Though the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war, the Australian and New Zealand troops' actions during the campaign bequeathed an intangible but powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as an "Anzac legend" became an important part of the national identity of both nations. This shaped the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was interested to hear a recent interview with Donna Leon in which she said that when she started writing a novel she had no idea how it would end.

This is very apparent in her 15th Brunetti book Through A Glass Darkly, and I am not saying that in a negative way it is just that the story flows like molten glass, and evolves very much like real life.

Inspettore Lorenzo Vianello asks Brunetti to help a friend Marco Ribetti who has been arrested during a demonstration against pollution of the Venetian lagoon.

When Ribetti is released they are confronted on the steps of the Questura by Giovanni De Cal, who berates Ribetti, his son-in-law, as a coward, a fortune hunter, and a troublemaker.

Assunta De Cal is worried that her father has uttered threats against her husband and may get into trouble, and a request through Paola ensures Brunetti will make enquiries.

De Cal owns a fornace on the glass making island of Murano and when Brunetti begins his investigation into the threats, he interviews Giorgio Tassini l'uomo di notte. Tassini believes his daughter is disabled because of the chemical pollution of the lagoon and the factory area.

When a body is found at the fornace the victim has left clues as to the motive in a copy of Dante's Inferno.

"no green leaves, but dark colours, no smooth branches, but gnarled and warped".

This is darker in tone, and much more introspective than most of Leon's novels. Brunetti is so involved with his enquiries that he actually forgets to go home for lunch one day. That is very unsual who panics that his wife is furious with him if he does not get an antipasto. There is a lot of information about glass making and the disposal of waste material, but as always it is the contrasting well drawn characters that make a Brunetti novel interesting. The tragic character of Tassini, and the kindness and concern of Brunetti is contrasted with the hypocritical arrogance of Vice Questore Patta, and the fornace owners.

Patta is one of the great evil creations in crime fiction, and to make him a policeman was surely an act of genius.
"How unlike Patta, who renounced every aspect of his work save for the power and perks of office."

I did not think this novel was quite as good as some of the others in the series, but any book with the fragrant Paola Brunetti and the enigmatic Signorina Elettra has me hooked.
Lamb it was, lamb with balsamic vinegar and green beans. No antipasto and only a salad to follow.

Thursday, April 19, 2007



"Harold Macmillan, was asked by a young journalist after a long dinner what can most easily steer a government off course, he answered "Events, dear boy. Events". In short, politics is unpredictable."

Actually so is life and I have certainly been off course lately, and have developed almost a bloggers block. I have also not been reading that much either, which is very unusual for me.
The events that have disrupted me are numerous. Some pleasant such as the visits of my son, daughter and grandaughter, and others such as a very bad toothache extremely unpleasant. Dentists and ex-dentists never get a mild toothache, it always unbearable pain. A slightly sick laptop and the installation of a bathroom did not help my reading program, while now the weather is absolutely gorgeous here in Devon.
Riviera like! Not the weather to sit indoors with a laptop blogging away clearly I need wireless, whatever that is?

One cause of my reading block was possibly the theme of Through A Glass Darkly, pollution. I probably want complete escapism in my crime fiction, and felt that Donna Leon was jumping on the ecology/global warming bandwagon. This put me off a bit as it was only a few weeks since I hd seen Al Gore's excellent movie An Inconvenient Truth, watched the Channel 4 rebuttal, and then read the Gore's Nashville mansion used 20 times as much electricity as the average US household.
Well it was the toothache that put me in a bad mood, but now I have got well into the book. It did take about 150 pages before the crime occurred and there was not a lot of Paola Brunetti in the early chapters, so perhaps Donna Leon was as distracted as I have been.

[Review to follow shortly I hope]

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I can highly recommend the film Ghosts, which I saw last night. It will be shown on Britain's digital television station More 4 next Wednesday, but is also being shown at selected cinemas around the country now.
It tells the story of a young mother Ai Qin, and her journey from rural poverty in Fujian Province, China to an even more dreadful poverty in twenty first century Britain.
The film highlights the terrible tragedy in Morecambe Bay, where 23 Chinese cockle pickers were drowned on 5 February 2004.
A lot of questions are raised by this film, which is an both attack on the failure by governments to control our borders, and the sheer inhumanity of our modern societies.
I also don't think anyone could ever eat a piece of supermarket chicken after seeing this film.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I have been a bit distracted [teeth and relations] lately, but normal service will be resumed next week.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Three Italians, including an EU official, have been arrested and held in custody as part of a European Commission corruption probe.
An EU civil servant and an assistant to a European Parliament member were among those under arrest, a spokesman for the Brussels public prosecutor said.
The three were arrested as part of a multi-million euro case over suspected fraud involving EU building tenders.
On Tuesday, European police raided the European Commission and Parliament.
The public prosecutor in Brussels, Jos Colpin, said the situation seemed to be "a very big case of corruption".
The names of the three Italians were not made public.
The three individuals - who also include a company director - were suspected of defrauding European taxpayers of the money over a decade.
The investigation over the awarding of tenders for EU buildings was launched three years ago.
"The investigation involves suspected bribery of European civil servants, forming a criminal organisation, violating professional secrecy, breaches of public tender laws and forgery," a spokesman for the prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Italian Carabinieri, French financial police and Belgian fraud squad officers were all said to be co-operating with the case.

I could not resist posting this from the BBC news site. EU building tenders!

2012 Olympics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


There may be a hiatus in my posting for a while as I have been suffering with appalling toothache for the past fortnight. I grind my teeth because the stresses of life, the worry of years in dentistry, and having four children.
With the result that one of my molars had fractured longtitudinaly through the pulp chamber, and I have to admit a certain fear of dental procedures at the sharp end, and with 40 years of experience I know what can go wrong.
But my dentist was brilliant and I never felt a thing during a difficult extraction. I had made the decision for an extraction and it was nice, when I looked at the tooth to realise that it was definitely beyond help.

I will get back to reading Donna Leon when I am feeling better, right now I have two weeks sleep to catch up on.