Skip to main content

Review: Heresy, by SJ Parris

Pages: 355
Original date of publication: 2010
My edition: 2010 (Doubleday)
Why I decided to read: interest in the time period
How I acquired my copy: ARC through the Vine, January 2010

Giordano di Bruno, an Italian exile who is wanted for heresy, goes to Oxford in search for a book he believes is there. In addition, he’s also been commissioned by Sir Francis Walsingham to help uncover a Catholic plot to overthrow the Queen (Elizabeth I; this book takes place in 1583). However, his search for the book is waylaid when a College Fellow is savaged to death by a dog. Bruno;s task becomes manifold as he also tries to discover who the murderer is.

OK, so the premise has been done to death. But I liked it nonetheless. The murder aspect is done in a way so that the reader is kept guessing the whole way through. The book is well-researched, too, and gives a lot of feel for the period without it being too overwhelming. However, there are some plot holes. I thought it was a weak moment when Bruno totally forgot about the book he’s looking for, at least for a good long while. I don’t mean to give away spoilers, but I think the author should have wrapped up that strand of the story a bit more. Also, the author falls into the trap of having Sophia Underhill be too feisty, independent, and intelligent. I liked this book for the most part, and I enjoyed the author’s writing style very much.

Giordano di Bruno is an outsider in more ways than one, which is what makes him an appealing character. However, there were a few inconsistencies. Bruno is a master of the art of memory, but he has a hard time remembering the student who drew Doctor Coverdale away from the debate—especially odd considering the student has red hair, and even I with my bad memory would remember someone of that description! For an Italian, his English is remarkably good, isn’t it? Also, his reasoning for why he thinks his mysterious book is at Oxford is a little vague; he’s only basing it on hearsay, and as Bruno says himself, the book could be either at Oxford OR Cambridge. Despite these discrepancies, however, Bruno is an engaging narrator. I expect that this will probably be the first in the series, as there’s a paragraph at the end which sets that up.


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…