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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Winter, Bomber, Shogun, Tai-Pan

WinterWinter is about seemingly complex conflicts around a family drama. With the background of Germany, in particular Berlin, in the first 50 years of the last century, the two central characters Paul and Peter Winter took a different route for their lives and yet they must once a while cross their paths, the last being the most tragic one. The story also involved many of their relatives, with quite some twists, intrigues and entanglements.

All in all, it's just dark but fascinating, involves all things about love, hate, horror, pain and suffer. What I like most is that the characters are not simply "black" or "white", almost everybody is portrayed as "grey". The details are amazing, as with typical Len Deighton's novels. It's hard to put, it's unforgettable and simply worth to read.

BomberBomber is, to put it mildly, Len Deighton's narration of Murphy's Law. A large RAF raid carefully planned to bomb Krefeld in the Ruhr area, mistakenly placed almost every single bomb in a (fictionalised) small country city named Altgarten. In this damned event in the last day (which was, 31st [sic]) of June 1943, both sides took big casualties. There is no single main characters, with lots of Britons and Germans both affected the main story.

Again everything is rich and super detailed, from the price of one RAF's Lancaster to the operation of the German radar array. The storyline is pretty much linear albeit with many (but relevant) flashback. In the beginning perhaps it feels rather slow, but up to the vivid minutes in the dogfighting, it is just awesome. Don't expect a happy end, though.

ShogunShogun, set in Japan around 400 years ago, is the first of James Clavell's Asian Saga. Blackthorne and the crew of Erasmus had to land in Japan and soon he was trapped in the conflict between two great daimyos Toranaga and Ishido. Blackthorne supported with Toranaga. He adopted Japanese culture and life style and was quick to learn the language. He was later known as his Japanese name Anjin and (quite predictably) he felt in love with a Japanese woman. There are surprises but the story is indeed touching.

The characters are strong and living. Obviously here Blackthorne is depicted as someone who is willing to see the new strange culture as the Japanese see it, not from the view of a westerner. It is fascinating to see the his transformation from "the barbarian", a meat eater who seldom took a bath and did not appreciate cleanliness to someone who later on knew well and lived the style of a Japanese. Not Musashi, but as amazing as it could be.

Tai-PanFast forward two and a half centuries: Tai-Pan. This second part is about Dirk Struan, a Scotsman which lead the Noble House during the years Hong Kong for the first time became a colony of England. He's smart but ruthless, seem to have a full bag of tricks in order to save his life and protect those he cared. He manipulated almost every persons in the book, most critically Tyler Brock, his number one competitor and enemy.

Just like in Shogun (one can see Clavell's pattern here), Tai-Pan's Dirk Struan moved away from a filthy barbarian and respected and enjoyed the local customs. He had a Chinese mistress which taught him many peculiar aspects of Chinese's way of life. Dirk Struan's life story is simply impressive. Page turner, without doubt. And although this book took many hours of my sleeping time, by the last page, I really hate that it must end.


Epilog: still, many other novels from Len Deighton and James Clavell are still in my stack.

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