The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau (2017) by Graeme Burnet is a remarkably intriguing novel that pits two men against each other set in St. Louis, a nondescript French town on the Swiss border. (Book cover image)

Book Talk: Year end reads

Some of the new books rolling off the presses simply demand to be read this holiday season

Peter Critchley

For The Morning Star

Publishers are gearing up as the year winds down and some of the new books rolling off the presses simply demand to be read this season.

Leonardo Da Vinci (2017) by acclaimed biographer Walter Isaacson is a monumental work about a towering figure. The author of this illuminating biography lauds the subject as “history’s most creative genius” and perhaps the most curious man who ever lived. Da Vinci, fascinated with science and art from an early age, possessed an incredibly rich and playful imagination and the uncanny “ability to make connections across disciplines—arts and sciences, humanities and technology,” one of the hallmarks of the Renaissance.

He dissected cadavers to explore muscles, tendons and bones, including peeling the flesh off faces in order to draw the muscles that move beneath the lips and paint history’s most memorable smile on the Mona Lisa. He explored the math of optics, revealing how light rays strike the cornea, to create illusions of perspective in The Last Supper.

The author of this superb biography draws from Da Vinci’s own voluminous notes, about 7,200 pages of observations and insights, other primary sources and secondary material by art critics and other Da Vinci biographers. And the result is as wondrous and fascinating as the subject himself.

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau (2017) by Graeme Burnet, the author of His Bloody Project, nominated for the Man booker shortlist, is a remarkably intriguing novel that pits two men against each other set in St. Louis, a nondescript French town on the Swiss border. Manfred Baumann, a lonely and quiet man and the manager of a bank, and local gendarmes Georges Gorski, saddled with a carping wife and haunted by a case early in his career, are both caught up in the disappearance of Adele, a sullen but voluptuous waitress at a local café.

Manfred, known to be obsessed with Adele and the last person to see her alive, is naturally suspected. Insp. Gorski, still upset with that case years ago of the disappearance of a woman that he believes resulted in the wrong person being convicted, is unaware that he is absolutely correct and that Manfred is the real culprit. But all bets are off when a third woman disappears in the town.

Havana: A Subtropical Delirium (2017) by Mark Kurlansky is an engaging and topical paean to a graceful, dilapidated city that is a remarkable blend of cultures, vibrant singular music, literature, baseball, food and five centuries of history and neglected architecture.

The author, a frequent visitor to the city for the past three decades, captures it all—the good, bad and ugly. He explores how Cuba reached its present point in time, from the native Tainos and colonization by Spain, through 19th century independence movements, U.S. invasion, the American gangster period and the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista.

The compelling narrative continues to trace the history of the country with Castro’s fierce suppression of dissidents, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the opening up of Cuba to capitalism and the United States and Castro’s death. The author also shows Havana through the eyes of Cuban writers such as Jose Marti and Alejo Carpentier, foreign authors including Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway, explores Cuban baseball and its highly passionate fans, the city’s pulsating music scene and vibrant culinary legacy.

These titles, and many more, are available at your Okanagan Regional Library

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