Monday, January 19, 2009

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, Nicholas Drayson

This is the first book that I read in 2009 that is on my purchase list (and is not embarrassing to bring up at a dinner party). I had to wait quite a while for my turn on the library reserve list but during my checkout period Mom and Linda both read it as well.

The book is well written, interesting, funny, and suspenseful all without being overwhelming. One reviewer on the back cover blurb compared it to Wodehouse which I agree with in part. There is so much less of the absurd in this book than in the typical Wodehouse title. There are several similar elements: old public school friends with the requisite ridiculous and inexplicable nicknames, evenings spent at a club, bets taken with all the seriousness of legal proceedings, and obscure hobbies (at least to me. Bird watching?). The biggest difference to me was the inclusion of real life problems: political assassinations, people dying of AIDS, crime, etc. whereas Wodehouse’s characters exist in a relatively safe world (as Waugh put it, “For Mr. Wodehouse there has been no fall of Man…His characters have never tasted the forbidden fruit. They are still in Eden. The gardens of Blandings Castle are that original garden from which we are all exiled.”)

I have been recommending it to so many people. It was just what I needed to read; something gentle but of substance with an interesting story with plot twists and suspense but a happy ending all around.


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