Song of the shank
This story is based on the true story of ‘Blind Tom’, a 19th century piano prodigy who was blind, autistic and a slave. He moved to a ‘black refugee city’ and became a performer. What struck me about this book is the timeliness of it, following on from 12 Years a Slave and current events in America. The book is described as uncompromising with Publisher’s Weekly saying ” both the conception and the underlying history behind this story will leave readers with a profound understanding of the inhumanity of slavery and 19th century racial attitudes”. Author Jeffrey Renard Allen spent years researching and writing it.
Hour of lead
This is another novel focusing on a part of American history, this time the mythology of the West. It’s a family saga and a coming of age novel set in early twentieth century Washington State. About a young man Matt, who takes over the family ranch when his father dies. When his wife rejects him Matt takes off across the state on a journey, falling in with the violent Jarms family. Kirkus Reviews describes him as “He’s the quintessential Western hero—taciturn and strong as iron with an unbreachable moral center”. Matt eventually returns home and his past starts to catch up with him, the story reaching a surprising and bleak conclusion.
Chinese cooking for diamond thieves
On a much lighter note – I read a description of this book as a mash-up between a cozy mystery and ’emerging adult’ fiction. I can’t even imagine what that means. It’s about college dropout Tucker who meets Corinne and sets about trying to impress her. They run off together and end up working in a Chinese restaurant. However, it soon becomes apparent that gangsters are after Corinne – looking for the diamonds she stole from them. Publisher’s Weekly calls it a “caper story with foodie culture” and Booklist says it’s bound to please “any fiction reader interested in diamond heists, Chinese-speaking martial-arts masters, Chinese food, and wooing done well, with lame jokes and ex-girlfriends included”.